This article covers budget measures relating to Indigenous education,
employment, and community safety and the rule of law, the government’s key
priority areas for Indigenous affairs. Where relevant it also
notes measures which were in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017–18
(MYEFO). Measures relating to Indigenous health, housing and other issues are
in a separate article.
There are two measures relating to Indigenous education in
the extension of the National Partnership Agreement on Universal
Access to Early Childhood Education. The original version of this National
Partnership began under the Rudd Government in order to implement the Closing
the Gap target of universal access to preschool education for Indigenous
children, and maintains a strong focus on Indigenous enrolment and attendance (see
the separate article, ‘School
education and early learning’) and
increased support for Indigenous secondary students through the ‘50
Years of ABSTUDY—strengthening ABSTUDY for secondary students’ measure (see the
There are no Budget measures relating to the Closing the Gap
targets of improving school attendance and literacy and numeracy, which are not
on track to be met. However, the MYEFO contained
two Indigenous education measures:
the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM), which imposed
social security payment penalties on parents in remote areas in Queensland and
the Northern Territory (NT) whose children were not enrolled or did not attend
school, was ceased, for a net saving to the government of $29.6 million and
the provision of $4.1 million to extend Flexible Literacy in
Remote Primary Schools until the end of 2018.
The major measure in this area is the ‘Community Development
Program— reform’ measure. The Community Development Program (CDP) covers 35,000
welfare recipients in remote Australia, 83 per cent of whom are Indigenous.
It requires up to 25 hours a week of ‘worklike activities’ from participants for
the whole year, significantly higher than work requirements of work-for-the-dole
programs in non-remote Australia. The current CDP has been criticised for
extremely high rates of social security penalties, which some researchers have
blamed for rising rates of poverty in remote Australia.
The reform measure will ‘redirect’ CDP funding of $1.1
billion into a new scheme including:
reducing the necessity of people with low (0–14 hours) work
requirements to contact Centrelink
ensuring job seekers are not required to participate beyond their
capacity through an improved assessment process that will clearly identify any
barriers to employment they have
reducing required participation from up to 25 hours per week, to
up to 20 hours per week; this would still apply to the full year, rather than
for six months as is the case for non-remote work-for-the-dole programs
creating 6,000 subsidised employment positions. Significantly
(given concerns raised about the previous proposed CDP scheme) these will be
‘real jobs’ including minimum wage requirements, superannuation and workplace
health and safety regulations
establishing a fund for CDP providers (particularly Indigenous
community organisations) and
making CDP recipients subject to the mainstream Jobseeker
Compliance Framework (JCF), the more stringent ‘demerit point’ system for
welfare recipients introduced in last year’s budget and enabled by the Social Services
Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Act 2018 (Welfare Reform Act).
A previous attempt to create a new legislative scheme for the
CDP lapsed with the prorogation of Parliament, after receiving sustained
criticism from stakeholders. With the exception of the
inclusion of recipients in the JCF, these proposed reforms are in line with those
the Government proposed in a recent discussion paper on remote employment and
participation, which received support from some significant stakeholders.
Most negative stakeholder reactions to the proposed changes have focussed upon the
new proposal to bring CDP recipients under the JCF.
The Government had previously expressed the intention to exempt CDP
participants from the JCF, drug and alcohol measures, and other changes
introduced under the Welfare Reform Act, and it is unclear what parts of
the JCF are now intended to apply to CDP participants.
This measure’s results may depend on how the ‘improved assessment process’
works and how treatment of people with ‘barriers to employment’ interacts with
the JCF’s more stringent attitude to no-shows and those with drug and alcohol
The Cashless Debit Card trial, which applies to welfare
recipients in the East Kimberley and Ceduna, who are over 80 per cent
Aboriginal, will be extended until 30 June 2019. The cost was not published.
Community safety and rule of law
The ‘Encouraging Lawful Behaviour of Income Support
Recipients’ measure will compulsorily deduct fines from the welfare payments of
people with outstanding court-imposed fines and suspend or cancel welfare payments
to people with indictable offence arrest warrants from state or territory
courts. Indigenous stakeholders have warned that the measure could
significantly increase Indigenous poverty. The scheme is detailed
in the separate ‘Extending
mutual obligation—court-ordered fines and arrest warrants’ article.
Other measures in this space include:
$18.2 million to support domestic violence prevention and
protection programs for women and girls, including maintaining the current DV-Alert
service and 1800RESPECT trauma counselling service. The Minister for Indigenous
Affairs has noted that this is a measure that will benefit Indigenous people.
