Madeline Gallaher

Indigenous job plan a ladder out of grief

Madeline Gallaher didn't need to be told that if she hoped to avoid the misery experienced by many Aborigines, she had to find a job.

Growing up in Gympie, 160km north of Brisbane, she'd seen her relatives join the welfare queue and never leave. And she'd watched on as friends turned to drink, drugs and crime. What Ms Gallaher needed was a start.

"Everyone deserves a chance but, I don't know why, I just found it hard to get a proper job," says Ms Gallaher, 20.

"I finished my school. I tried. But I am very shy, and for a couple of years . . . it was just really hard."

But a little more than six months ago, a worker at Mission Australia told her about jobs opening up with the ISS Group, an Australia-wide catering and facility management firm that had signed up with the Australian Employment Covenant. Set up by mining magnate Andrew Forrest, the AEC aims to place 50,000 indigenous people into sustainable jobs by June next year. It runs alongside the GenerationOne public awareness campaign, which urges all Australians to help "close the gap" on indigenous disadvantage.

Not only did Ms Gallaher land a job at ISS, but also a prospective career.

She was taken on as a compliance officer in the company's Brisbane office -- a three-hour commute, via train and bus, from her home in Caboolture.

For a young woman whose mother died when she was just two, life is taking on a rosier hue.

"It's hard to put into words. I actually love having a proper job. The money makes a difference. But it's more than that. You feel better," she says.

ISS initially pledged to find 50 positions for indigenous workers, but has 140 now on staff and has revised its target to 200.

This story was written by Drew Warne-Smith and published in The Australian newspaper. You can read the full story here


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