Alternative approaches to CDP
Many witnesses and submitters have acknowledged the importance of a
program for remote jobseekers that provides the opportunity for job placement
and community development. In evidence at the committee's Palm Island public
hearing, Councillor Alf Lacey, Mayor of the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire
Council outlined his council's support for the broad aims of the Community
Development Program (CDP):
We endorse the purpose of the program to assist Indigenous
jobseekers to gain skills and valuable experience to assist their efforts to
find meaningful employment. We believe the program has merit and has the
potential to make a meaningful contribution to help our people find jobs. The program
goes further than that in our communities: it gives people who don't have jobs
somewhere to go and perform work that contributes to their community. It can
give dignity to the lives of some people, and send a good message to young
people and youth who see these people working for their income and working to
find employment. It is important we don't underestimate the power of hope and
opportunity for our people that programs such as this give.
Ms Rachel Atkinson, CEO of the Palm Island Community Company told the
committee about the value for all people of having purpose and meaning:
...there is no way that people want to sit home; they would
love to get out and have a meaningful life...But, when you live in a community of
learned helplessness, and there is a whole history of where this community came
from, it's going to take a lot more than forcing people to work 25 hours a week
in meaningless tasks—cleaning the yards or doing other really meaningless
tasks. I go back to where I talked about that small investment which had a huge
dividend. I have people who are coordinators of good programs now who were in
that same scenario—who had difficulty getting out of bed. But you've got to
have confidence and faith and build the capacity and empower that community. We
are always going to have the ones who will never want to work, and with them
you need to take a different way, but not many.
Earlier chapters of the report chronicle many of the negative impacts
that CDP is having on individuals, communities and providers. On the basis of
this evidence, the committee is convinced that the current approach of CDP is
not working. This chapter will explore alternative approaches to CDP including the
broad framework that should underpin any future program, the positive elements
of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), and a number of
alternative approaches to remote area joblessness and community development.
Framework for reforming CDP
In May 2017, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs announced that the government
was undertaking consultation in relation to a new employment and participation
model for remote Australia.
Many submissions welcomed the consultation process and recommended a new
employment and participation model that either restored positive elements of
the CDEP or reforms the existing CDP.
Many witnesses and submitters have noted their disappointment that this
consultation has not materialised since the announcement.
Principles to guide the reform
In his submission to the committee, Professor Jon Altman, a Researcher
at the Australian National University's Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy
Research (CAEPR) recommended that the committee 'lay down some of the ground
rules for a new policy approach and an urgent timeline for reform', and that
the government should introduce an immediate moratorium on breaching CDP
participants during the redesign phase in order to build some good will and
allow constructive engagement.
Jobs Australia argued that significant reform is needed to reduce the
unacceptably high incidence of income support penalties, and to make the
program more effective and relevant to the needs of the remote communities it
serves. It proposed the following principles to guide the reform process:
requirements need to be adjusted so that most participants can
meet them most of the time and to more closely align with the requirements of other
income support recipients;
administrative arrangements should be simpler for both
participants and providers;
participants/community members should have sufficient income to
pay for necessities;
communities should be empowered to make decisions about how the
program operates in their community; and
incentives should encourage people to engage in unsubsidised
Several academic researchers from the CAEPR have identified similar
considerations, including the need for:
community support and a sense of community ownership;
a genuine commitment to consultation input into how the program
a focus on job creation and community development;
appropriate incentives and remuneration;
an effective mechanism to accommodate and support individual
effective interaction with participants about payment penalties;
recognition of the unique locational, cultural, social and historical
circumstances of remote communities.
Options for mutual obligation
Jordan and Fowkes have suggested the following options for reforming the
mutual obligation requirements under CDP:
A Basic Income (BI) scheme would provide all unemployed people with
an unconditional payment without requiring participation in activities. It
could provide support for voluntary participation in culturally appropriate and
locally valued activities through additional block grants. This scheme is
effectively how CDEP functioned on some small homelands and outstations where
there was little or no active supervision of work activities. The BI scheme
would give economic security and support a move towards self-determination.
Similar to a BI scheme but people engaging in locally determined
activities for an agreed number of hours would receive additional income up to
the 'full' rate. Capacity to engage in activities would be assessed and the
minimum number of work hours for full pay adjusted accordingly. This would
shift the focus from punitive (failure to fulfil obligations) to positive
(opportunities to earn and contribute), and shift administrative resources from
monitoring compliance to facilitating economic and community development.
Some form of penalty if people did not meet their agreed
participation requirements (CDEP 'no work no pay' provisions were widely
accepted and applied). The penalties and incentives would be designed in
collaboration with communities and based on local knowledge.
