Impacts of CDP on
communities and individuals
of the submitters and witnesses to this inquiry have highlighted the negative
impacts of the Community Development Program (CDP) on individual participants
and their communities with some describing it as 'an unmitigated disaster'.
Mr Hans Bokelund, CEO of the Goldfields Land and Sea Council made clear his
view that the CDP and its predecessor, the Remote Jobs and Community Program
(RJCP), 'is inflicting damage on Aboriginal remote communities'.
These impacts relate to:
pay and conditions
ability to engage with external bureaucracy;
dislocation in remote communities;
nature of work-like activities; and
ability for the bureaucracy to engage with participants.
penalties were introduced under the RJCP; however, since CDP began the number
of financial penalties applied to unemployed people in remote communities has
risen rapidly as a result of non-attendance (see Figure 4.1 below).
the National Social Security Rights Network (NSSRN) noted:
of the main drivers of the current problems are the more onerous mutual
obligation requirements which apply to CDP participants, compared to other job
seekers nationally...As a result, penalties for failure to attend activities have
sky rocketed under CDP.
seekers under both the CDP and its non-remote counterpart JobActive are subject
to the same national Job Seeker Compliance Framework. JobActive is the
mainstream work for the dole program that is operated in all non-remote parts
In the six months after the government announced its intention to replace RJCP
with CDP, 14 835 No Show No Pay penalties were applied compared with 8 149
during the previous six months.
the first 12 months of CDP, CDP jobseekers received more than half of all penalties
applied to all job seekers nationally, even though they represented fewer than
five per cent of the total number.
According to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), there
were 43 656 financial penalties applied in CDP regions in the December 2016
quarter. Around 80 per cent related to No Show No Pay.
Figure 4.1—No show No pay penalties
(non-attendance at activities)
Central Land Council commissioned research to capture a snapshot of views from
people in selected remote communities. All respondents found the penalty system
extreme, and all reported that they or someone in their family had been
penalised, placing financial strain on the family. CDEP was universally viewed
as a better program because it was thought of as a 'real job'. Many respondents
stated that CDP was 'demoralising and disempowering', and had quit the program
entirely leaving individuals with no income or support.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion has recently
pointed out that 'waiver provisions are in place to ensure that financial
penalties...do not cause undue financial hardship', and that more than 90 per
cent of eight-week non-payment penalties are waived.
Minister's statement that CDP penalties do not impose financial hardship on
participants and their families is at odds with evidence presented to the
committee. Mr Gerard Coffey, CEO at Ngaanyatjarra Council told the committee
that between '15 and 20 per cent of  jobseekers don't receive any
money' in his council area.
In the Mulga Queen community, 500 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie, around half
of CDP participants are currently breached and not receiving income support.
committee were told that up to one-third of participants on Palm Island in the
month of September 2017 were subject to a no payment penalty. When asked the
effect of having one-third of participants with no money has on a community,
Mr Nathan Vinson, Community Development Program Manager at Campbell Page
going to have a great impact on the community. If people do not have jobs, then
rent can't get paid—they can't get pay their power bills either, telephone
bills. Basic services will start to fail. There is a housing shortage on Palm
Island so you will find a lot of family members will be living in the same
house together. As they do in a community, they all come together and help
facilitate the lack of funding that they might have. [If] somebody doesn't have
a job, then somebody else will help them out.
Kirrily Jordan, Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy
Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University noted that the rate in
the first 18 months of CDP was more than seven penalties per person, compared
to one penalty for every four people in JobActive, the government's employment
services program that operates outside remote Australia.
to Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT):
analysis of government data shows that penalties applied to CDP participants
have more than quadrupled since the government introduced the program, and
continue to rise.
have noted that there are practical implications for vulnerable people that
stem from financial penalties under the CDP that are highlighted in Box 4.1.
The social impacts of financial penalties are discussed later in the chapter.
studies outlining the impact of financial penalties on members of remote
Female—28 years. Mother to 6 year
old, and 20 weeks pregnant. Medical history of renal failure and low iron...cut
off Centrelink for 8wks as she was unable to work outside in mid-summer heat.
Referred via clinic to service provider for emergency food assistance.
55 year old female who came to
see Money Mob Team about trying to get her super out and asking for a loan.
Client receiving $1216 per fortnight in Centrelink payments, advised she spends
all of this amount. On further investigation, client advised she has 5 other
adults and a two year old living in the house, and is expected to pay all the
rent and food for all of these people. Other adults in the house refuse to
engage with Centrelink, client says their reason is they find it too hard to
talk to whitefellas and it takes too long to wait on the participation line to
talk to them. Because culturally it is so difficult for Anangu to say ‘no’ to
family members, this woman is effectively being financially coerced and
deprived by her family members. The system is not effectively modifying the
behaviour of the target group, but is having negative unintended consequences
Pregnant Mother 27 years of age,
has contacted NPY WC requesting [Emergency Relief Funding] at least 7 times in
the course of her 3rd pregnancy, not all were met due to eligibility
requirements. Also during the course of her pregnancy she has been suspended
twice from her Centrelink payments because of not meeting working requirements.
