Consultation and the policy development process
This chapter provides the context and background for the Australian
Government's Community Development Program (CDP) with a particular focus on:
A description of the CDP;
The background to the CDP;
The policy process leading to the design of the CDP and its
predecessor programs (including consultation and engagement with stakeholders);
The government's announcement of changes to the current CDP and
stakeholder perceptions of the announced changes (and consultation on these
Funding arrangements for the CDP.
What is the CDP?
CDP is a remote-area Work for the Dole scheme with around 35 000
participants, about 84 per cent of whom are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
people, often living in discrete remote Indigenous communities or small
There are currently 53 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in
total (remote and non-remote) seeking work.
As a result, this program is of particular significance to Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people.
CDP was introduced on 1 July 2015. It replaced the Remote Jobs and
Communities Program (RJCP) which, in turn replaced the longstanding Community
Development and Employment Projects (CDEP) and the universal employment
services program, Job Services Australia.
CDP requires job seekers aged 18–49 years to participate in work-like
activities for five hours every weekday, for a total of 25 hours every week,
for 46 weeks each year.
To be eligible, participants must live in a remote area, receive a
Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment or Youth Allowance, and meet mutual
obligation requirements. In return, the jobseekers are to receive personalised
support including access to skills development and training assisted by a
program provider in their region.
The CDP is delivered in 60 regions and more than 1 000 communities across
The current CDP regions are shown in Figure 2.1.
Participants receive personalised assistance from providers who are
contracted to assist participants with training opportunities, seeking work,
and participating in activities that benefit their community while looking for
CDP is designed to support job seekers in remote Australia to build
skills, address barriers to employment and contribute to their communities
through a range of activities, and to address the 'unique social and labour
market conditions found in remote Australia'.
Employer incentive funding
Under CDP, employer incentive funding up to $7 500 (plus GST) for
full-time employees or up to $3 750 (plus GST) for part-time employees is
available to help Australian businesses manage the costs of employing remote
The funding can be used in any way the employer chooses, such as
providing additional training and supervision or as a wage subsidy. It is
payable once the remote job seeker has been employed full time for 26 weeks,
and provides for the job seeker to take cultural leave, manage short seasonal
gaps, or down time between work projects for up to four weeks in each 13-week
It is expected that CDP participants are paid consistent with industrial
Employers can also take on job seekers from remote areas for up to 26
weeks in a workplace hosted placement, a long term work experience opportunity
during which job seekers remain on income support and have mutual obligations
CDP participants receive no additional payment for this work.
Policy process leading to the design of the CDP
The following summarises
the policy process, from the establishment of CDEP in 1977 to the current reviews
of the CDP.
Community Development and
Employment Program (CDEP)
The Community Development and Employment Program (CDEP) was established
in a few remote Aboriginal communities in 1977 under the then Fraser
Government's Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In its submission, the
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) described what the
government set out to achieve with CDEP:
The CDEP...was designed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people to provide employment, training, activities, enterprise
support, or income support. Many have highlighted the positive elements,
including the provision of flexible employment opportunities and its focus on
community development, local control and responsibility. It also provided
people work and 'top-up' above job seekers income support payment, which
incentiv[ises] people to be involved and active in their communities.
At its peak in 2002–03, CDEP employed some 35 200 Indigenous people
(25 per cent of all Indigenous employment) in 272 communities, both remote
and non-remote, with a total budget of $484.4 million.
Some researchers have pointed to the popularity of the CDEP scheme,
noting that it was a government-sponsored part-time employment program with
participants being paid a wage to work on local projects rather than receiving
However, others expressed concerns that CDEP employment was not leading
to employable skills or jobs outside of CDEP, and work requirements were not
During the operation of CDEP debate focused on whether CDEP was
diverting participants from mainstream employment, or whether it was the only
realistic option for employment in remote communities with limited access to
In 2004, responsibility for CDEP was transferred from the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islanders Commission (ATSIC) to the Department of Employment and
Workplace Relations (DEWR).
A subsequent review conducted by the Office of Evaluation and Audit led to it
being gradually withdrawn from non-remote areas. The Minister's Foreword to
this discussion paper noted that the:
Australian Government believes that a more employer-focused
job brokerage approach would further increase employment outcomes for
Indigenous people particularly in urban and major regional centres where the
labour market is very strong.
Despite this, an academic analysis of CDEP in 2005 by Professor Jon
Altman found that the scheme was succeeding in 'generating positive economic
and community development outcomes at minimal cost to the Australian taxpayer'.