Assistant Commissioner Paul Taylor of Queensland Police put forward his
view that building trust is a better approach than focusing on compliance and
One of the things that we see when that trust relationship is
built up is that people are more likely to come to work, because they feel more
responsible and they don't want to let the trust relationship down.
Basic Income and Job Guarantee
Several submissions suggested either the BI or the Job Guarantee schemes
an as alternative to CDP, in order to address persistent unemployment and
income insecurity in remote regions.
Dr Elise Klein, Lecturer in Developmental Studies at the University of
Melbourne defined a BI scheme as one which:
...provides every resident (children and adults) of a particular
geographic location a regular subsistence wage unconditionally. Basic Income is
sufficient to provide an income floor through times of job and wage insecurity,
and to support productive labour that falls outside of the capitalist work
In his submission, Mr Peter Strachan suggested incorporating key
features of CDEP that follow the BI model as follows:
community controlled and voluntary;
flexible work arrangements;
real community development focus; and
work opportunities when the labour market is small or
Whilst the job guarantee uses a different mechanism whereby the
government acts as an employer of last resort, 'providing jobs at a fixed
minimum wage to all those individuals of working age who want them'.
In its submission, Per Capita suggested a Job Guarantee scheme that would
provide access to meaningful work in remote communities with opportunities for
These elements will be expanded upon in later sections of this chapter.
Positive elements of CDEP
As noted in Chapter 2, CDEP operated as a remote jobseeker and community
development program from 1977 until it was phased out and replaced by the
Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP) in 2012. The committee has heard
from many witnesses and submitters about the benefits of the CDEP. Mr Martin
Sibosado, Chairperson of Aarnja Ltd was quite explicit in his support for CDEP:
I can't highlight for most remote Aboriginal communities
across the country the importance of CDEP as a program—the old CDEP...
we need to go back to why CDEP was created in the 1970s. It
was for practical reasons—exactly as we heard—access to communication,
proximity to town, remoteness, access to a Centrelink office.
The pilot for the CDEP was undertaken in 1976 in Ngaanyatjarra Lands in
the remote desert region of Western Australia. As the Chairman of Ngaanyatjarra
Council, Mr Dereck Harris explained, a lump sum equivalent to the aggregated
individual Unemployment Benefit entitlements was paid to incorporated
Aboriginal councils, and each council developed a work program to engage local
people in projects that would benefit the whole community.
In his submission to the committee, Mr Harris stated:
We have learned from our history that we can do a good job of
looking after our people in communities. We feel that the government stole our
self-respect when CDEP was taken away and that we will sink even lower if we
are forced to go on the Healthy Welfare Card... We want the government to let us
manage our own communities. We can't do this unless we get rid of CDP and go
back to the CDEP. We can do a good job.
According to Mr Joe Morrison, Chief Executive of the Northern Land
Council, CDEP was 'public policy created in the bush, for the bush'.
Dr Inge Kral argued that, unlike CDP, CDEP was effective in remote
locations with few employment options because it operated as a form of mutual
obligation by providing income support enabling adults to participate in
community development, enterprise development or service delivery activities.
Mr Sibosado noted that CDEP allowed communities to decide their own
community development needs and provided funding to pay for this development:
We had on-costs back then and sharing in terms of where the
need was in the community. We actually saw that. The bucket of money would be
put there at the start of the year, and someone would say, 'Our water system's
not working; we need additional money.' By agreement by all the
representatives, we'd say, 'Okay; we'll allocate that to allow you to fix your water.'
A key question is whether a CDEP-style scheme can produce long-term
employment outcomes. Dr Will Sanders observed that the CDEP's flexibility meant
that employment could be directed to Indigenous community needs and aspirations
to achieve social, economic and cultural outcomes but:
...over time this became seen as a weakness of CDEP, rather
than a strength, with CDEP criticised for being a 'destination' for Indigenous
workers rather than a 'pathway' to other employment.
However, as Dr Jordan noted, there is substantial evidence that CDEP
helped to enable non-CDEP employment outcomes where these were possible in
remote areas, especially through training, demonstrating commitment to regular
paid work, establishing partnerships with employers, supporting the creation of
enterprises, and supporting 'social determinants of employment' such as good
Dr Jordan also argued that the CDP's failures are the result of a poor
understanding of remote communities, and the framing of the CDEP as a barrier
to non-CDEP jobs, thereby entrenching 'passive welfare'.
Dr Jordan explained her view that the 'policy process leading to the design and
implementation of CDP was based on a flawed rationale, inadequate consultation
and insufficient attention to the evidence at the time'.