(Between July-Dec 2016).
When Mother’s payments have been
processed during the third pregnancy, there are deductions of at least $260 per
fortnight because of personal loans, bush bus fees and school food fees for her
2 children. All of which are not being paid off during her 8 week suspensions.
Completing required hours to
receive payments has been challenging due to a number of reasons for Mother
including, high transience, domestic violence, partner's payments being
suspended and at times reportedly caring for a grandmother and not receiving
Higher obligations under CDP compared to
committee were concerned to hear that different attendance requirements are
placed on participants in CDP compared to those in JobActive. For instance,
participants in CDP are required to engage in 'five hours of regular work-like
activities' for 'five days a week, 12 months a year' or 1150 hours per year.
This requirement is imposed as soon as a person joins the CDP. In contrast, a
person joining JobActive might only be expected to work 7.5 hours per week (350
hours per year), with these hours increasing to 14 hours after 12 months.
4.2 shows the difference in activity requirements between JobActive and CDP:
Figure 4.2—Comparison of activity
requirements—JobActive and CDP
Lisa Fowkes, Research Scholar at CAEPR at the Australian National University
example, a 35 year old under CDP would start 'Working for the Dole' as soon as
they joined the program, and would be expected to work 5 days per day for
46 weeks per year – that is 1150 hours each year. Under JobActive they may have
to 'Work for the Dole' up to 350 hours each year if they don't find work after
12 months (increasing to 650 hours per annum next year). 
Rachel Atkinson of the Palm Island Community Company was quite frank in her
assessment of this discrepancy:
foremost, I believe it is racially discriminatory to remote Aboriginal
communities. If it's good enough to say 25 hours there [remote community of
Palm Island], it's good enough to do it here in Townsville [where JobActive
Michael Hobday of the CDP provider, RISE Ventures, described the 'inequity and
inequality' that exists between CDP and other employment programs.
Katie Owens, Manager at Rainbow Gateway, a CDP Provider noted her
organisation's view that there needs to be 'changes to the CDP activities and
mutual obligations to be in line with JobActive'.
Reduced pay and
CDEP, participants were able to top up their incomes, giving providers the
ability to offer incentives for increased participation, and participants being
paid the equivalent of award rates of pay and conditions such as superannuation
and long service leave. Under CDP, there is no incentive for participants as
the effective rate of pay is well below award rates and the minimum wage.
Shelley Bielefeld, a Research Fellow at CAEPR argued that:
of CDP participants are locked into work at a rate well below award rates, with
no work entitlements or protections and with little or no prospect of earning
additional income or leaving income support.
committee also heard that all CDP participants who work 25 hours per week are
doing so for significantly less than minimum wage. Ms Tina Carmody, the Working
Together Coordinator at the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Industry
noted that CDP:
doing it for $10 an hour, which is under the minimum wage. But they get $17 an
hour on Work for the Dole. So there is a huge gap that also needs to be
addressed because the psychological issues surrounding this are of concern.
Gerard Coffey, CEO of Ngaanyatjarra Council also supported this view:
go back a little bit. The CDEP—we were paying $17 an hour. This was less than
$10 an hour this program [CDP]. You are obligated to commit 25 hours a week on
remote CDP to get your full unemployment benefits. Under the CDEP, it was 16 or
17 hours, and you received more money.
lower rate of pay under CDP has practical implications on people's lives with
one submitter describing 'the effect of this lower pay rate is one loaf of
bread every hour that the government has taken away from the family home'.
Dr Kirrily Jordan explained, paying a person less than minimum wage is
'inappropriate, insulting and inequitable'. Importantly, insufficient incomes
impacts detrimentally on a person's capacity to develop skills for mainstream
employment. A more appropriate approach would be to provide a 'living wage that
can fund the necessities of life in remote communities, and allow people to
live productively and with dignity'.
committee also heard that CDP has resulted in an expectation of 'access to free
Mr Coffey noted that if the free supply of labour through CDP was not
available, that this would create real jobs in the community.
Mr Cameron Miller, CEO of the Ngurratjuta Pmara Ntjarra shared his observations
of an expectation within some employers that free labour was available:
the first one that I noticed 2½ years ago but then the positions were
withdrawn. They were manual positions for gardeners and cleaners or support
aides. We, as the provider, then had [school] principals coming to us expecting
free labour to fill those positions.
Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) also
noted the detrimental impact that such schemes have more broadly on the
communities by displacing paid employment:
locks people out of properly paid jobs that have meaning for the communities
such as care of land because the unpaid work under the CDP can displace paid
work of this kind and initiatives to create that kind of real paid employment
David Thompson, Senior Advisor at the ACOSS explained that this approach was
unique amongst income support programs across Australia:
there is a fundamental design flaw in the CDP as it is. It is with good
intentions—Minister Scullion has good intentions—that it allows people to work
for their income support in the private sector. That doesn't happen anywhere
else in this country. Even the people in the government's [Youth Jobs] PaTH [internship]
program get a supplement to their income support to participate in that kind of
work experience. There's lots of work in those communities in the former
CDEP—utility works, roads, water and all sorts of other utilities work done by
CDEP people—which, if it were paid for properly by the responsible governments,
would result in jobs for those people.
Lack of occupational health and safety
committee also heard concerns around the lack of emphasis placed by PM&C on
occupational health and safety (OH&S) aspects of CDP. This leads to two distinct
issues—no insurance for participants and limited accountability for providers.
committee heard that there is limited coverage for CDP participants who are
injured whilst participating in activities. Ms Lara Watson, Indigenous Officer
at the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) shared her experience with the
service provider raised some real concerns with us. One of the examples they
told us about was a CDP worker they had who was injured on site—the worker had
sliced three of his fingers. All they had was insurance that covered them to
get him to hospital. There was nothing in place around rehabilitation or what
sort of work he could do with the damage to his three fingers. We now have a
worker who, as a result of doing activities through CDP, has been disabled and
has no rehabilitation or ongoing support to help him back into the workforce.
the hearing, this was confirmed in a written response in which the ACTU stated
that 'current CDP workers are not covered by Comcare or any other worker
compensation scheme' and instead are covered by an insurance policy. The ACTU
expressed their view that workers engaged in the CDP should be 'covered by a
legislated workers' compensation scheme'
rather than being pushed on to the disability support pension, as Mr Brook
Holloway, Governing Councillor at the Community and Public Sector Union
compensation under CDP is a disability support pension form.
importance of OH&S not just for the safety and wellbeing of participants,
but also their employability in industries where OH&S is valued was
highlighted by Ms Owens, of CDP provider Rainbow Gateway:
set up an activity for any community we do a risk assessment based on that, but
I have never been audited on any of our risk assessments. I've never had
PM&C come through during a monitoring visit and ask to review them at any
time. I think it's such a critical part of what we do with our participants and
the use the skills that they get from doing [Job Safety Analysis] or risk
assessments. If they were to go into further employment, there probably needs
to be more focus on that from the government perspective to make sure that
everyone is complying with that. There doesn't seem to be any tick-off saying,
'Yes, you've done that. That's lovely.' It's in a folder, but when do you bring
it out and how is that monitored?
Limited ability to
engage with external bureaucracy
the inquiry, the committee has heard extensively about the problems that CDP
participants are having accessing Centrelink in remote communities. Witnesses
observed that in many cases Centrelink does not have a permanent presence in
many remote communities. For example, the committee were told that the only
permanent Centrelink office in the Goldfields region of Western Australia is in
Participants living in remote parts of the Northern Territory are without a
permanent Centrelink office for between 'four to six or eight weeks [between]
The lack of permanent facilities leads to difficulties for participants being
able to contact and liaise with Centrelink.
Telephone and internet issues
participants are forced to use the telephone and internet in order to meet CDP
reporting requirements. In its submission, the Ngaanyatjarra Council, which
represents around 2 000 people in 12 Western Desert communities, observed
that the centralised administration of CDP puts participants and staff under
huge pressure because of the unreliability of telephone and internet technology
in remote locations.
committee were told that in some communities '45 people' or more line up to use
one telephone at a telecentre.
The lack of telephone infrastructure is compounded by the long wait times for
participants of 'sometimes three or four hours' on hold.
Ms Victoria Baird of Save the Children in Kunnanurra described a common scene
in her office of people seeking to access Centrelink telephone services:
have the Centrelink hold music blaring throughout our office here in Kununurra
because they dial the number and have the family sitting, having a cup of tea
and waiting sometimes for an hour for the phone to be picked up.
of the challenges in remote Indigenous communities are the incredibly diverse
number of Indigenous languages spoken. Mr Chansey Paech MLA, the Northern
Territory Member for Namatjira, described the communication difficulties
experienced between Indigenous people living in remote communities and
Centrelink officers on the telephone:
electorate alone has over 11 local languages, first peoples languages, that are
spoken. There are over 100 languages across the Northern Territory. When we are
talking about communication with people, English is quite often a fifth
language or a fourth language, so it's very hard. In a number of my communities
you can rock up and, I don't know if they share the same passion for classical
music as I do, but that's often what you hear on their speakerphones as they're
waiting for Centrelink. Then they're forced to speak to people in call centres
who have very difficult processes to understand what they are saying, and they
speak in bureaucratic jargon, which people in my electorate, where English is
not their first language, have great difficulty understanding and being able to
Communities submitted that CDP participants are also disadvantaged by
unreliable technologies in remote communities, including frequent power outages
and lack of access to computers, making it difficult to report to Centrelink.
