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Rethinking Australia’s Employment Services


Rethinking Australia’s Employment Services

Perspectives vol 6



With unemployment at around 5% in Australia, there is much talk of ‘full employment’ and a focus on skills shortages. Yet, the fact remains that well over 2 million Australians are unemployed, under-employed or on disability benefits and many hundreds of thousands are capable but have little prospect of moving into secure employment under the current support arrangements.

In this considered yet bold paper, Lisa Fowkes examines the tumultuous twenty year history of policy change and experimentation in employment services. Ms Fowkes brings an insider’s perspective, having for many years been a key figure with Job Futures, an extensive national network of community-based employment services.

Lisa Fowkes’ essay concludes with a compelling call to end the ‘tweaking’ that has characterised change in the employment services and, for the benefit of all, to embark upon the substantial reform needed to provide the unemployed and underemployed with the dignity, security and opportunities to which they are entitled.

“For many years unemployment has been a persistent and devastating reality in Australian society,” says Ms Fowkes.

 “If we want labour market programs that truly assist the unemployed and underemployed then they need radical change, and the biggest change needs to happen in our leadership.”

“The policy and programs need to build on individual capabilities – not just in terms of vocational skills for jobseekers, but in fostering their ability to make effective decisions.”

This essay comes at a time when the Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis, is considering her response to her consultation on employment services initiated in late 2010. 

Eric Sidoti, Dircetor of the Whitlam Institute, comments “In this excellent paper, Lisa Fowkes peels back the layers cutting through twenty years of revisions and incremental change to conclude that the time has come for radical change: a conclusion that seems to have surprised the author herself.”

Read the paper: