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The Australian National University

Not a level playing field: Approaches to remote workforce development in the Northern Territory

Presented by

Emma Williams
Eileen Cummings


School of Cultural Inquiry Conference Room, First Floor, A.D. Hope Bldg #14 (opposite Chifley Library), The Australian National University, Canberra.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011
12.30 - 2.00pm

Abstract: The authors were commissioned by a branch of the NT Government to research workforce development issues in remote communities, focusing on the employment of local Indigenous community members in work related to family support and community safety.

The research revealed three approaches, each with different dynamics and challenges. ‘Replacement’ jobs aimed to train local workers to take over all aspects of tasks previously undertaken by people recruited from outside the community. ‘Complementary’ jobs split tasks into two sets, with some to be undertaken by local community members and others continuing to be performed by people recruited from outside the community. ‘Cultural origin’ jobs, on the other hand, were traditional roles and tasks restructured as salaried positions.

Examples of each approach will be discussed, together with the views of remote community members on the roles they believe actually enable strong families and safe communities, providing potential direction for future workforce development initiatives.


Emma Williams has moved for many years between academia, public service and private practice in Canada and Australia. Her recent research at Charles Darwin University’s Social Partnerships in Learning Consortium (SPiL) focused on culturally grounded assessment, remote workforce development, and improving linkages between policy, practice and research/evaluation. She is currently researching pre and post-research dynamics.

Eileen Cummings, also a member of SPiL, is from Central Arnhem Land, NT and is a Rembaranggarr-Ngalakan woman experienced in research and policy development with special expertise in family violence, Indigenous community services and education. Eileen also spent many years in government, in policy and project management roles. Her current interests focus on Stolen Generation issues, but she continues to conduct other research in NT communities.

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