Professor Altman stated his view that CDEP has been one of the most
successful Indigenous-specific programs in the last 40 years. It 'created
employment and activity, commercial and social enterprise and facilitated the
supplementation of the incomes of participants'.
Ms Rachel Atkinson, CEO of the Palm Island Community Company told the
committee that 'under the CDEP it was an Indigenous organisation itself that
administered the money, designed the program and was responsible in its
entirety for running things'.
Part of the success of CDEP was that administration by local Indigenous
organisations imparted a sense of ownership on the local community. Councillor
If we go back in history and look at the [CDEP] when a local
community corporation was running it, the immense pride amongst our people was
certainly evident. That regime certainly provided better opportunities for
participants in the community as a whole to have input in. Somewhere along the
line, across the country, the government of the day, whoever it was, decided
and said, 'We want you to operate like a normal job service provider that
operates in a mainstream community.' So we all got thrown into this one bucket,
and the community's lost its identity in terms of: how do we have meaningful
input into the rollout of the program?
Mr Sibosado observed that many Indigenous organisations were formed as
part of CDEP, with some being over 30 years old:
As I said, I can point to a number of organisations today in
the Kimberley that got their start from CDEP...organisations like Wunan, Marra
Worra Worra—30 years or longer down the track—are now huge organisations, but
most importantly they are organisations created by their people. Their boards
and their management come from, say, in Marra Worra Worra's case the Fitzroy
Valley and Wunan was Kununurra.
Councillor Lyn McLaughlin, Mayor of the Burdekin Shire Council
(appearing on behalf of the Northern Alliance of Councils in Queensland)
provided an example of a local Indigenous organisation that was originally formed
as a CDEP provider and has now turned into a major Indigenous employer:
In the intervening time since they haven't been eligible for
[CDEP] the Gudjuda reference group have gone on to become well respected and
work closely with council. They manage land and sea ranger programs. They work
closely with [James Cook University] in the turtle tagging maritime research
program. They interact closely with council and the community. Our council
would be very supportive of our area, through Gudjuda, being included in the
Ms Ada Hanson, a member of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Aboriginal Residents
Group succinctly expressed the requirement for real, meaningful employment in
What is needed is genuine,
meaningful jobs, genuine careers and genuine opportunities for people to learn
about and engage with the cash economy. CDEP and CDP programs continue the
welfarisation of Aboriginal people. Any program that does not provide
Aboriginal people with the opportunity to train, get a real job, manage their
own money and learn about the cash economy is doing a disservice to these
A common assessment of CDEP is that the program resulted in participants
finding real employment in their communities. Ms Atkinson noted the approach
under CDEP and why this led to sustainable employment:
...we mentored and trained individuals on the island so they
could then be competitive when they applied for jobs with [Palm Island Community
Company]. I'm going back eight to nine years ago. Those people are still
working with us. They're the people that were the same sort of clientele that
the CDP are currently working with. We did it to get people skilled and ready,
but, at the end of the day, we had real jobs to come into.
Councillor McLaughlin described the positive interactions between the
local CDEP and local employers:
Our community saw benefits from that around training and
ensuring that participants stayed locally and didn't have to leave. The CDEP
program was well supported. Ours was really unique in the sense that it was run
[in the Burdekin region] but extended from Richmond in the west to Mission
Beach in the north and then south to the Bowen area, Proserpine. We saw
benefits. It was a good opportunity for the people participating in that
program to interact with our community and council jobs as well. 
Many of the jobs created under CDEP were providing essential services by
community-owned businesses. Ms Atkinson described the situation on Palm Island
The old CDEP? That was probably the best out of the worst. It
did create some long-term employment, even though most of those people were
topped up by CDEP. There was a whole organisation called Coolgaree, which was
the bakery, the mechanic and the builders. The whole organisation was built on
that CDEP program. There were a lot of people locally employed.
Treating participants as workers meant being able to pay
wages—incentivising participation rather than penalising non-attendance. Mr
Damien McLean, Community Development Advisor in the Warburton Community for
Ngaanyatjarra Council explained the benefits of paying wages:
CDEP meant that we could pay people accordingly, we could
promote those activities [tourism and art] as key and we didn't spend our whole
time defending ourselves against the possibility that somebody would appeal
against a breach or a sanction. It was as simple as doing it on a timesheet on
a weekly basis. So any problems to do with the CDEP could be resolved at the
community counter. There were no months of delay before penalties were enacted,
and then appeals and all sorts of other processes entered into, or potential
appeals entered into. So the resources and supports went into the activities,
not into the idea that was driving the activity—the mutual obligation: 'We need
to teach these people work-like habits; we need to enforce.'