When lines are down, participants find themselves penalised for breaching CDP
Lands loses power lots of times. Between December and March, there was no
power, eight times. The phones and the computers in the PY Ku Centre don't work
when there's no power. We can't report to Centrelink, so next thing, we lose
too much Centrelink money. Then we can't feed our kids. Then people turn round
and growl [at] us for not looking after our kids.
Michael Hobday, CEO at RISE Ventures, a CDP provider acknowledged that
Centrelink poses one of the biggest challenges to the CDP as it currently
think the biggest issue I've got is the amount of time it takes people to
contact Centrelink and that they have to wait on the end of telephone lines and
those sorts of things. It's a disgrace.
Susan Tilley, Manager of Aboriginal Policy and Advocacy at Uniting Communities
noted that there is capacity for Centrelink to provide interpreter services;
however, the actual provision of interpreter services is problematic:
people are not offered a language interpreter. They need to have the confidence
to say they would like a language interpreter and request to arrange one. So
that's the whole process of people feeling confident enough to do that. Then,
quite often, people have already waited sometimes up to two or three hours to
get through to Centrelink. Then, to be told they will have to try again tomorrow
when they have a Pitjantjatjara speaker
or in three hours' time, is quite daunting and frustrating for people. So it is a
complex issue, and it is a difficult issue to get around.
Tilley added that some Centrelink officers are sometimes unaware that
Centrelink provides interpreter services for Indigenous languages.
Mr Damien McLean of the Ngaanyatjarra Council observed that communication
breakdowns extend beyond language to an understanding from Centrelink staff as
to where their clients live:
make these appointments, they never ask about our time zone. There is an
assumption that we are in the Northern Territory, on Territory time, which is
wrong. So these phone appointments almost never transact.
Raylene Cooper, a Senior Aboriginal Mental Health Worker in Kalgoorlie,
elaborated on the other consequences of not having Centrelink staff stationed
in remote communities.
Centrelink office here, you can't do a family allowance claim here. You put the
claim in here but it goes down to Perth or can end over in South Australia or
somewhere else. Even when you go onto unemployment benefits you don't get an
interview straightaway. You get an interview in about two or three weeks time.
Everything is not hands on. You have to wait. That causes a lot of poverty and
a lot of distress for a lot of families. 
Thomas shared this view and extended her commentary to CDP providers that are
not based in remote communities. Absence of these providers for extended
periods of time can have devastating impacts on remote communities. Ms Thomas
local CDP provider for the Goldfields region in WA] comes every fortnight, but
if they can't come they'll say, 'We can't come, can you ring it in?'...
to tell them who is here. If they need to sign their job plan or whatever they
are due to do, they just scan it and send it. But if our computer isn't working
then they don't get paid. They just go without and have to wait. And it's an
eight-week waiting period if you get cut off from Newstart. These people have
Cooper shared an example of someone who was suspended in the midst of a mental
of weeks ago one of my lady clients didn't go to one of her appointments, so
she got suspended, so then I had to talk to them and get a doctor's certificate
to say what had been happening for her. She ended up in our ward. When I told
them what was happening for her they reinstated her and then she got back paid
for the weeks she'd missed out on. But that doesn't always happen. They said
that the next time it happens to her she'll have to go and start the process
have to go and reapply to Centrelink—start from scratch. She won't be so lucky
next time as to get a continuation of her benefit.
geographical constraints and lack of program flexibility means that health and
psychological screenings of participants seeking exemption from CDP
requirements are often undertaken by phone and without access to language
This results in 'people who should be on disability support pensions and who
are made to do 25 hours a week Work for the Dole'.
Many of these people are simply not being provided with the opportunity to be
assessed. Ms Adrianne Walters, Director, Legal Advocacy, at the Human Rights
Law Centre noted that:
concern is that you have people who should be on the disability support pension
and who shouldn't be forced to do work that they're not capable of doing, and
they're being penalised for not being able to do that work.
Social dislocation in
the committee's Kalgoorlie hearing, the committee heard that the financial
penalties and reduced pay and conditions of CDP are causing significant social
dislocation in many remote communities. There are two key drivers to this
social dislocation—as discussed earlier in the chapter, one relates to the loss
of payments and the need of vulnerable people to seek money for essential daily
items through friends, family or crime. The other relates to people leaving
remote communities to live in regional centres such as Kalgoorlie where they
are not subject to the onerous requirements of CDP.
Suspended payments leading to increased
poverty, crime and social issues
witnesses have linked the loss of payments to an increase in poverty in remote communities.
The committee notes that these are communities already living in extreme poverty.
At the hearing in Alice Springs, Professor Jon Altman noted that between 2011
and 2016, median income in remote communities subject to CDP has declined:
we're seeing is people who are going from living in poverty, at just over $200
a week per adult, to getting even less [than] that.
Susan Tilley of Uniting Communities expressed a similar view noting that the
'current CDP is entrenching poverty and welfare dependency'.
Professor Altman explained how the onerous reporting and penalties associated
with CDP are contributing to this increase in poverty:
go to particular communities, I come across young people, particularly males,
who, when I ask them what they're doing for income, basically say that they
were on CDEP but were breached a number of times, so they've stopped bothering
to participate in that extraordinarily onerous metawork of turning up to your
job provider and Centrelink on a regular basis to demonstrate that you've
fulfilled your mutual obligation requirements.
Carmody made the following observation of the psychological impacts of not
having any money:
depression—it's so oppressive, it's unbelievable. You've got these people with
these penalties for eight weeks and no money. They can't pay their rent, they
can't pay their bills and they can't put food on their table. What happens
then, particularly in the remote townships, where the general store relies on
this income to function and work, is that they're not getting paid. It's a bit
like the ripple effect: throw the people in the pond and then it ripples out
into the community. It also adds an extra burden on other family members that
have to cover those costs for eight weeks. It's quite an oppressive situation
to be in. People need to understand and realise how hard it is to struggle.
Harriet Olney, an Independent Director at Ngaanyatjarra Council reported that
the Warburton 'store does not make as much money as it used to because people
aren't buying as much food as they used to buy'. 
Ms Olney also observed that the store's lower revenues are a reflection of
people simply buying less food and as a result of people leaving community to
move to regional centres.
When the store makes less money, this has a flow-on effect into provision of
broader services in the community:
dependent on the store to pay for things. The community office is funded
through the community enterprises. So it makes quite a difference across the
Rachel Atkinson, CEO of the Palm Island Community Company noted that some
people are choosing not to engage with job providers as it is simply too
A lot of
the people we employ won't go near Campbell Page [the local CDP provider for
Palm Island]. They'd rather not have the dole. So they couch surf and live on
the rest of their families.
committee has also received evidence suggesting that crime rates in some remote
communities have increased as a consequence of suspending payments to CDP
participants. Superintendent Michael Bell, District Superintendent for the
Western Australia Police Force's Mid-West Gascoyne District made the following
when the participation report goes in and people have their benefits cut off...it
puts additional pressure on the family members because they then have to
support that person. That individual who's cut off may
become displaced and then go in search of other benefits or family to support
them, so they can become itinerant in other locations. Cutting people's
payments off becomes a factor in that it then drives crime because they've got
no money to get food and shelter—just the necessities of life.
Victoria Baird of Save the Children Australia described her experiences in the
Kimberley region of WA:
see the young people that we work with stealing things like food. They are also
often accompanied by adults stealing alcohol, because access to alcohol is
restricted and people have addictions that they need to feed. We definitely
would say most of the young people that we work with that are engaging in petty
theft would be affected by the poverty of their families. They're all on CDP.
addition, the committee heard that in dry communities domestic violence is
often caused by a 'lack of money'.
Inspector Glen Willers, Assistant District Officer for the Western Australia
Police Force's Goldfield's-Esperance District told the committee about the devastating
impact that suspended payments can have on individuals and their behaviour,
particularly when they do not fully understand the reasons for the suspension:
clear that small matters like being cut-off become huge in these places.
Recently up at Warakurna, which is very isolated, one of the adult males there
basically, as they described it, ran amok and did damage all around town. When
they got him back to the police station, calmed him down and asked, 'What was
the problem,' he said: 'I've been cut-off, and I don't know how to get back on.
The other day, I was on the phone for half an hour. The people don't understand
me, so I hung up.' So there you have a frustrated man [in] your community who
is a really good person—he's just frustrated because he has no money, he's
isolated and he can't get back on the program.
Boase summarised how people are surviving without any form of income:
not surviving well. The crisis centre has a lot of women and children in there
at any given time. They're relying on other family members or other community
members to try to find some support. They're going without food. They're
certainly going without adequate basic facilities. 
CDP forcing people to leave remote
discussed earlier in the report, CDP is a program that is applied in remote
locations and that an employment program with less stringent requirements,
JobActive, is applied to jobseekers in non-remote parts of Australia. The
committee were told that it is common for people from remote communities to
move from remote communities to regional centres. In some cases this is because
they wish to be subject to less onerous compliance requirements, meaning they
are less likely to be breached and lose their payments. In other cases, this is
because they have already been breached and are seeking some other way to get
by. Superintendent Bell noted:
you're required to be actively looking for work and participating in the
program for six months, and my understanding is you then get six months off,
for lack of a better word. But under CDP you're required to be actively
participating and you get six weeks off [in a 12 month period], unless you take
something like cultural leave, which is certainly defined under that. So people
submissions also noted the negative impact of forcing CDP participants to leave
their communities to look for work, causing tensions in their families and
communities, undermining their cultural responsibilities, and making them feel
alienated in new living and working environments.
people move away from their homes in remote communities, often they are moving
to regional centres where they do not have housing, and family and social
supports, as Mr Damien McLean of the Ngaanyatjarra Council explained:
fundamentals that really tie people together are not there, because it's been
made so hard to live out here under the provisions of the CDP and, effectively,
it is so easy to be on three-monthly reporting without obligations if you're
homeless on the streets of Kalgoorlie, inevitably, that is what you're going to
do—you're going to produce a migration into these regional centres that are not
ready to accommodate this and you're going to have people who are not ready to
move into them. That is already happening.
