Strategy to expand IT opportunities for indigenous people

A new strategy aimed at promoting indigenous participation in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry has been launched.

The Networking Our Futures strategy will seek to create training, education and employment opportunities for indigenous people in the ICT sector and encourage indigenous people to make use of these opportunities.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs' Living in Harmony project has provided a $50,000 grant, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), will contribute $40,000.

Driving the strategy is Neville Roach AO, the chairman of the Council for Multicultural Australia and chairman of Fujitsu Australia.

According to Roach, the ICT industry has a social responsibility to Australia, particularly those who are disadvantaged and have to overcome social, economic or educational barriers to enjoy the benefits of the new technologies.

"Professionals and managers in the ICT industry, including CEOs and CIOs, must become more interested and involved in social responsibility initiatives, particularly those that focus on the needs of indigenous Australians," Roach said.

Roach said this initiative is one way of helping address the "ongoing disadvantage suffered by indigenous Australians". wThe Minister for Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Philip Ruddock, and the chairman of ATSIC, Geoff Clark applauded the launch of the strategy.

Clark said the small number of indigenous students in IT-based courses throughout the country carry a great responsibility.

Clark said it is "our task" to ensure that these young people -- and their younger siblings inspired by them -- have the freedom to choose careers in the IT sector.

"It's up to us to ensure that they are not unfairly excluded from their choice of career because of institutionalised poverty, racism or denial of culture," Clark said.

A joint secretariat with the Australian Information Industry Association and indigenous representatives has been established to develop a strategy for greater employment and training opportunities.

Ruddock said at the end of last year there were about 8000 indigenous students in tertiary educations -- of whom 107 were studying computer science.

Ruddock said with more than 200,000 ICT jobs nationally, and the sector growing rapidly, the strategy will encourage indigenous Australians to "tap into this growth".

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