Dr Kral argued that people on Ngaanyatjarra Lands, one of the most
socially and economically disadvantaged regions in Australia with minimal
access to services and institutions, built up work habits over many years as
part of CDEP. For most adults in these remote communities, CDEP was their only
experience of employment, and those on CDEP saw themselves as workers. Dr Kral
submitted that the CDP's focus on compliance and punitive response is
undermining the skill-base and incentive to work which was built up under CDEP.
Culturally appropriate and flexible
As noted in Chapter 4, CDP has been criticised for its lack of
flexibility especially in relation to cultural activities. In comparison, many
witnesses noted the increased flexibility and recognition of culture in CDEP.
Ms Vanessa Thomas, a Director at the Nurra Kurramunoo Aboriginal
Corporation in the Goldfield's region of Western Australia observed that:
CDEP was good! They worked with us about culture. But this
other one, the CDP, does not work!
At the same hearing in Kalgoorlie, Mr Sibosado offered the same
The old CDEP days also allowed us to engage with our cultural
Ms Hanson explained how sustainable jobs can be created and sustained by
respecting both Indigenous and western cultures:
Real jobs that are meaningful to Aboriginal people are ones
that arise within the cultural interface between Aboriginal and Western
cultures—I'm not too sure if you know about that interface, but I can go into
if you'd like—and where there is a real job from an Aboriginal cultural
perspective and a real engagement with the cash economy from the Western perspective.
These types of jobs are found in ranger programs, the Aboriginal arts and
crafts field, the Aboriginal cultural tourism field, Aboriginal health workers,
education, Aboriginal language programs, liaison officers and so on. These jobs
are meaningful for Aboriginal people to engage with the wider society.
Councillor Lacey put forward his view that remote communities are not all
the same and need specially tailored programs to reflect each community's
So the shift from the old CDEP program to the RJCP and now
back to CDP has, I think, just created—from the old program, CDEP, which ran
well. As soon as there was a swap over and a policy shift to RJCP, that's where
I think the community lost out and got a sense of confusion. They wanted our
mob to operate like a normal...or mainstream job service provider when the
Commonwealth, under its job program database, knew quite well how smaller
Indigenous communities and even smaller white rural communities like Richmond,
Georgetown, Normanton and those places, who we have a good relationship with,
don't have big job markets. So why develop a big city arrangement for smaller
communities? We're not asking for preferential treatment. What we're saying is
that delivering employment programs in our community has to be done differently
to the current state of play.
Earlier in the report, the committee discussed the role of trauma as a
factor in joblessness in remote communities. The committee heard from a Senior
Aboriginal Mental Health Worker, Mrs Raylene Cooper, in Kalgoorlie, about the
need for community development programs to be flexible in their approach to
participants in remote locations who may have undisclosed personal issues such
as historical and on-going trauma:
As I mentioned before, I used to manage the facility here and
we used to have people that came from traumatised backgrounds and all that sort
of stuff and we tried to help them with work programs and all that sort of
stuff. That's what I'd say about the CDEP. It was, back in the day, there to
help people try and better their lives with meaningful programs—not demeaning
ones but meaningful ones—to try and get them trained up and to try and break
Better value than CDP
Much of this report has appropriately dealt with the human implications
of the CDP; however some witnesses raised the issue of the cost-effectiveness
of the CDP. At the committee's Kalgoorlie hearing, Mr Hans Bokelund, CEO of the
Goldfields Land and Sea Council reflected on the cost-benefit of the CDP:
The CDP, with some 32,000 participants across 61 regions,
costs $450 million in welfare payments, plus some $270 million in provider
payments, a total of some [$720] million plus annually. The cost of administering CDP at the front line, not counting
Department of Human Services or [Department of the Prime Minister and
Cabinet], thus represents some 60 per
cent of the benefit payments made to participants. In other words, the punitive
compliance framework applied under CDP is costing an arm and leg, to put it
frankly, for negligible return in terms of job outcomes and in particular
considerable damage to wellbeing in remote communities.
Mr Bokelund compared the higher cost of the CDP to the cheaper and, in
his view, more effective CDEP:
By way of comparison, the former, and preferred, Community
Development Employment Project's funding framework involved a supplement of
some 20 per cent on the wages element for cost and administration. Without the
complex CDP compliance framework, community organisations were able to direct
their energy to managing payments and working in line with community needs and
aspirations. There is considerable scope here to enhance the former CDEP
framework of capital injections for local services and infrastructure to complement
community work projects, and still well within the cost of the current highly
criticised CDP arrangement. CDEP was cheaper to run, had better employment
outcomes in remote communities, and facilitated stronger, more cohesive social
environments. It seems to me that if the government is sincere in its professed
aspirations to improve the life of Aboriginals in remote Australia then the
choice is clear.
