Sep 1, 2021


Sep 1, 2021

First Australians denied the right to work by Brisbane-based bureaucrats will be empowered to secure jobs and provide for their families through legislation introduced into the Queensland Parliament by Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) today. 

The revised Working with Children (Indigenous Communities) Amendment Bill 2021, which will delegate decision-making powers around Blue Cards to Indigenous community leaders in certain situations, has been introduced for the third time by KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter.

Mr Katter said the issue of chronic unemployment and generational welfare dependency was a “cancer” eroding social and economic stability for Queensland’s Indigenous populations.

He said in many instances, explicit barriers to First Australians securing employment were created by the Blue Card system even in instances where individuals posed no threat to children.

“The Blue Card system is a commendable framework that at its core is designed to reduce the risk of dangerous individuals coming into contact with young people,” he said.

“However there are serious problems with the way the Blue Card framework is used as some sort of a safety blanket by the Government, and indeed its scope extends far beyond its purpose to protect kids.

“Overwhelmingly this over-reach has a detrimental impact on Indigenous communities where work opportunities are scarce, and more often than not are Government roles which demand Blue Cards.”

Mr Katter said unemployment in Indigenous communities was chronically high; in March 2021, almost 28 per cent of people in Doomadgee and Mornington Island were unemployed compared to the state-wide average of 7.3 per cent.

On Palm Island, just off Townsville, this figure is an incredible 36.5 per cent.

The Traeger MP said Blue Cards were needed for a majority of the jobs on offer in Indigenous communities, including work in education, health and construction as well as volunteering and mentoring roles.

State Government data shows that while people who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander account for 5 per cent of total Blue Card applicants, from 2017-2020, they made up 22 per cent of rejected applicants.[1]

This is despite, during the same period, these applicants being more likely to provide a submission relating to police and/or disciplinary information than non-Indigenous applicants.

Mr Katter said, under his Bill, many (though not all) of these individuals would have been granted a restricted Blue Card and empowered to secure work.

“The purpose of this legislation is to enable local decision-making around the Blue Cards, but only in certain circumstances and never when an applicant had a history of harming children,” he said.

“In these instances, final decisions on a Blue Card for that community area only would be undertaken by Local Justice Groups based instead of some faceless bureaucrat in Brisbane who doesn’t realise that their ‘tick or flick’ on an application could literally change someone’s life.”

Mr Katter said child safety, the cornerstone of the Blue Card system, would remain paramount under his plan.

The Bill has received strong support from stakeholders within the communities and its design ensures there is zero tolerance regarding sexually-related convictions, to ensure children’s safety.

The Mornington Shire Council has officially endorsed the Bill, with Mayor Kyle Yanner saying it would empower his community. 

He said he had personally faced issues being approved for a Blue Card in the past, and knew how frustrating the Brisbane-based bureaucratic processes associated with the system could be.

“It’s absolutely insulting – there are so many people here in our community who want to change and get into work and then the Blue Cards system just knocks them down,” he said.

“The effects of this is it takes the fire out of people’s bellies to try and get into work and then they rebel.

“It’s the people up here on the ground, including the Elders, who should be able to make these sorts of decisions around who is suitable for what jobs.”

Cr Yanner said the impact of the current system was pervasive across his community.

“We only have one worker at our kindergarten because everyone who wants to work there can’t get a Blue Card,” he said.

“What jobs have we got available to us up here?

“We know people’s stories and circumstances; of course anyone with serious criminal offences are going to be excluded.

“But when something is historic or petty, which so many of people’s records are, and someone has worked really hard to improve themselves then they should be supported to get into work.

“It’s just insulting to us that the Government thinks we can’t make our own decisions in our communities.

“We are sick of being dictated to.”

[1] safe-children-and-strong-communities.pdf (