Martin Sibosado of Aarnja noted the trend of remote residents moving to
regional centres was also occurring in the Kimberley region, often with
have worked out about moving into town. We've seen that and that's been the
focus for itinerancy on the oval. Then there's the sheer thing on individuals.
What's not commonly reported—I spoke to about 20 of those people only two
months ago and on average they had fines from the police for failing to comply
with move-on notices. As they said to me, 'Where do I move on to? I live under
that tree over there, mate.' That person had accumulated $22 000 worth of
fines. I said, 'You know where you're going, brother—you're going to jail.
That's the only outcome for you.' Those are the sorts of ramifications we're
seeing from CDP.
its submission, the Ngaanyatjarra Council highlighted the difficulties that
people face when moving to regional centres:
Ngaanyatjarras have a unique history. They have not previously been forced from
their country and wish to maintain the privileges associated with this.
However, they are greatly disadvantaged when they leave the Lands, so much so
that many Ngaanyatjarra people cannot function adequately when dislocated from
to a regional centre not only fundamentally affects the people who leave, but
also those who are left behind. Some parents do not take their children to
regional centres as there is no-where to live and no income to sustain a
who have been cut off will go looking for a means of survival with food and
support. They can leave their children behind with other family members while
they go searching, so it also becomes an issue that we're separating families
while they go searching for money and support to live.
the absence of parental supervision and with no money, children are forced to
turn to crime:
not contribute all of those problems to CDP by any means, but it's certainly a
factor that the police have to consider—that is: how can we deal with the
underlying causes of crime within children. The answer is to get these adults
to remain in their communities.
who make the move would rather return to their communities; however, feel that
they have no choice other than to remain in the regional centres:
We have a
big issue in Kalgoorlie with that because people don't want to be here. They
want to go back to their lands, but the services are so much easier to get
here, and that's why they stay here.
witnesses spoke about the rising tide of despair in some remote communities
that is leading to increased drug and alcohol abuse and increased suicides.
These issues are symptoms of communities who are struggling to provide for
are living below the poverty line already. If you then cut the funding that
they rely on for food and supplies, which are also expensive in Laverton, I
have to say, I think they have nowhere to go. They have no way of dealing with
this well. I'm just thinking in my head right now—today in Kalgoorlie there's
also a discussion about the cashless card and the drug and alcohol situation. I
can understand where people get to a point where—'I might as well just blow
this and blow my mind here.' I think drugs and alcohol are often a symptom of
the despair and despondency.
Labour market issues
lack of a functioning labour market economy in many remote communities is raised
in the previous chapter. This section discusses the impacts that a
non-functioning labour market has on individuals and remote communities.
Outside the labour market
ACTU pointed out that people in remote areas who are considered 'outside' the
labour force are in fact often engaged in productive artistic or customary
activities which may generate income but which are not always recorded as
Insufficient jobs to make current CDP
submissions noted the absence of an employment market in remote communities.
Community Bridging Services (CBS), for example, argued that there are
insufficient employment opportunities in remote regions to make the current CDP
model viable, particularly for people with a disability:
not enough opportunity, infrastructure and community support in remote regions
to support the current Work for the Dole type of activities of 25 hours a week.
There is also inequity in the requirements for CDP clients—mainstream clients
are required to do 15 hours per week, CDP client need to do 25. This is why
there are so many reported infringements.
NPY Women's Council reported that there were not enough jobs for people in the
region, and that CDP does not provide real jobs. The CPSU noted that a more
holistic approach is required with job programs needing 'to be supported by
local economic development programs that will lead to ongoing work and
Council's submission did not advocate abolition of CDP as some benefits are
visible to the community such as those that improve community infrastructure
and amenity, but the scheme is racially discriminatory when compared to
JobActive in urban settings, specifically that higher obligations apply to
Ltd noted that northern Australia's workforce needs are unique, with many
businesses closed during the wet season or working long hours in the dry
season. Aarnja argued that alignment of future employment policies with the
policy objectives of the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia offers
development opportunities for remote communities in these regions.
CDEP, employment activities consisted of four hours per day, four days per
week. With the introduction of CDP, this was increased to 'work-like
activities' for 25 hours over five working days. According to Dr Will Sanders,
Senior Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at
the Australian National University (appearing in a private capacity):
the great virtues of the activities regime under the former CDEP were that it
avoided accusations of Indigenous people being asked to work for less than
award wages, and it left afternoons and Fridays free for other priorities....This
was a workable balance between the pulls of custom and modernity, between
country and kin versus waged employment...