Alternative approaches to joblessness and community development
Many of the submissions called for a new system of job creation and
income support in remote Indigenous Australia, focusing on the positive aspects
of the former CDEP and the need for an alternative scheme that better reflects
the needs and aspirations of remote communities.
APO NT Remote Employment and
Community Development Scheme
Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) has developed
the Remote Employment and Community Development Scheme as an alternative scheme
to CDP. It has been developed in consultation with Aboriginal organisations,
national peak bodies and CDP providers and endorsed by Jobs Australia.
APO NT provided a summary of each of the key elements, together with
proposed governance and delivery arrangements.
The proposed scheme includes:
paid employment at award wages for around 10 500 people;
the replacement of CDP providers with Remote Job Centres that
have a focus on case management and support rather than administration and
an emphasis on local control, including local governance
arrangements, and community plans;
supporting community enterprise development and stimulating new
ensuring those who remain on income-support (within the DHS
system) are treated fairly, and ensuring greater community control over
participant obligations and compliance;
better access to assessment processes and appropriate support for
those with health and other personal issues;
increased youth engagement strategies, including the creation of
a national pool of around 1 500 paid work experience and training positions,
similar to the former Green Corps; and
an independent national indigenous-led body to manage the new
program, and to ensure that it meets long term employment and community
According to Jobs Australia:
[APO NT's proposal] builds on the strengths of the former
CDEP program, but it also addresses perceived concerns about CDEP being a
destination by limiting the holding of jobs for a period of up to five years.
There is less emphasis on administration, and more on empowering and strengthening
communities to create meaningful opportunities for participation, based on
people's individual capacity and needs.
Dr Fowkes, who has been assisting APO NT to develop the alternative
model, summarised its benefits:
The proposal would mean establishment of employment
opportunities for many, while retaining an income support safety net for those
who need it. It would enable organisations involved in delivery to focus on
long term improvements in opportunities.
APO NT's proposal was widely supported by submitters and witnesses to
Central Land Council community
Another example of a community development approach is the Central Land
Council's (CLC) work with over 30 communities across Central Australia using
rent and royalty payments. Over more than a decade, this work has created
numerous jobs in the remote desert communities, and at the same time has
supported infrastructure and programs. In one small community alone it created
24 new jobs representing around 20 to 30 per cent of the community's full and
The CLC noted the extent to which Aboriginal people in central Australia
are choosing to use their own assets to drive social, cultural and economic
development. The CLC's community development program, for example, has been operating
for the past ten years and directed $62 million to community benefit
projects, including critical community infrastructure, supporting homelands and
outstations, supporting young people who are at risk of offending, and
providing education and local employment opportunities:
Policies applying to remote communities from both levels of government
have generally failed to reflect the realities and priorities of local
communities, have been short-term, inconsistent, ideologically driven and based
on the priorities of the government in power, and, tragically, often failed to
support community-led efforts to drive their own solutions to issues affecting
Enterprise development approach
Enterprise Learning Projects (ELP) argued that enterprise development
offers an alternative approach to the CDP based on:
capacity-building opportunities to enable people to build skills,
knowledge and confidence to engage in the economy through enterprise;
a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem to enable emerging
entrepreneurs access to appropriate business support infrastructure; and
a commitment to a long-term process of business development.
Ms Maggie McGowan, who co-founded the fashion label 'Magpie Goose',
argued that such social enterprises have the potential to create significant
employment and enterprise learning opportunities for Aboriginal people in
...there is huge untapped potential in remote Australia, and
there is a huge appetite from non-Aboriginal Australia (and the world!) to
learn from and value Aboriginal culture and stories.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) noted the
government's 2015 commitment to providing opportunities for Indigenous
businesses to access support, including the 2016 Indigenous Entrepreneurs
Package designed to unlock private sector finance for Indigenous businesses. It
is supported by a $90 million fund targeting Indigenous businesses in regional
and remote Australia.
Children's Ground proposal
Children's Ground proposed a five-year trial of a community-led
employment and workforce development strategy that would significantly reduce
the cost of NewStart:
...First Nations communities currently depend on a transient
non-Indigenous workforce while local people remain chronically under employed.
