Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation

Tonight I speak about a magnificent organisation, the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation. I recognise that the Ungooroo corporation services the Wanaruah people, whose lands stretch from the Liverpool Ranges in the north to Wollombi in the south, east from Sandy Hollow and Merriwa and across to the western fringes of the Barrington Tops. The Wanaruah people are part of my community and my electorate. The Ungooroo organisation is based at Singleton in the electorate of the member for Upper Hunter and Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing. We share the service of those people, and it is an honour to do so.

The team at Ungooroo is made up of Allen, David, Dahlene, Denise, Sarah, Annette, Colleen, Jess and their manager, Taasha. I was fortunate to visit just three weeks ago and hear about the wonderful success the organisation has had in placing Aboriginal people in the workplace. I was buoyed last week by the comments of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who spoke about the new initiative to assist Aboriginal people to join the Police Force. The essential element of his words is the same as mine, which I want to share with the Chamber. The placement of people in a work environment in sustainable long-term jobs will impact significantly and substantially on their lives, their family’s lives and the community.

The Ungooroo organisation actively works with some of the larger mining organisations in the Hunter Valley. It identifies cultural gaps and talks to the mining organisations about how they may be able to close those cultural gaps. The Ungooroo corporation recognises that a formal interview process is not easy for an Aboriginal person. It is not culturally appropriate and not the best way to proceed. Steve from the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation will conduct an interview sitting on a riverbank, over a cup of coffee, on a lounge or in a person’s home. He will talk to them about their dreams, their aspirations and their hopes and ask them what they want to get out of the job. In 2012 Steve and the Ungooroo corporation have placed 37 trainees, and they have a success rate of more than 95 per cent. That is a magnificent effort. It does not just stop with getting these people into the workplace. They continue to mentor the men and women for whom they find careers. They go into the workplace and train and educate the work environment to make the employees more aware of cultural sensitivities.

Steve and I spoke at length and exchanged a few laughs about some of the cultural issues that the white Anglo-Saxon community—which is primarily the management of a mining organisation—is sometimes too afraid to ask about because of political correctness. They do not want to offend people’s sensibilities. Steve provides an opportunity for them to ask questions in a polite and respectful way. They exchange ideas and he helps them to understand. Steve said, “The conversation often starts with silence in the room, people leaning back on their chairs with their arms folded. The body language is clearly saying they are disengaged. But within 20 or 30 minutes and over the next two or three hours there is an incredible exchange of ideas, opinions and learning and everyone walks away from the exchange knowing a little more about what the other person needs and how they can help to make this a success.”

That is why Steve and the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation have a success rate of more than 95 per cent in placing these Aboriginal workers. The media would have us believe that Twiggy Forrest is the only person who is involved in Indigenous employment, but the Hunter Valley has an organisation that is equally successful in obtaining work for Aboriginal people. Apart from employment opportunities, Ungooroo also supports Aboriginal art and culture. This Friday night the member for the Upper Hunter and Minister for the Arts is coming down to my patch to open an art exhibition. I will join him in attending that event.

Mrs Leslie Williams: You are very lucky.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: Yes, I am very lucky to have the Minister on my patch. This initiative places Aboriginal artworks at various wineries around the area. I am sure all members would have done a winery tour once or twice, but the chance to tour the wineries and follow an Aboriginal art trail is a unique and wonderful experience. It encourages people to put a completely different spin on their wine-tasting tour and provides them with an opportunity to purchase great pieces of art and support the Aboriginal people of our area. I congratulate the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation.