The forrest review COMMENT: 3rd August 2014
The review identifies the problems. It sets out to identify remedies based on a somewhat idealised world where the participants act reasonably and equitably.
In its application of business models, where employees can be set targets and hired and fired, to public service models it fails to recognise the difference. For instance: How does a public servant be held accountable and not be paid if the target outcomes are not achieved?
Accountability simply has a different meaning in the public service world. And to Ministers.
I also think it does not take into account the number of people required to implement the models. Qualified top level experienced teachers, for instance.
It fails to take into account the obstructionism and familial nepotism and deliberate inequities that will occur within the communities.
Therefore while the review does offer the best chance since Howard’s Mal Brough intervention plan it is doomed to failure because in addition to the above there will not be inter-government and interparty support and there will be multiple resistance from the various groups left, right and centre.
Instead of asserting strongly that it is not a smorgasboard of ideas to be picked and chosen from as though the review recommendations are all to be dropped from the sky instantly it would have been better to target some trials, either of the programs or in a particular finite community or area.
THE FOREST REVIEW – QUICK GUIDE – some added commentary – On.
Key drivers for change P15
There are key drivers to make the necessary systemic changes to shake off the passivity and entrench
personal and organisational responsibilities, including:
• working with Indigenous Australians to design and deliver services and give them decisionmaking powers on the basis of trust and robust verification • paying the largest proportion of funding based on results achieved
• publishing performance in a transparent way
• shifting government investment to preventative solutions
• agreeing to terminate ineffective programmes and consolidate service delivery
• removing excess administration and duplication
• supporting those who need more intensive services
• agreeing to collaborate with all governments to break the cycle of disparity forever
Summary of recommendations 19
Chapter 1: Prenatal, early childhood and education 19
Recommendation 1: Early childhood 22 That all governments prioritise investment in early childhood, from conception to three years of age.
Recommendation 2: School attendance 23 That governments work together to improve school attendance and be measured and accountable to the public for their success
Recommendation 3: Improving educational outcomes 25 That a high quality of school education is ensured, particularly for children in remote and disadvantaged areas as assessed by achieving parity in National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results so they have the best chance of employment.
Recommendation 4: Stopping distractions to education 26 That Commonwealth, state and territory governments, business, sporting organisations and community leaders ensure that school attendance is not unintentionally undermined by sports carnivals, visiting celebrities or any activities that can give families an incentive to take students—particularly from remote schools—away from school for lengthy periods of time.
Chapter 2: The Healthy Welfare Card 27
Recommendation 5: Healthy Welfare Card 28 That the Commonwealth Government implement immediately a Healthy Welfare Card scheme in conjunction with major financial institutions and retailers to support welfare recipients manage their income and expenses.
Chapter 3: Implementation and accountability 30
Recommendation 6: Implementation and accountability 31 That the implementation of recommendations be prioritised across all governments, closely monitored and reported along the lines that are described by the value driver trees.
Recommendation 7: Implementation 32 That the Commonwealth, state and territory governments ensure that a major component of funding for government-funded service providers is at risk if they fail to achieve satisfactory performance.
Recommendation 8: Agreement to implement the recommendations of this report 33 That the Commonwealth, state and territory governments agree to sign a new multilateral
agreement to affirm their commitment to implement the recommendations of this report and be held accountable for delivery, through regular public reporting on the CreatingParity website as detailed in each recommendation.
Chapter 4: Breaking the welfare cycle 34
Recommendation 9: Young people 34 That young people below 19 years of age must be working or in school or other educational institutions, training for a guaranteed job.
Recommendation 10: Job seeker obligations 35 That all discretion of Centrelink and job service providers to waive job seekers’ obligations and grant exemptions and transfers to non-activity tested payments such as the Disability Support Pension to excuse working age, capable welfare recipients from efforts to get meaningful employment be removed.
Recommendation 11: Breaking the welfare cycle 36 That the welfare system be simplified by reducing the number of different working age payments available to a single unemployment benefit (with only a very limited number of supplements available)
Chapter 5: Building capability, dismantling the cash barbeque and eliminating disincentives 37
Recommendation 12: Tax incentives 39 That tax-free status be provided to new and innovative first Australian commercial enterprises that create real jobs by providing the training grounds to eliminate the disparity for the most disadvantaged job seekers.
Recommendation 13: Employment services 40 That the Commonwealth Government replace and consolidate current Job Services Australia services and other work preparation and literacy and numeracy programmes with a demand driven system.