This strategy is to shift the status-quo from an external non-Indigenous
workforce in First Nations communities, to a local skilled workforce over 25
years that provides the economic wellbeing for the community.
Elements of the Children's Ground model were described as follows:
An organisation or community is allocated a number of
'positions', for example, the equivalent to 50 NewStart allowance payments a
year for a period of five years, which becomes a wage subsidy for employing 50+
individuals. They will no longer receive welfare.
NewStart provides the first 10 hours of work per week. The
organisation/community commits to fund additional hours worked and create work
opportunities of minimum 20 hours/week.
This model provides the ability to move from casual to permanent
part time work.
Participants would be placed on an employment contract with
entitlements, providing flexibility in conditions and a safety income net to
The organisation/community would provide a single payment
annually consistent with for-profit employment provider payments, to support
job seekers and as incentive and provide a dedicated workforce Support Officer.
The organisation/community would also provide an employment report against
payments to government annually.
Indigenous Ranger Programs
As discussed earlier, under CDEP, innovative projects such as Indigenous
rangers and night patrols addressed community priorities while providing
employment for hundreds of people.
The National Indigenous Ranger Program is now recognised as one of
Australia's most successful Indigenous programs. PM&C's evaluation of the
social return on investment found that:
The Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) and associated Indigenous
ranger programmes have demonstrated success across a broad range of outcome
areas, effectively overcoming barriers to addressing Indigenous disadvantage
and engaging Indigenous Australians on country in meaningful employment to
achieve large scale conservation outcomes, thus aligning the interests of
Indigenous Australians and the broader community.
Importantly, jobs such as Indigenous Ranger Programs can be seen as
fulfilling both cultural—caring for country—and western values—natural resource
The Government of Canada has two key labour market programs that support
Indigenous training and employment:
the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS)
which links training needs to labour market demands; and
the Skills and Partnership Fund (SPF), a demand-driven,
partnership-based program that funds strategic projects contributing to skills
development and training of Indigenous workers for long-term, meaningful
To date these programs have served over 323 000 Indigenous clients, with
over 106 000 clients returning to work and almost 50 000 returning to school.
In February 2017, the Government of Canada launched an Indigenous youth
employment program to offer better representation and meaningful work
experience in Canada's public service.
The Forrest Review also noted the growth of Aboriginal businesses
in Canada as a result of changes in government procurement policies.
Targeting government spending and
service delivery in remote areas
Previously in the report, the committee has discussed how government
procurement and spending policy is currently not directed to optimise the
economic and employment opportunities for remote communities.
More importantly though is the opportunity to use government
procurement—money that will be spent anyway—to build resilient local economies
in remote locations:
If you want to encourage and empower your communities you
need to be able to build an economy that is actually going to support them and
give them meaningful skills and opportunities.
Some witnesses have discussed the need for greater co-ordination to
ensure that more local jobs are derived from government contracting:
We would like to see a coordinated approach to activities,
procurement and external tender opportunities as well as funding that should be
inclusive of the participants, community, elders groups, land councils, [Prescribed
Body Corporates], local providers and government departments, including local,
state and federal. We would like to see a coordinated, accountable and
monitored delivery model of external service providers to all communities, and
that includes our health services. An early declaration of identified projects
in community—for example, the local infrastructure—should be coordinated with
plenary sessions, work plan scopes and budgets.
The committee has also earlier discussed evidence that suggested that
people were being trained for jobs that did not exist in communities. The
committee heard that investment in economic activity such as infrastructure can
provide the much-needed link between training and employment:
To have the training
and not have an opportunity to invest in infrastructure adds little value
because they still have another step to find employment. They go hand in hand.
That's been demonstrated with the projects that have been undertaken by
Gudjuda. They've just expanded that. They work closely with council on major
events. They're doing some training around assisting with growing cane and
things like that for that major event. There needs to be a tie-up. They need
official training, but they also need to be able to deliver something so people
have some ownership and it adds value to the community and our tourism. Council
has a great focus on tourism and there would be lots of opportunities to add
infrastructure around that.
The Manager of CDP provider, Rainbow Gateway, Ms Katie Owens put forward
a similar view:
At job level creation, serious steps are required, including
the investment in community by government; roadworks; building; infrastructure;
education, aged care and childcare facilities; the inclusion of CDP providers;
the design and conduct of tender processes to ensure community engagement and
sufficient lead time to select community participation for nominations of
employment in the community works themselves; stronger monitoring and reporting
of community based contractors who are performing works in communities, in
terms of their compliance with their Indigenous participation plans, coupled
with meaningful penalties that will be imposed for non-compliance; and a
coordination point for accountability of the other outcomes.
