House of Representatives Committees

| House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs

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Schedule 4 – Extending Cape York welfare reform trial

Amendment proposed

1.1                   This Schedule amends the Social Security Administration Act to enable a proposed 12 month extension of the Cape York welfare reform trial. The Trial represents a partnership between the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale, and Mossman Gorge, the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland government and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. A key element of the Trial is the Families Responsibilities Commission (FRC), which was established under Queensland Government legislation.

1.2                   The FRC involves local Family Responsibility Commissioners who hold conferences with community members, refer people to support services and, where appropriate, arrange income management. Currently, a person can only be subject to income management under the Trial after a decision by the FRC, made before 1 January 2012. This schedule extends this date to 1 January 2013 to enable income management to continue in Cape York for a further 12 months.

Issues and impacts

1.3                   The Queensland government is currently leading a process of consultation with Cape York communities about extending the Trial. The Queensland government legislation also needs to be changed in order for the Trial to be extended.

1.4                   The extension of the Cape York welfare reform trial, at a cost of $16.1 million over two years from 2011-12 to 2012-13, will build on the gains already made in education and social responsibility and allow further work on home ownership, in partnership with the Queensland government, regional organisations and local Indigenous communities. In addition, the measures in the Trial contribute to a number of Closing the Gap Building Blocks, including Schooling, Healthy Homes and Safe Communities.[1]

1.5                   The purpose of the FRC is ‘to support the restoration of socially responsible standards of behaviour and to assist community members to resume and maintain primary responsibility for the wellbeing of their community and the individuals and families within their community’.[2]

1.6                   An independent evaluation of the FRC found indications of positive community-level change around school attendance, alcohol and violence in the two communities of Aurukun and Mossman Gorge. The evaluation also found the FRC appeared to be contributing to restoring Indigenous authority by supporting local and emerging leaders in Local Commissioner roles to make decisions and model positive behaviour. It was noted in the evaluation that although the FRC had been operating for 18 months only, it is strengthening its role within participating communities.[3]

Committee comment

1.7                   The Committee notes the preliminary positive evaluations of the FRC and recognises the value of community-based, holistic and cross-agency approaches to overcoming Indigenous disadvantage.

1.8                   The Committee is aware that the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (ATSIA) received evidence about the FRC during its inquiry into the high levels of involvement of Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system. The ATSIA Committee also spoke with the Family Responsibilities Commissioner David Glasgow and examined the independent evaluation of the program in detail. The ATSIA Committee’s report is expected to be tabled in June 2011.

Recommendation 4

 1.9

The Committee recommends that Schedule 4 –Extending Cape York welfare reform trial of this bill be passed with no amendments.

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