NAIDOC FLAG RAISING: Indigenous health worker Elise Bailey, elder and president of Cooloola Aboriginal Services Aunty Lillian Burke and Aboriginal elder Aunty Olive Bennet.
NAIDOC FLAG RAISING: Indigenous health worker Elise Bailey, elder and president of Cooloola Aboriginal Services Aunty Lillian Burke and Aboriginal elder Aunty Olive Bennet. Renee Pilcher

Bring back national service, says elder

EMPLOYMENT is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ensuring true equality for Indigenous Australians, Lillian Burke believes.

The Butchulla elder, who is president of Cooloola Aboriginal Services, said health and education were also critical and would not necessarily be solved by just putting someone in a job.

Ms Burke said a holistic approach was needed, adding that it was not enough to simply train Aboriginal people for the workplace – there had to be a solid chance of employment at the end.

Ms Burke said she had worked in employment services in the 90s and had been frustrated by the cycle she saw, which was one of training a person then seeing them go back to being unemployed, something she says is still a problem today.

Ms Burke said it was also critical to heal the wounds of the past if the nation was to work toward an equal future.

“Acknowledgement of the past, that is the main issue,” she said.

Ms Burke said she believed Australia should bring back national service, not just for indigenous youth but for all young people.

She said doing so would help promote skills, work ethic, motivation, self esteem and self-respect among each generation.

“It should be for everyone,” she said.

Ms Burke has long fought for Aboriginal rights, volunteering on up to 100 advisory boards, committees and consultancy groups over the past 10 years, including a role with the Fraser island Indigenous Advisory Committee.

She was recently given Volunteering Queensland’s Lifetime Contribution to Volunteering Award in Brisbane.