Recommendation 14: Vocational education and training 41 That, in order to create job-specific employer-directed training, the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, as joint regulators and funders, introduce vouchers for employers redeemable at education providers to replace all funding for the vocational education and training system, particularly the TAFE system
Recommendation 15: Driver’s licences 42 That all state and territory governments introduce a consistent approach to issuing provisional ‘locked’ driver’s licences for people who are unable to drive due to unpaid fines or other traffic infringements so that they can get and keep a job by being able to drive.
Recommendation 16: Training in incarceration 43 That states and territories require compulsory participation of inmates, while in incarceration, in proven methods of explicit instruction in English and maths, driver’s licences for those who need them, and job skills training.
Chapter 6: Incentives for housing and mobility 44
Recommendation 17: Housing 45 That the Commonwealth, state and territory governments work together to put in place housing delivery mechanisms to support and encourage workforce participation, optimise transition and mobility to work, and remove disincentives and impediments to taking up work.
Chapter 7: Building employer demand 47
Recommendation 18: Government procurement 48 That the Commonwealth Government purchase at least 4% of its goods and services within four years (either directly or through subcontractors) from first Australian businesses (with a minimum of 25% Indigenous ownership) and in particular from the new first Australian commercial enterprises once they are established.
Recommendation 19: Top 200 employers 49 That the Commonwealth Government provide the top 200 companies in Australia and those with a strong track record of first Australian employment, with tailored contracts to increase the proportion of first Australians among their employees.
Recommendation 20: Support for employers 49 That the Commonwealth Government ensure the Indigenous Employment Programme funds training only when there is a guarantee of an ongoing job and has the flexibility to package support according to employers’ needs.
Recommendation 21: Public sector employment 50 That the Commonwealth, state and territory governments each set and enforce public sector first Australian employment targets of 4% within four years for each portfolio with a minimum of 4% within five years, but with no individual portfolio with less than 3%.
Chapter 8: Empowering people in remote communities to end the disparity themselves 51
Recommendation 22: Remote Job Centres 53 That the Commonwealth Government replace and consolidate current Remote Jobs and Communities Programme services and other work preparation and literacy and numeracy programmes with demand-driven Job Centres, drawing on the Vocational Training and Employment Centre model, where training and support are provided to get people into guaranteed jobs.
Recommendation 23: Local governance 55 That community decisions about job seeker compliance and social norms be made locally by a local responsibilities board and not remotely.
Recommendation 24: Consolidating service delivery 57 That, to reduce duplication and improve outcomes from service delivery from services aimed at improving employment and social wellbeing of first Australians, the Commonwealth, state and Northern Territory governments engage with Local Responsibilities Boards to consolidate and integrate service delivery in credible local first Australian organisations.
Recommendation 25: Remote housing 58 That governments ensure the approach to remote housing on Indigenous land is revised to include performance-based funding to move to a sustainable system with strong incentives for workforce participation and home ownership.
Recommendation 26: Enabling leasing or freeholding of Indigenous land 59 That governments create the ability for traditional owners to convert their land to freehold or
hold the underlying title with a 99-year lease owned by the home or business owner, so that it can be mortgaged or traded through the open market and so that traditional owners can build their houses on allotments on their own land.
Recommendation 27: Land access payments So that land access payments can be applied to the economic and social progress of traditional owner and native title groups and ensure intergenerational benefits, that the Commonwealth Government consider the recommendations in the report of the Taxation of Native Title and Traditional Owner Benefits and Governance Working Group.
We should be aware that there will be a natural inclination to recycle existing projects as opposed to adopting new methodologies for a total different result. To avoid this distraction, this report contains a series of critical implementation steps that, if adhered to, will deliver the game-changing result required.*
many communities--particularly remote ones— complained often about ridiculous duplication,
COMMENT: A NAIVITY IS THAT PUBLIC SECTOR WILL EMBRACE CHANGE AND GIVE UP THEIR JURISDICTIONS.
Quality teachers need to be given incentive to work in disadvantaged and remote schools and then supported and given professional development opportunities to ensure that they stay there page 85 of the review.
COMMENT: THIS IS A NICE IDEA BUT THERE IS NO KNOWN SOURCE OF THE NUMBER OF QUALITY TEACHERS REQUIRED
The Lost Generation who have missed out on an education need to take action now to become fluent in English and be able to read and write to ensure an independent future for their children. Parents are first educators and their children’s educational attainment will greatly depend on their parents’ ability to support them. Page 88 of the review
COMMENT: IN WHAT WORLD WILL THIS IDENTIFIED GROUP OF PARENTS LEARN THESE SKILLS EITHER AT ALL OR IN TIME TO SUPPORT THEIR CHILDRENS LEARNING.
We need personal ministerial accountability for results to ensure this receives sufficient attention and it needs to be reported through to the CreatingParity
website. Without the rest of the measures in the Forrest wheel, tackling poor attendance could be pouring water onto sand. Page 89 of the review
COMMENT: MODER MINISTERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE LEVEL DREAMED OF SEEMS VERY UNLIKELY
All too often, we send the least experienced or poorest performing teachers to work with students who have the greatest needs. It is not uncommon for teachers fresh from university, with little experience of working with first Australian communities, to be sent to remote first Australian schools. More often than not, these new teachers are inadequately prepared for the challenges that they will face and are given little support to develop the skills and expertise they need to be effective in these tough school environments. There is little doubt as to why these teachers often leave the school within the first 12 months. In the Northern Territory, teachers last an average of seven months in a remote school before leaving. In comparison, in Western Australia, where teachers relocate as
a couple or family unit, they stay for much longer. Regardless of any incentives offered, early career teachers are likely to continue to be the core of the teaching force in these communities. They need to be given the support to stay and be effective for a minimum of three to five years to deliver the best educational outcomes for first Australian students page 95
COMMENT: WE ARE SIMPLY OVERWHELMED BY THE NUMBERS OF TEACHERS NEEDED IF THEY ARE TO BE OF THE QUALITY DESCRIBED.
Executives charged with the critical responsibility of change most often need to feel, but also must feel, that their own skin is in the game. To enact this change, everyone across the system who is accountable for the parts of the reforms of this review needs to be bought into a room with facilitators, with no-one leaving until all solutions are defined with measures and outcomes, and approvals from all the departmental heads. The participants would then come together on a regular basis--let’s say quarterly--to review progress and problem-solve what’s not working and is working and how to accelerate progress. This is a very effective approach but to McKinsey’s and my knowledge has never before been done in the Commonwealth Government. Page 113
COMMENT: I CANNOT SEE PUBLIC SERVANTS BUYING IN TO A LEVEL OF RESPONSIBILITY THAT IS MEANINGFUL. Private companies may more easily dismiss or demote.
Consider a man with a spouse and three young kids who wants to take a job in a town. In the remote community, that family would have, after paying all housing costs, about $41,600 disposal [sic] income a year from two dole payments ($24,300), family tax benefits (about $19,000) plus some smaller welfare allowances. Housing costs are likely to be $70 to $100 a week (say $4,000 a year). In exchange, the father might have to do some part-time make-work activity. More likely, effectively there would be no mutual obligations. If this family moved for work, the breadwinner would likely receive the minimum wage or just above because of low skills. Family benefits would be about the same. However, rental costs would likely be higher (say, $350-plus a week including bills), assuming a property was even available. All up, their disposable income after housing would be about $44,800. Economically the family would be just above break-even, but the downside would be loss of leisure time, disconnection from homelands and culture, and the risk of losing the job, in which case disposable household income would fall considerably until a new job was found. Further, the family’s low-rent social housing in their home community--which they might have had for more than a generation--would be given to another family.103 page 128 COMMENT: a major problem which i am not sure can be overcome
The current national employment services system, Job Services Australia
(JSA), may be compared to an army of providers more skilled at identifying profitable contracts than delivering outcomes. Page 139
A demand-driven system is not about just placing the job-ready job seekers in employment, but meeting job seekers at the level of their capability and raising their skills to that expected by an employer. At the same time, there needs to be a balance between the carrot and the stick, with flexibility for local innovation. Individual case management that addresses drug and alcohol use, low literacy levels and family violence and mobility support are important components of any scheme that aims to build work-readiness. In remote Australia the need for local flexibility becomes even more important and the need to work with local leaders with cultural authority is paramount. I discuss this and changes to the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme in Chapter 8. Page 155 COMMENT: this has been identified by many others already. The reviews remedies will meet great resistance.
There are numerous identified barriers to employment that may affect first Australian and other ex-prisoners.155 These include: page 157 COMMENT: the reviews remedies include some novel ideas for some. Prison culture is overwhelming for many.
While first Australians accumulate multiple low-level and irrelevant certificates, employers are crying out for work-ready people. Page 158 COMMENT: these sorts of comments assume that all have the capacity to achieve level 3 certs
There will be claims of insufficient qualified first Australians to meet merit-based recruitment in the public sector. Frankly this just doesn’t cut it. Just as the private sector has to step up and recruit, retain and develop staff, the public sector has to do the same. There are a couple of key private sector
practices that the public sector could adopt to enhance its capacity. These include chief executives having personal accountability to deliver on contractual requirements and better capacity to deal effectively with non-performing staff. There is also a need to set an annual target to ensure the overall
four-year target is met. How many times have we heard the pathetic reasons given by the public sector for delaying real action until it’s too late to achieve the target? This has got to stop. Page 185 COMMENT: how is the question?