The nature of work-like
of the most controversial features of CDP is its focus on full-time Work for
the Dole, involving supervised, work-like activities.
Ngaanyatjarra Council noted that the requirement for work-like activities often
forces participants to undertake relatively meaningless tasks:
This is a
hopeless vision of life on the Lands...Not only has CDP destroyed the sense of
agency among Ngaanyatjarras that had been fostered over decades, CDP threatens
the very viability of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands communities.
NPY Empowered Communities Secretariat (NPYECS) provided an example of
unsuitable activities undertaken by CDP participants:
asked PP why she has not been meeting her participation requirements, she
expressed that her activities were to cook for herself at the Tafe, and this
activity felt and appeared meaningless to her. Skill Hire, who arranges the
participation activities, was closed when this discussion was had, so PP and CW
could not raise concerns with them. CW visits community approximately every
three months. It is unlikely PP will raise concerns with (the provider) alone
without an advocate.
Carmody explained the disconnect between training and activities, and the job
recently talked to some of the providers of the CDP program here. It is
fantastic that we have programs, but there are programs such as cooking
classes. Unless a person wants to become a chef—and I think that is fine—in
general what are cooking classes going to do for long-term sustainable
employment? From an HR point of view, to be honest with you, if someone is
applying for a position as an admin officer on a mine site but all they have on
their resume is cooking classes through CDP, obviously that is not going to be
favourable. So I do worry about the types of programs that are in place. Is it
for training and long-term employment, or is it a life skills program?
witnesses noted that activities undertaken as part of CDP have included jobs
such as 'feeding chooks' or 'sweeping verandahs'.
Inspector Willers told the committee about the inappropriate nature of some of
the work tasks:
given example of a very proud Aboriginal law man who had been asked to pick up
rubbish at the front of his house. There was so much shame around that that it
actually created tension in the community. To ask that man to do that work in
the community actually created tension within his family. That was an example I
got from Blackstone. There is, from what I understand, no work. There are
contractors coming in all the time, but it just seems that there's nothing for the
local people to do. I know the example is you either earn or learn. I don't
know what that actually means in the community. I could see myself that it
would be so easy to get cut off out there.
witness raised the point that there are more meaningful and valued activities
that participants could be undertaking in their communities:
couple in Laverton who are elders, who are extraordinarily community minded,
who at any given time are looking after not only their own children—they have
some adult children who have health issues and who should really be on
disability support but are not, so they're looking after them—but grandchildren
and often other children in town or from people passing through who might be
coming to Kalgoorlie for health reasons. So their house is stretched. They've
got lots of people there that they're looking after. The mum is in her mid-50s,
so she has to turn up, or used to have to turn up, for activities like having a
21-year-old from somewhere else teaching her art, even though she's a very good
'some participants described their activity as "sign the paper"'
noting that little consideration is given to appropriate training or provision
of adequate resourcing that will lead to real employment outcomes. One
participant interviewed by the NPYECS summarised this view:
there's no room for us in the centre so we just have to tick the sheet.
part of its submission, Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory
(APO NT) highlighted that there are already "real jobs" in remote
communities and that these jobs should not be undertaken as part of CDP:
clearly many worthwhile, meaningful jobs that need to be done across remote
communities. Many of these are jobs that address gaps in local infrastructure
and services available to Indigenous communities—a legacy of historical
underinvestment. They are not 'make work' or 'add on' jobs, but address genuine
needs of communities. Many are in the health, community services and education
sectors – sectors in which employment growth is strong, and expected to
continue. Others are in areas like construction, housing and municipal
services. There is also important work to be done in preserving and
strengthening Indigenous culture and lands— work which requires specific skills
and knowledge. This work, and these jobs, are an important part of maintaining
and strengthening cultural identity—critical to 'Closing the Gap'. These are
'real jobs'. They cannot and should not be done under 'Work for the Dole'
schemes for $11 per hour.
committee were told that some CDP activities that would benefit the community
could not go ahead due to a lack of essential tools or equipment. Ms Thomas
We have a
program there, which we've had ever since we started working with GETS, to put
up a fence. We made the swings—a playground—for the kids. We got that up,
but—it's going into three years—we never put that fence up because we don't
have the equipment to put the fence up. We've been telling them and telling
them, but there's no answer. When PM&C comes, we tell them the same thing.
When GETS goes out there, we tell them the same thing. We ask: 'How do we do
it? We don't have a bobcat. Where do we get the bobcat from to dig the hole?'
do it because the ground is very hard. We have, in our shed, the swings sitting
there still to be put up. This is the third year now. I don't think it's going
to go up this year. We have to wait until next year and see what happens.