In 2007, the Howard Coalition Government announced that CDEP in the
Northern Territory would be 'progressively replaced with real jobs, training
and mainstream employment programs' as part of the Northern Territory Emergency
Response (NTER) amid criticism that CDEP was being used as a Commonwealth
subsidy for services that should be provided by other levels of government.
With a change of federal government in 2007, consultations commenced on
the future of CDEP. The new Rudd Labor Government concluded that CDEP was not
delivering employment outcomes and was subsidising local and state/territory government
In 2009, the Department of Finance evaluated CDEP, noting that it aimed
to improve participant employability in order to assist them to move into employment
outside the CDEP program. The department found:
...a number of providers have weak links to other programs and
employers, other than the local indigenous corporation, which was heavily
subsidised, and are primarily oriented inwardly to the community rather than
the labour market. This arrangement constitutes an internal labour market and
is unlikely to be an effective means of economic development or employment
preparation...The goal of sustaining communities is not the same as placing
participants in the best possible position for work. Nevertheless, CDEPs make a
contribution to the communities in which they operate and, for example, are a
major provider of community services in remote communities.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples are more than three times as likely as non-Indigenous
people in the same age group to be unemployed (17.2 per cent for Indigenous
compared to 5.5 per cent for non-Indigenous). Labour force participation for Indigenous
peoples is over 20 percent lower than for non-Indigenous people (55.9 per cent
compared to 76.4 per cent).
In 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a number of
targets to address disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians, including
halving the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and other Australians
Indigenous Economic Development
In 2011, the government released its Indigenous Economic Development
Strategy 2011–18 which aimed to support increased personal and economic
wellbeing of Indigenous Australians through greater participation in the
Remote Jobs and Communities Program
In 2012–13, all remaining CDEP participants and clients of Job Services
Australia, Disability Employment Services and the Indigenous Employment Program
(IEP) in remote areas were rolled into a new program called RJCP. RJCP sought
to better link jobseekers to the formal economy, as well as maintain resources
for local economic development. It administered programs broadly similar to
non-remote unemployment, disability and Work for the Dole programs.
RJCP was part of the Australian Government's commitment to the Closing
the Gap strategy agreed in 2008 by COAG. It covered 59 remote regions, and was
managed jointly by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace
Relations and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and
Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA).
In recognition of the ongoing challenges in generating economic activity
in remote areas and the ongoing deficit of infrastructure, the RJCP
incorporated a Community Development Fund (CDF) which provided funding to
support social and economic development and participation across the remote
regions and in identified Remote School Attendance Strategy schools, by funding
services and/or activities to support the creation of jobs and
employment-related participation opportunities for both Indigenous and
non-Indigenous job seekers.
The CDF was subsequently closed with funding transferred into the Indigenous
Advancement Strategy (IAS).
The ABS noted that, in the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) survey, all CDEP participants were classified
as employed while in the 2014–15 survey, RJCP participants were classified
either as unemployed or not in the labour force.
The difference in employment status between surveys resulted in a six per cent
fall in employment for Indigenous Australians from 52 per cent in 2008 to 46
per cent in 2014–15.
Community Development Program
In November 2013, the newly-appointed Minister for Indigenous Affairs,
Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion (Minister), declared that RJCP was a 'disaster',
citing confusion over the funding model and a 'one-size-fits-all' approach that
did not consider the differences between regions. Minister Scullion announced
immediate changes to the program backed by 'robust compliance measures' and $40
million to support the reinstatement of the IEP in remote areas.
On 1 July 2015, the Abbott Coalition Government restructured the RJCP
and established the CDP, moving away from a community-controlled employment
scheme to a program administered centrally by PM&C and administered by CDP providers
with all payments mediated via Centrelink and Department of Human Services.
According to PM&C, the RJCP was discontinued because it:
...did not meet the needs of remote communities or address
passive welfare and provided few incentives or opportunities for job seekers to
get the skills needed to find a job.
In December 2016, the Minister, in rejecting findings critical of the CDP contained in an ANU report,
noted that CDP had been making 'significant progress' in engagement and
participation rates. The Minister stated that communities he engaged with on a
regular basis were not wanting to return to 'passive welfare and
The Minister also noted that he was committed to improving the operation
of the CDP and 'ensur[ing] local communities have more control, including
through the delivery of the program by local providers rather than Centrelink'.
In May 2017, the Minister reported that the CDP had achieved a 'highly
significant milestone', with 5 000 employment outcomes over the previous six
months and more than 15 000 job placements since CDP started on 1 July 2015:
The CDP is getting remote jobseekers into work—and on more
than 5000 occasions they have stayed in the job for at least 26 weeks. The
26-week outcome is critical because we know if a person stays in a job for at
least six months, they have a far greater chanced of staying in work over the
Later chapters of the report will focus on the impacts of the CDP on
individuals, communities and providers.