An example of this approach can be found on Palm Island where the local
council is currently utilising its infrastructure program to provide jobs for local
Palm Island recently secured a lot of funding to better Palm
Island with regard to creating a better retail precinct, working on the health
precinct and working on the wharf, so there are a lot more opportunities on the
horizon in the next 12 to 18 months.
An additional example of a local Indigenous organisation successfully
employing locals can be seen in Box 6.1.
6.1: Gudjeda—a local Indigenous organisation based in the Burkekin
They've achieved lots and have great goals. They use the former Home
Hill Showgrounds and they raise some of their funding through camping with
self-contained camping vans that council have approved. We've done that.
Council have invested in some new road infrastructure—bitumen. Water has been
upgraded. They also work closely with a small farming group that grows cane for
our Australian hand cane-cutting championships. They work around the turtle and
education and they liaise with [James Cook University]. They've constructed
four or five buildings and are now looking at putting some residential
buildings there to allow people to come and train. They'll have some
residential facilities there.
I think the success comes around actually delivering. There is
employment for people. They have office staff who are working there. They have
groundspeople who work there. The land and sea ranger program is really
successful, and our region is looking at an underwater art museum along the
coast, and they're looking for land and sea rangers to maintain that
environmentally. To have them ready trained and to assist other areas to do
it—they're great achievements. They have their own turtle-tagging boat now.
They're well respected in the community. They contribute to community events,
and we have some community events where they always take part, with a stall or
something. And they're expanding. They grow vegetables, which they sell. So I
think it's about actually succeeding and about people having jobs while they're
More local service delivery jobs
At the committee's Kalgoorlie hearing, Ms Thomas made the observation
that maintenance crews are often sent to remote communities to conduct regular
maintenance such as basic plumbing. Ms Thomas told the committee that the CDP
should be teaching these skills to local CDP participants:
...we're having problems with our septics. Four times they came
to the house, but the house's kitchen sink is still blocked. I said, 'If the
CDP taught someone to do this in the community, it'd be less expense, with
people driving from wherever, and less waiting three weeks for someone to come
and do something.'
Ms Thomas also provided an apt example of the lack of co-ordination and
wasted public funds when maintenance people are dispatched 'to come out to fix
up the flywire door when our house is in the process of being refurbished'.
Councillor Lacey described the fly-in fly-out culture which dominates
service delivery in remote communities:
You can only watch the planes every Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday, there are all empty. Everyone from the
mainland comes to deliver the service because 'we have to deliver the service
to you because you can't do it'.
We are saying we don't want that approach. This community in
particular does not want that approach under this leadership in terms of
shifting the thinking differently and saying to all sides of government can we
have a rethink.
Councillor Lacey explained the opportunity that this presents:
I think there is greater opportunity particularly in the
public sector in our community. Rather than flying everyone in and out, other
than specialists and people who are highly skilled, to deliver our health
services and things like, when you have jobs here that workers can do—we're
never going to fill the full employment status of this community, but at least
it will go halfway in terms of providing people with full-time employment.
Making linkages between private sector projects and jobs
The committee also heard about substantial private sector investments
that are proposed in the catchments of some regional and remote communities.
Providing linkages between jobseekers and these private companies can offer
serious employment prospects:
...where we know there isn't a greater job market, it is: how
do we better the investment that you give us and invest it properly in our
communities so our people can go on to meaningful employment? A classic example
for us now: Adani is hitting the airwaves in this region. There's a lot of
opportunity. We were at a function in Townsville—myself and the deputy mayor.
They've earmarked 700 jobs for Indigenous people. How do we tap into that
market? The government co-investment, or the Singapore deal, for Hervey Range
military base just across the water from us, an hour and a half by boat or 15
minutes by plane: how do we give our people the opportunity? How do we not only
make sure they don't have their blinkers on in terms of our community but buy
into what's happening in our region and share in some of the wealth in our
region? How do we gear up a program like CDP—or whatever the new language is
going to be; there's probably going to be a new language for it—to give us a
sense of redirecting our mob into what's happening in the region?
Improving linkages between the
police and community
Assistant Commissioner Taylor told the committee about some of the work
that Queensland Police has been involved in mentoring and then employing local
Indigenous people in remote Queensland communities— providing the dual benefit
of delivering employment to locals, and helping to improve trust and rapport
between police and local people:
Aurukun has been a particular focus from my perspective
because of a range of challenges over the years. Most recently, we employed our
first police liaison officer in the Queensland Police Service who has lived and
worked in Aurukun and was born there. He was a product of the program
previously. It provided an opportunity for him to be mentored through
interactions with police and the council. He was able to develop a range of
skills. He took on the duties that he was given and demonstrated a level of
accountability to such a degree that he was capably employed and transitioned
from that program through council to the Queensland Police Service. Normally
that wouldn't have occurred. Previously, when we've tried to recruit, we've had
great difficulty in attracting local members of the community into the service.