Young people often leave apprenticeships and return to welfare to avoid ‘humbugging’(the practice involving harassment by others to force family members to share their earnings). They found that even after a whole week of work, if they were ‘humbugged’ they were financially worse off than being on welfare. Page 194 COMMENT: alternative wealth distribution methods like this are very deeply ingrained. Saying this should change is easier said than done.
It is time to back and grow credible local first Australian organisations, but not in the old way. There can be no tolerance of incompetence. The high tolerance for ineptitude and illegal behaviour has already had a disastrous impact on first Australian lives and the cultures of their communities. Page 202
Honest and hard-working Indigenous leaders deserve support under a system of trust and verification to run their own communities. It is a very small minority that let down the vast majority, causing large departments to be established to rigorously monitor the competence and honesty of management of
local communities.page 204 COMMENT: my view is that current regulators are failing and are ignoring not just incompetence.
23.3 making sure board members are supported to:
23.3.1 stand behind their decisions when challenged by those who are affected
23.3.2 get training in areas such as literacy, corporate governance and ethical decision
making, with appropriate mentors, such as retired magistrates and judges
23.3.3 occupy these roles as paid positions with a sunset clause to ensure membership is
refreshed on a regular basis
23.4 operating on the basis of trust and a system of verification that ensures accountability to
government and community residents through measures such as: page 205
Statutory bodies that represent traditional owners should heed their instructions to enable home ownership on their land. If the current system is not doing it, governments should use every lever to drive the necessary change. Page 213 COMMENT: the horns of the dilemma of indigenous autonomy v the government knows best.
COMMENT: the tertiary tutor scheme set out below is a holden system rather than a rolls Royce. But it may be an example of something more practical.
Note E 2 .Tertiary Tutor Program.
Embryo of an idea to get education to small communities.
The Prime Minister would not be talking about “closing the gap” in terms of school education for Aboriginal Children if the past and current methods had worked.
“Tertiary Tutors” does not rely on any critical analysis of the past or present systems but takes it as a given that in places they have simply not worked. Remote and fringe dwelling Aboriginal children are simply not in the education “system” in significant way.
Leave aside the perfectly good education that they may be getting in their own language, culture, bush skills and so on. Make the assumption that 2014 government wants Aboriginal kids to get a start on the path to Australian/European based education that may lead to main stream involvement with the other 97% of our population.
Throughout the world it is recognized that sometimes and in some places intruding a state of the art system is both too expensive and not needed to meet realistic goals. For instance medical aid in remote areas of the world is often best delivered more or less forthwith by basic training of deliverers of hygiene and health care because that can occur in the here and now rather than waiting forever for the resources to train and insert fully qualified doctors.
Aboriginal children who are not attending school would be better off with a new approach. Specially so in places where educationally they cannot be worse off!
It is unrealistic to believe that in small communities that are hours by bush road from even a central community, or who are in communities where it simply does not matter to them that they don’t attend euro-school will suddenly be motivated, by stick or carrot, to change that point of view. In any case it will be too late for too many.
Why not try the Tertiary Tutors?
Targeted at Primary and Pre-Primary School kids, it is not rocket science to teach the basics that may lead to some continuity. Where young children are getting next to no education, an educated Tutor who is “One Chapter Ahead” in the appropriate texts will be enough.
We cannot wait until there is funding to put a fully qualified teacher into every small group of twenty or so children of mixed ages. There is no reasonable possibility of having a kindergarten, and infant and primary school teacher being permanently stationed in each of these places. There are not enough willing qualified teachers, there is not enough money and the children won’t travel. So.
Let every university degree holder in Australia, specially new graduates with high HECS debts do an 80 hour, free, short course, which identifies the basic primary and pre-primary texts. Provide a support network, checklists and so on. Pay them a basic wage but deduct as much again from their HECSs debt. Introduce them to the communities, attach them to the closest formal school or school of the air, and provide them with basic amenities and accommodation.
This idea was recently (March 2014) “run past” a group of 10 Country NSW Tertiary students who were near completion of their degrees. About half said they would be interested – Mainly they thought Tutors should not be alone but in groups of at least two.
There will be Criticisms :
A second rate scheme which does not provide fully qualified experienced teachers for Aboriginal children and treats them as second class citizens.
It’s an attack on the salaries and wages structure of qualified teachers and seeks to undermine hard won conditions.
It won’t work – unqualified people simply can’t deliver education.
There is no intention to remove all of the experienced teachers and infrastructures that already exist. Tertiary Tutors are to assist and to target the gaps.
There are simply too few qualified teachers to fill the gaps
Tertiary Teachers will have completed degrees. They will receive training. Where the current system is failing they cannot do worse.