The government's broader framework
for Indigenous Affairs after the 2013 election
In 2014, the government announced its Indigenous Advancement Strategy
(IAS) to consolidate all facets of Indigenous social, economic, health and
wellbeing across multiple Australian Government departments.
Two of the main aims of the Jobs, Land and Economy component of the IAS are to
increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 'real
jobs' and train more people for local jobs in their communities. Initiatives to
achieve these aims include the new CDP, the Employment Parity Initiative,
Vocational, Training and Employment Centres (VTEC) and the Indigenous Cadetship
The experience that CDP providers have with IAS is discussed further in Chapter
Also in 2014, the government commissioned Mr Andrew Forrest to undertake
a Review of Indigenous Training and Employment Programs, involving public
submissions and consultations. The final report Creating Parity: the Forrest
Review was released on 1 August 2014.
The government is implementing a progressive roll-out of measures in response
to the recommendations. Much of the current policy agenda around Indigenous
employment has been adopted from the Forrest Review recommendations.
Consultation and engagement leading
up to CDP
Several submissions and witnesses were critical of the process that led
to the design of the CDP, claiming that there was inadequate community
consultation and engagement.
National Employment Services Association described the policy process and
consultation as 'limited'.
According to former federal parliamentarian and Minister for Aboriginal
Affairs in the late 1970s, Mr Fred Chaney AO and former senior Commonwealth
public servant specialising in Indigenous matters, Mr Bill Gray AM:
There is little evidence, if any, that the Government
initiated a credible or transparent process by which Indigenous input as
obtained or used in the design of the CDP.
Jobs Australia's recent submission to the Australian National Audit
Office (ANAO) Audit of the CDP noted that the initial RJCP program was
developed after several rounds of community consultation and the advice of an
Expert Panel, and contracts with service providers were set at five years in
recognition of the need for long-term commitment in these communities.
In contrast, the design and rollout of CDP was undertaken with no prior
'transparent and formalised public consultations with communities'.
Jobs Australia stated:
In late November 2013, five months after RJCP had commenced
in July, Minister Scullion announced that immediate changes would be made to
the program, which he described as 'poorly designed and badly implemented'...A
year later, in December 2014, Minister Scullion announced the major reforms
that would lead to implementation of CDP in July 2015 [and that] the government
would discuss the new program with communities on a community-by-community
Some CDP participants reported that they were merely informed of the
change from RJCP to CDP. As one APY Lands resident and CDP participant recalled:
Suddenly, there was CDP. We had to learn a new way. Old CDEP
and the other RJCP were just gone. The new CDP had no jobs like the old CDEP;
the "E" part, the employment part, was taken out; the guts was taken
out. We were just left with pretend jobs and punished for not doing the pretend
Some communities were completely confused by what the government's
When it was announced that the RJCP was ending and that a new
program, CDP, would begin, we all just assumed that it would more or less be
the same program. The fact that the new program was called CDP was the first
cause of confusion. A former program had been called CDEP, and I think many
people thought that we were just going back to that. There was never really any
true direction to advise us exactly what the changes were from RJCP to CDP or
why these changes had been made.
The Ngaanyatjarra Council felt the use of the acronym CDP was misleading
due to it sounding similar to CDEP:
We didn't want it when it started but we thought it would be
like CDEP because it has the same letters. That was wrong to use those letters
because it tricked us.
Developments since the implementation of CDP
CDP funding (including the use of
There are two sources of funding for the CDP:
PM&C is responsible for program delivery as part of the IAS,
and allocates the funding to CDP providers to deliver training and employment
services under program 2.1 (Jobs, Land and Economy Program); and
the Department of Social Services administers the special
appropriations for all welfare payments in Australia; the Department of Human
Services is responsible for delivering the welfare payments to CDP participants
via Centrelink; Centrelink is also responsible for determining conditions of
payment such as eligibility, hours of activity, and penalties that may be
PM&C submitted an overview of CDP expenditure for 2015 ̶ 16 (summarised in
Table 2.1—CDP expenditure
for 2015 ̶
Under the former CDEP, unspent funds were returned to a consolidated
community fund. Under the current CDP, welfare payments withheld from
participants are returned to consolidated revenue.
The Minister has noted that the question of where unspent CDP funds
should be returned is a matter for review as part of the current consultations
for a new scheme.
Social Security Legislation
Amendment (Community Development Program) Bill 2015
Less than six months after the establishment of the CDP, the government
introduced the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Community Development
Program) Bill to set up a new obligation and compliance regime.
