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Building careers, building futures

"This is a business working hard to meaningfully solve social problems. And it's operated and staffed by people in that community who are really close to the challenge and understand the dynamics of what is required and what the potential solutions are."

The team at Saltbush

The Northern Territory has long held a sense of economic opportunity. But one thing the Top End has struggled with is sourcing enough workers to realise that potential.


It’s not a problem unique to the Northern Territory of course. When I travel around Australia and talk to our staff and customers, especially in regional areas – one of their key concerns is labour shortages.



But in the NT solutions are at hand.


Recently I visited one of our customers in Darwin which is committed to making a difference in this space – Saltbush Social Enterprises. It’s an Indigenous owned and operated, not-for-profit organisation working towards a brighter future for First Australians.


Chief Executive Officer Nicole Shackcloth told me since 2016 they have operated a number of programs – everything from employment training and mentoring to mental health programs, nutrition, counselling and wellbeing and supported bail accommodation.  


“We have a very simple ethos here at Saltbush – a person with a job is a person with a future. One of our cornerstones is our Aboriginal employment programs we run throughout Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Elliott,” Nicole says. “There are a lot of people that aren't work ready that seem to be forgotten about. So what we focus on is working with the forgotten people.”


Developing and supplying a workforce in northern Australia is challenging for all sorts of reasons including the tyranny of distance and the lack of infrastructure. So how does an organization like Saltbush bring those people together through training and support their entry into the workforce?


They start by providing an intensive mentoring program, working with participant for weeks before they actually place them into employment.


“We're intensively mentoring them every week, keeping them on track and making sure they are meeting all their goals that they've set for themselves,” Nicole says. “We're there to not only support the participant, but also to support the employer in making sure that they're providing a culturally safe workplace.”


“They may have had a life-long, intergenerational trauma and intergenerational welfare dependence. We've really got to build on their self-esteem and empower them to be to become work ready.”


Saltbush also operates a number of youth programs and a culturally sensitive approach designed to reconnect participants with their culture.


“The biggest thing with both our older and our younger generation is there has been a disconnect from culture. So we help connect them back with their culture, with the community and family as well,” Nicole says.


When I visited Saltbush in Darwin recently, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the work they are doing in the community.


This is a business working hard to meaningfully solve social problems. And it's operated and staffed by people in that community who are really close to the challenge and understand the dynamics of what is required and what the potential solutions are.


At Saltbush’s headquarters in Darwin, we had the opportunity to meet with some of Saltbush’s staff and hear firsthand how the challenges they are overcoming to support First Nations people into employment.



Joining me on the day was Elisa Clements, our Group Executive for Talent & Culture and Shelley Cable, who we recently appointed as our first Head of First Nations Strategy Australia.


Shelley’s appointment earlier this year underlines our commitment to developing and growing relationships with First Nations business and community organisations.


Shelley is a Noongar woman from south-western Australia with a background and a passion for working at the intersection of business and First Nations economic empowerment, both in the corporate and philanthropic sectors.


I think people sometimes underestimate the scale of the First Nations economy and the opportunity it presents.


The sector contributed around $16bn to Australia’s GDP in 2022, and is growing rapidly, well above our national growth rate. We can help facilitate investment and growth in this important sector and we have developed an Indigenous business team within our Commercial division to do just that.


Shelley will be developing an integrated strategy to ensure a cohesive approach and the work will allow us to put a slightly different lens when we're approaching opportunities for Indigenous people and businesses.


This First Nations strategy is not charitable work, this is about real economic opportunity for our business to support a growing group of businesses and to help achieve some great social outcomes in the process.


The team at Saltbush told us relationships are paramount to First Nations people and right across the broader community in the Norther Territory.

“There is a saying here in the Territory, it's not what you know, it's who you know,” Nicole says. “So having those relationships is terribly important and having people like Shelley coming on board with ANZ to firm up the position with First Nations people is so important.”


“We see that as a great opportunity to work with ANZ also to help provide opportunities for more Indigenous people. Aboriginal people are the most resourceful people of this land, we have survived for many thousands of years and are very much hands-on people.”


“If we can spend the time and the resources into actually training people locally, you will see a lot better outcome here in the Territory. There are so many opportunities here and every Indigenous person should have the chance to contribute to society in the Northern Territory through their economic participation.”


Shayne Elliott is CEO of ANZ

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