Participants are all getting penalised, but what can we do when we don't have
the equipment to do the work? We don't have it. That's what I'm saying about
the funding part. We don't know what funding we have.
to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), CDP is
predicated on meeting 'mutual obligation' requirements rather than responding
to the employment needs of communities. In remote areas, meeting obligations
can be a challenge leading to higher income penalties.
provided to this inquiry which noted the lack of meaningful training and
activities under CDP contrasts with the consultation described by PM&C
prior to the implementation of the CDP. During this consultation, many
community leaders have been clear that their objectives were 'an end to passive
sit down welfare' as this 'was not the future they want for their people'.
Importantly, these community leaders wanted 'real jobs, paying real wages, and
activities that instil responsibility and give people the opportunity to
contribute something of value to their communities'.
committee were told that there is no funding available through the CDP for
training. Ms Kylie Van Der Neut, Senior Manager for Contract Assurance at
Campbell Page explained the additional costs in providing training on Palm
difficult, especially on Palm Island, because you've got to look at
accommodation, flights and all of those types of things. So we look at any
funding that's available for us. Otherwise, we'll fund the training course.
Van Der Neut indicated that these costs make it expensive to provide training
from the payments made by the government under the CDP.
Townsville, the committee were told that between two to 10 per cent of CDP
participants were engaged in certified and recognised training courses.
In addition, the committee were also told that when participants do obtain
competencies or certificates, that it is currently not a requirement of the CDP
that this information be stored in a way that is centrally accessible by the
provider and potential employers who conduct work in remote communities.
This issue of disconnection between the job provider and potential employers is
discussed in Chapter 3.
Limited ability for the
bureaucracy to engage with participants
issue of consultation between the bureaucracy and CDP participants in the
context of policy development and change is discussed earlier in Chapter 2. It
is important to highlight that poor communication and engagement not only
affects participants but also bureaucracy administering the CDP. Poor
communication services and the lack of resident Centrelink officers or agents
in remote communities puts Australian Government officers at a disadvantage in
understanding the challenges faced by the recipients of government services and
limited engagement by the federal bureaucracy and participants extends beyond
telephones and internet access. Mr Damien McLean asserted that government
officers focus almost exclusively on administration and record keeping,
particularly around compliance within the CDP. This focus on compliance is to
the exclusion of a focus on community development and employment outcomes. Mr
have run the program on a very regimented basis in terms of pursuing roles,
times, documentation. Where people have penalties put on them then the process
is supported by documentation so that, when the penalties are levied, they will
hold up whether to appeal within the Centrelink arrangements. So that's where
the whole focus is on this. There is very little interest in community
development. This program makes a very poor partner. As soon as they go into a
partner to work with them, they say that your goal is to actually do these
things—to really promote this mutual obligation and the work-like habits, and
to document what's going on to the extent that that takes priority over your
activity or whatever your program is. So it makes a very bad partner because of
that. It's made it very hard to integrate it into the community in any real
committee is concerned about the significant and far-reaching negative impacts
of the CDP on individuals and communities since its establishment in mid‑2015.
The evidence has shown that CDP is causing real harm to people engaged in CDP
and the remote communities in which they live. At the heart of these problems are
the heavy-handed financial penalties being applied to CDP participants who do
not and cannot comply with the onerous requirements of the CDP.
of payments, in conjunction with reduced pay and conditions under the CDP
(compared to its predecessor programs), is resulting in individuals and
communities being pushed further into poverty. Furthermore, the committee is
disturbed by evidence that suggests increasing levels of poverty are leading to
an upsurge in crime and other social issues in remote communities. In some
circumstances, the CDP compliance regime is forcing people to leave their homes,
families and communities simply to survive.
committee notes the higher penalties and requirements for CDP participants relative
to the non-remote jobseeker program, JobActive. It has not been made clear to
the committee why this is the case. This disproportionate approach to jobseeker
programs in remote and non-remote areas is especially confusing in light of the
fact that those in JobActive regions are more likely to find employment than
those in remote locations.
committee considers that the punitive imposition of penalties is further
compounded by inadequate access for CDP participants to Centrelink services.
The committee were disappointed to hear about the difficulties that some people
have experienced when attempting to contact Centrelink to meet reporting
requirements or to have payments recommenced. These difficulties include long telephone
wait times, a single phone to be shared amongst 45 people, non-permanent or unstaffed
Centrelink presence in some remote locations, and intermittent internet
connectivity. In the committee's view, it is unacceptable that people who speak
English as a second language are not supported to communicate their individual
circumstances and to understand the requests of an operator. It is especially
disheartening to hear about people who are so frustrated and unsupported by the
system that they simply disengage and walk away from any form of income support.
committee notes that certified training within the CDP is virtually
non-existent and certainly not funded. Work-like activities are described as
'pointless' as they do not relate to the interests of the participants or the
job opportunities that exist in the local area. The evidence has shown that the
CDP is not orientated towards real employment outcomes. It is the committee
view that CDP does not lead to job creation or pathways to real jobs.
Furthermore, the working conditions that CDP participants are exposed to are
not those of a real job.
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