The detail of this regime was to be determined by the Minister through
The bill provided for:
responsibility for remote income support payments to be
transferred from Department of Human Services to local CDP providers based in
a simplified, compliance framework, with immediate non-attendance
penalties to promote work-like behaviours and provision for reasonable excuses
for being absent, factoring in appropriate reasons such as illness and cultural
increased income thresholds so individuals have a greater
incentive to take-up casual or part-time work, with the amount of income
support dependant on participation in CDP activities; and
the scheme to be phased in, on a region by region basis, to
ensure provider capability and community willingness.
The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) to the 2015 bill noted that:
Welfare reliance is at its most concentrated in remote
Australian communities. In very remote areas, almost one in five adults of
workforce age are in receipt of income support payments. People in remote
Australia are moving onto welfare at a young age and staying there for life.
Very few people are transitioning into full time paid employment. Long term
welfare reliance on this scale is detrimental to individuals and to communities.
[CDP] assists people to gain the skills, experience and
commitment necessary to find paid work where it exists and enables them to
contribute meaningfully to their community in the absence of paid work, through
participation in continuous CDP activities. CDP includes employment incentives,
incentives to establish businesses and access to vocational training and
support to address pre-employment barriers such as drug and alcohol problems.
The bill was the subject of an inquiry by the Senate Finance and Public
Administration Legislation Committee's inquiry into the bill which tabled its
report in March 2016. The report was critical of this bill with a particular
focus on the lack of consultation during its development.
The bill lapsed on 9 May 2016 at the dissolution of the 44th
In addition to the current Senate inquiry into the appropriateness and
effectiveness of the objectives, implementation and evaluation of the CDP,
there were two other relevant reviews underway including one commissioned by
the government and one initiated by the ANAO.
In 2016, PM&C contracted the Indigenous-owned research and
communications organisation Winangali Pty Ltd to
undertake an independent evaluation of CDP, in partnership with Ipsos
Australia, with a view to formulating a new policy framework. An interim report
is currently being finalised with a final report due in
In 2017, the ANAO commenced an audit of the CDP, which was tabled on
31 October 2017, to assess the effectiveness of the transition of the RJCP
to the CDP, including whether the CDP is well designed and administered
effectively and efficiently.
The ANAO's report made a number of findings including that:
There is 'scope to review the incentives created by the revised
provider payment structure'.
In 2016, the ANAO found that nine providers 'significantly misreported
attendance' with nearly $700 000 being recovered as a result of these
investigations. Some providers were found to have included the names of 'people
in jail or deceased' to boost their attendance figures.
Financial penalties applied to CDP participants were over four
times higher in the period 2015–16 when compared to RJCP in 2014–15 (146 700
financial penalties compared to around 35 500). The report noted that 'this reflects that under the CDP,
unlike the RJCP, providers were required to consistently enter jobseeker
attendance data and, where required, initiate action under the [Job Seeker
Compliance Framework]. Provider
payments were dependent on the accurate reporting of jobseeker attendance and
In 2015–16, over half (54 per cent) of all non-compliance reports
for the both JobActive and the CDP related to CDP despite CDP making up only 5
per cent of the caseload.
There has been 'a significant increase in the maximum call wait
times' when participants sought to contact Centrelink to 'discuss the reasons'
for non-compliance and arrange payment 'reconnection'. These wait times have
increased from 59 minutes in 2014–15 to over two hours and 44 minutes in
These issues are discussed in more detail in Chapters 4 and 5.
2017–18 Budget: Community
The government announced proposed changes to the CDP in the 2017–18
Budget as follows:
consultation with Indigenous communities and stakeholders on 'a
new employment and participation model for remote Australia';
$11 million in funding to develop and implement a CDP youth
engagement strategy in collaboration with local schools, including the
employment of youth workers to transition young people into
training and employment;
CDP will be excluded from most changes to income support
announced elsewhere in the Budget so that the government can consult with
communities on what will work best for remote Australia building on positive
elements of the former CDEP; and
remote job seekers under CDP will be exempt from the new Targeted
Compliance Framework, drug testing trials and removal of exemptions due to
drugs or alcohol misuse.
In a media release dated 18 May 2017, the Minister explained that a
consultation process on the proposed changes would commence in coming months.
A further announcement was made in passing by the Minister at the Garma
Festival in August of this year. In evidence to the
committee, Mr Bill Gray quoted a ministerial spokesperson from August who said
that changes 'will follow extensive consultation with communities about how to
improve the Government's remote employment services scheme.