It is not an Indigenous-specific measure but both DV-Alert and 1800RESPECT have
$8.4 million for a National Apology, records retention, and
Commonwealth implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into
Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Of the 7,981 survivors
interviewed by the Royal Commission, 14.9 per cent were Indigenous,
reflecting Indigenous children’s historical and current
over-institutionalisation and their higher vulnerability to abuse and
$1.2 million over four years to implement the Optional Protocol
to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), providing for the Commonwealth Ombudsman
to conduct independent inspections of places of detention. Ratification of
OPCAT was part of the Commonwealth’s response to the revelations of torture and
abuse of predominantly Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory’s juvenile
detention system by Four Corners on 25 July 2016.
The key priorities are described in the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet’s Strategic Direction Statement and Outcome 2 as increased
participation in education (school attendance), work, and ‘making communities
safer where the ordinary rule of law applies’: Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2018–19: budget related paper no. 1.14: Prime Minister and
Cabinet Portfolio, pp. 21, 33.
The budget measures and figures in this brief have been taken from the
following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, pp. 76–7, 165–73.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s
report 2018, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2018, pp. 8–9.
S Morrison (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year economic
and fiscal outlook 2017–18, p. 176.
Ibid., pp. 142–3; S Birmingham (Minister for Education and Training), Flexible
literacy pilot funding boost, media release, 28 October 2017.
The ‘flexible literacy’ program provides education based upon Direct
Instruction and Explicit Direct Instruction methodologies in remote,
predominantly Indigenous schools in Western Australia (WA) and the NT.
D Conifer, ‘Indigenous
work for the dole scheme slaps thousands with serious failures’, ABC
News, 7 March 2018. Between 2011 and 2016 the median household
income of Indigenous households in very remote Australia fell by $24 a
fortnight (from $802 to $778), and the proportion of Indigenous households in
poverty in very remote Australia rose by 7.6 per cent to 53.4 per cent:
F Markham and N Biddle, Income,
poverty and inequality, CAEPR 2016 Census Paper, 2, 2018.
J Haughton, Social
Security Legislation Amendment (Community Development Program) Bill 2015,
Bills digest, 93, 2015–16, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 29 February 2016,
pp. 7–10. Wage subsidies have strong evidence showing they are effective
boosters of Indigenous employment: M Gray, B Hunter and S Lohear, Increasing
Indigenous employment rates, Issues Paper, 3, Closing the Gap
M Thomas, ‘Job
seeker compliance and workforce participation’, Budget Review
2017–18, Research paper, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, May 2017.
J Haughton, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Community
Development Program) Bill 2015, op. cit.
Paper: Remote employment and participation, Commonwealth of Australia,
Canberra, December 2017; Torres Strait Regional Authority, Submission to
PM&C, Community Development Programme paper,
5 February 2018; Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern
to PM&C, Community Development Programme paper,
23 February 2018; Northern Territory Government, Submission
to PM&C, Community Development Programme paper, 19 February 2018.
National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, First
peoples sacrificed in the name of budget surplus, media release, 9 May
2018; H Davidson and C Knaus, ‘"Blatantly
discriminatory": changes to remote work-for-dole scheme criticised’, The
Guardian, 11 May 2018; Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern
Territory and Human Rights Law Centre, Discriminatory
remote work scheme improved but onerous work hours and harsh penalties will
drive poverty, media release, 10 May 2018.
The Government previously expressed the intent to exclude CDP
participants from components of the JCF: Explanatory
Memorandum, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill
2017, pp. 57, 62, 81, 88, 92, 144, 158.
M Thomas, ‘Job
seeker compliance and workforce participation’,
For discussion of the Cashless Debit Card trial see: D Arthur and J
Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Bills digest,
58, 2017–18, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2017. FOI requests have
previously revealed that the cost of operating the Trial for its first two
years was $18.9 million.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Federal
Budget measures will create more legal need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people but no solutions, media release, 9 May 2018; National
Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, First
peoples sacrificed in the name of budget surplus, media release, 9 May
N Scullion (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), 2018–19
Budget to strengthen economic, employment and health opportunities for First
Australians, media release, 9 May 2018.
Workshops’, DV-Alert website, n.d.; 1800RESPECT, ‘Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander experiences of violence’, 1800RESPECT website, n.d.
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Final
Information Update, November 2017, p. 3.
M White and M Gooda, Report
of the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention
of Children in the Northern Territory, vol.1, Commonwealth of
Australia, Canberra, November 2017, p. 204.
All online articles accessed May 2018
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