There's been somewhat of a fractured relationship between police and some
members of the community, which is quite historic in nature. Police are working
quite strongly to try to build up a better rapport.
Indigenous organisations to take
The committee heard that 'every community is so different that one size
does not fit all'.
Inspector Glen Willers, Assistant District Officer for the Goldfields-Esperance
District for Western Australia Police told the committee:
Personally I like the idea of community committees deciding
what's best for their community in a structured way. Trying to put a blanket
over all these communities which are remarkably remote and saying, 'This is how
you'll deal with your money,' whether it be any sort of card or CDP work, is
not the way to go. I would like to see greater consultation in the community
and greater input from some terrific leaders that we have seen out there and
who know what's best for their community. It's so individualised out there with
different families needing different things. I think that, when we try to put a
blanket over a CDP or any other card, it's probably counterproductive.
Personally I've met some greater leaders and terrific people out there. We
really should be getting some advice from them.
Councillor Lacey raised his concerns about the low proportion of program
funding that is actually injected into local economies, and that this approach
needed to change, with local councils playing a greater role in administering
programs such as CDP:
'Out of that $1 investment the government's putting on the table,
is it 1c[ent], 10c or 50c hitting the ground or is it the whole dollar hitting
the ground?' I'll tell you this: the dollar's not hitting the ground because, if it
were, we wouldn't be in the mess that we're in. I think that that's really
important, and that's why we're suggesting it to this committee. You'll hear
from the other Indigenous council, if they get an opportunity to speak with
you, about whether there's a better way of doing it that's not a short-term
investment. Let's take the government at its face value and
say, 'We want you to invest in an employment program in our community, but
don't invest on a three or four yearly cycle. Invest in a 10-year cycle so that
we can see if we can get some really better results and put our mob in a better
position than what they are currently in at the moment.' With the short-term
investment, one provider had it four years ago; another provider then gets
awarded it for the following four years. The community has to re-educate the
new providers every time there is a new provider. That's why we're offering for
councils to be a major player, particularly for us in Queensland.
Other local community groups such as the Palm Island Community Council
also put forward a view that their organisations would be more effective than
the current employment providers at delivering sustainable employment in remote
communities. Ms Atkinson explained what her company's approach would be:
An example could be that the Palm Island Community Company
takes 20 participants and we have a certain period of time; we could work with
those participants within our existing resources, with some other support, and
work towards saying, 'In six months time, three people or five people out of
that 20 may have a permanent job somewhere.' But those jobs have to be jobs
where they are going to be employable not just in a remote community but
elsewhere as well. So they are going to be real, meaningful jobs.
Ms Atkinson also noted that local companies like the Palm Island
Community Company were not-for-profit and invested all of their funding in
local people and infrastructure:
Give me the millions, and I'll bet I get a better outcome
than what is currently happening now. We started off with this company, with no
money in the bank. It's still a not-for-profit and it has no money, but we
built a small capacity of individuals on the island before we could start
building the company. And the best investment was investing the little money we
had to get people and consultants and local Aboriginal people, to build
capacity with the individuals to then compete and apply for jobs. That was a
simple one, but, as I said, they are still there.
The committee is broadly supportive of an effective program for remote
jobseekers that provides the opportunity for job placement and community
development. However, it is clear that there needs to be significant changes to
the current CDP.
This chapter explored the characteristics that any new program should
have. The committee considers that there should be a move away from the
compliance and penalty model towards the provision of a basic income with a
wage-like structure to incentivise participation. Furthermore, the program
should be driven and owned by the local community ensuring appropriate
community development consistent with the unique requirements of each
community, whilst remaining culturally appropriate and flexible. The committee
has earlier made clear its view that community consultation must be a paramount
feature of the program.
It is the committee view that a jobseeker program must create and
sustain real local jobs. The committee acknowledges that it is not possible to
reach full-employment in many remote communities. Notwithstanding this, there
is ample scope for remote job creation through a targeted pipeline of
infrastructure funding and mandated local Indigenous employment targets;
transferring fly-in fly-out service delivery to one of local delivery;
expansion of successful cultural interface employment initiatives such as
Indigenous Ranger programs; and ensuring that more funding from programs
"hit the ground" in communities to drive local economies and job
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