Mr Liam Flanagan, General Manager of Community Services at the Arnhem Land
Progress Aboriginal Corporation described his view of the Minister's
announcement at the Garma Festival:
It wasn't consultation; it was during his presentation to the
key forum in the economic development session. He just spoke briefly, for maybe
five minutes, about the direction that they see the program going in, long term
now, and the fact that both his office and the department see the need for
reform, and they see it going towards a model that has a wage based component
in it, potentially bringing back top-up and positive incentivisation, and that
that's something that they will be starting consultations on at some stage. So
it was light on detail, but certainly something our board were excited about as
Consultation on reforms to CDP
The Minister announced in May 2017 that the government was undertaking
consultation on a 'new employment and participation model for remote Australia'
that would be developed in partnership with remote communities and build on the
success of the CDP and the positive elements of the CDEP:
The new model will need to not only provide jobs, but also
support school attendance and build safer, healthier communities.
According to PM&C's submission:
This provides an opportunity to restart the conversation on
what more can be done to break the cycle of welfare dependency and better
tailor current welfare arrangements in remote communities.
subsequently released a fact sheet stating that:
Current arrangements will continue while the government
consults on how the new model could build on many of the positive elements of
the former Community Development and Employment Program.
At Supplementary Budget Estimates in October 2017, PM&C told the
Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee that PM&C was
currently developing the framework for a formal consultation process and that
PM&C and the Minister were already engaged in informal discussions with
Notwithstanding the government's announcement of reforms to CDP
following a period of consultation, the committee has been told by many
witnesses that there has been little or no engagement by the Minister with
providers and communities on what these reforms will be.
The only consultation that providers or community organisations could point to
was an impromptu discussion in Cairns in June of this year. In response to
being asked if there had been any consultation, Mr Matthew Ellem, General
Manager at Tangentyere Employment said:
Not really. There was a recent provider meeting in Cairns.
That was a consultation, I suppose, about what we thought of the current
program and what changes we'd like to see come up. It was a pretty unprepared
consultation, and none of us, as providers, knew it was coming up. We hadn't
really had a chance to consult with communities, so we made off-the-cuff
responses. It wasn't a considered consultation.
Dr Kirrily Jordan described what a genuine consultation process should
If there's a commitment to go out and do consultation in a
particular community, we have to make sure that that community has advance
notice, that they have information about the agenda, about the proposal
beforehand and they're not just given that information on the day, and that
that information includes both the potential positives of the proposal and the
risks. Often in those consultations the consultants tend to focus on the
positives, which is really problematic. We also have to spend adequate time in
the community so that people have a chance to really understand what it is
that's being proposed, that they feel comfortable with the consultants to ask
questions. I think often people feel excluded by the process and are too
confused and nervous and uncomfortable to speak up. We have to give them
adequate information and adequate time to process it, think about it by
themselves and then come back with some informed questions.
In addition to there apparently being no consultation with communities
yet, the committee were also told that the Minister has not shared his reform plans
with his own department. Mr Gerard Coffey, CEO of Ngaanyatjarra Council
At fear of sounding disrespectful, I've been contacted by
Prime Minister and Cabinet, asking if there were going to be any changes to
CDP—if I knew of any.
Where most stakeholders have not been consulted at all, and no concrete
proposals for what the changes will be are in the public domain, it appears
that one organisation has been promised the opportunity to run a trial of the
reformed program. Mr Graeme Hastie, CDP Case Manager and Coordinator at
Kullarri Regional Communities Indigenous Corporation (KRCI) informed the
My understanding is that KRCI has been chosen as one of the
trial sites, if this goes ahead.
Since 1977, there has been an employment program of some type for remote
jobseekers. The committee acknowledges the importance of providing training and
employment opportunities for remote Australians—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
There are a number of differences that set the CDP apart from its
predecessor programs, including its negative impact on individuals, communities
and providers. Many of these differences are dealt with in more detail later in
the report. One of the key differences is the complete lack of consultation and
engagement by the government with the stakeholders—individuals, communities and
providers—in the design and implementation of CDP. This lack of consultation is
The committee sympathises with many stakeholders, in particular local
remote communities, who feel disempowered by the government's lack of
consultation. This has recently been exacerbated by the government's decision
to announce its intention to make changes to CDP before consulting with
Indigenous groups, remote communities or providers on what these changes might
Any changes to CDP must be based on genuine and comprehensive
consultation. The views of Indigenous jobseekers and the communities in which
they live must form the basis of any new program. A centralised, top-down methodology
in which bureaucrats and city-based providers dictate to local communities has
failed in the past, and will continue to fail if used in the future. The
committee considers that local communities should be empowered to make the
decisions on the training needs and the types of projects that best meet the
unique needs of each community.
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