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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Indigenous Skills and Employment Program (ISEP)

The Australian Government announced in the 2021–22 Budget a commitment to develop the Indigenous Skills and Employment Program (ISEP), a new Indigenous Employment Program, to replace the Vocational Training and Employment Centres (VTEC), Tailored Assistance Employment Grants (TAEG) (including Employment, Cadets and School-based Traineeships) and Employment Parity Initiative (EPI), to commence from 1 July 2022.

The ISEP will contribute to closing the gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment rate by supporting pathways to employment for First Nations people, through flexible and locally informed investment.

The new program will increase economic opportunities for First Nations people and drive actions that connect First Nations people to jobs, targeted skills acquisition and career advancement opportunities. ISEP will foster partnerships and co-investment with key stakeholders at the local level, in particular with providers, state, territory and local government and employers, to provide seamless, complementary services to support First Nations people Australians in gaining sustainable employment outcomes.

ISEP Grant selection process

The ISEP grant opportunity is a two stage competitive process with Stage One now closed.

Due to the high number of applications received Stage One is still being finalised.

Successful applicants will be published on GrantConnect once assessments are finalised.

Stage Two is only open to successful Stage One organisations.

Stage One

Stage One was an open competitive process where interested organisations were asked to demonstrate their capacity to co-design activities with Indigenous community/ies or groups and deliver culturally safe employment services to First Nations people. Organisations were also required to demonstrate their ability to build the capacity of Indigenous organisations, a track record in delivering employment related activities in collaboration with others and knowledge of the needs and aspirations of Indigenous jobseekers, job opportunities and the industry and community needs in the region they are targeting.

Successful organisations will be required to co-design activities with Indigenous community/ies or group and other key stakeholders (industry, local, state or territory government, employers, training organisations etc.) in all areas the activities will be delivered. This will help to ensure activities are fit for purpose, meet the unique local and regional needs and that Indigenous communities have a voice in the development of services that impact them.

More detail on co-design will be provided to successful Stage One organisations.

Stage Two

Organisations successful in Stage One will be invited to submit an application for Stage Two which is a restricted competitive grant process. To be successful in Stage Two, organisations will need to demonstrate they have appropriately engaged in and completed the co-design process and developed a detailed plan of activities that clearly align with the relevant ISEP Regional Priorities. Organisations will also need to provide details of their proposed activities and demonstrate they have the capacity to successfully deliver the activities, adequately managing risk and measuring their effectiveness in achieving ISEP objectives.

It is expected that ISEP projects will commence in the first half of 2023.


Key components of the ISEP are partnership, collaboration and enabling more Indigenous organisations to build skills and capabilities. By partnering, organisations can benefit from the sharing of local knowledge, industry experience and resources to deliver projects targeted to regional needs as well as leverage local relationships and existing/mainstream investment.

The ISEP Partnership Register - XLSX 54 KB is intended to be used as a resource for organisations to connect with each other.

Organisations who are unsuccessful after Stage One may still be a partner organisation during the co-design phase and are encouraged to seek opportunities with successful organisations. A list of successful applicants will be published on GrantConnect.

ISEP Design

The ISEP has been designed with First Nations people and key stakeholders. The NIAA used various engagement methods in consultations to gather information and views. This included a public discussion paper which received 63 submissions, as well as a series of roundtable discussions and virtual Town Hall meetings throughout Australia to engage with First Nations communities, employment and training providers, state, territory and local governments, industry bodies and other key stakeholders.

The information and ideas contributed through these processes informed the final design of the program and advice to Government regarding stakeholder views on future investment in Indigenous-specific employment programs.

Read the findings from the consultations and discussion paper submissions.

Empowered Communities

The Commonwealth Government has a commitment to a partnership approach to regional planning and investment with the Empowered Communities regions of East and West Kimberley, Central Coast NSW, Cape York, Inner Sydney, North East Arnhem Land, Ngarrindjeri in SA, Far West Coast of South Australia, the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, and Goulburn-Murray.

Where a Stage One application targeted or included an Empowered Communities region, the Empowered Community were invited to participate in the assessment process with NIAA. This process will extend to Stage Two. All applications were assessed against the criteria set out in the Grant Opportunity Guidelines on GrantConnect.

The Empowered Communities model is an Indigenous designed and led shared decision making initiative that places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in true partnership with the Australian Government. For further information on the Empowered Communities regions see

ISEP delivery targeting or including Empowered Communities must demonstrate shared decision making in the co-design phase and an ongoing commitment for the project duration.

ISEP and other employment services

Funding under the ISEP will be available where there is a genuine gap in the new Workforce Australia (replacing jobactive from 1 July 2022) or the Community Development Program(CDP) / Remote Engagement Program or an opportunity the ISEP can appropriately address, and where there is no duplication with existing Government investment, including mainstream employment services. This includes consideration of whether the same activity is available to job seekers through the new Workforce Australia or the CDP/Remote Engagement Program.

More information about the new Workforce Australia can be found on the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment website.

Impact on VTEC, TAEG and EPI

The Indigenous-specific employment programs – VTEC, TAEG (i.e. employment, school-based traineeships and cadetships streams) and the EPI have now ended. . There will be no changes to current funding agreements and no impact on current participants under existing VTEC, TAEG or EPI projects, with participants able to complete their placements as intended.

Further information

For more information about the ISEP, you can contact the ISEP team at

If you are an existing VTEC, EPI or TAEG provider you can contact your contract manager for more information.

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