Joint Statement: Workforce Australia report sets foundation for better jobs deal

Thursday 30 November 2023 – The report of the inquiry into Workforce Australia is a significant and timely recognition that our employment services system requires substantial reform. 

It provides further proof that the current model of employment services does not serve the interests of people, businesses, service providers or our country. This billion dollar service system is broken and in need of repair. 

We welcome the findings and congratulate all members of the committee on their ambition in tackling this complex and urgent problem, and on their collaborative, constructive approach in identifying solutions. 

Treasury’s recent White Paper on Employment showed the importance of investing in people’s skills and capabilities to prepare for the future. In setting the course for full employment, the White Paper provided principles for employment services reform and also revealed that millions of people in Australia are locked out of the workforce because they do not have the right support or training. 

The wellbeing of these people, their families, their communities and our society must guide the mission to build a better employment services system that supports jobseekers and employers at a local, regional and national scale. By putting people and communities at the heart of a new employment services system we can support economic security, grow skills and productivity, respond to the needs of businesses and grow the social and economic capital communities need to flourish. 

We urge legislators across parliament to embrace this mission, and to forge a partnership between communities, employers, training organisations and service providers within and beyond employment services. A partnership that empowers communities to meet their needs and build their capabilities, putting local people at the centre of employment services, now and for the future. 

Together we can build a fair, nationally connected employment services system that creates opportunity for people and communities to thrive. 

One that supports social and economic participation that helps people build better lives and be a part of community. That opens the door for people locked out of work today so they and their families can prosper tomorrow. That grows the skills our industries need to be more productive, give back to the communities they are part of and power a national economy for the next generation. 

Opportunities for transformative reforms are rare. They demand conviction, vision and commitment. 

This opportunity exists today. As organisations and individuals, we are ready to embrace it. 

Quotes attributable to Annabel Brown, deputy CEO at the Centre for Policy Development 

“Australians want a government that’s an active, useful part of their local communities. One that has boots on the ground and skin in the game when it comes to getting them into decent work.

“This inquiry has shown in greater detail than ever before that for decades Australia’s employment services system hasn’t been fit for purpose. Instead of providing support and training, leveraging local opportunities, it has left people frustrated and neglected.

“The inquiry revealed a totally outsourced system that left people doing it tough out of sight and out of mind. Instead of bringing business, community and government together, it drove them apart, with only four percent of employers even connected to the system. Instead of focusing on learning and development it fixated on bureaucracy and administration.

“It’s time to listen to the evidence, embrace good sense and change course so that people and business are at the centre of a new system.”  

“Today we have an opportunity to build something that works – for people, communities, employers and Australia. This inquiry has given us this chance – it’s up to decision-makers across Parliament and beyond it to use it.“

Quotes attributable to Travers McLeod, Executive Director, Brotherhood of St. Laurence 

“The Workforce Australia inquiry has confirmed Australia’s employment services system is fundamentally broken and must be rebuilt.” 

“We need a new system that builds capability and confidence for jobseekers, employers and communities.

“We look forward to bold reform that addresses entrenched disadvantage in the labour market and champions collaborative, people-centred and place-based approaches to unemployment.”

Quotes attributable to Jim Mullan, CEO, Amaze 

“The approaches that have been implemented to date to improve employment outcomes for people with a disability have not been anywhere near as successful as they needed to be, particularly for Autistic people. 

“We urgently need tailored approaches that address the specific barriers and enablers, and partnerships and collaboration need to be core elements of that work to ensure that we build the right solutions.”

Organisations co-signing this statement

Note for editors: This statement follows written and supplementary submissions to the inquiry made by Centre for Policy Development and Brotherhood of St Laurence, supported by University of Melbourne. It builds on a history of Centre for Policy Development work on employment services that includes Grand Alibis (2015), Settling Better and the Blueprint for Regional and Community Job Deals (2020)