APO NT: Aboriginal voices finally heard on CDP failure

Posted: Fri, December 15, 2017

The Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT)[1] today welcomed the release of the Senate inquiry report into the Community Development Program (CDP), which found that ‘CDP cannot and should not continue in its current form’[2].

John Paterson, from APO NT said “the inquiry heard the voices of Indigenous CDP participants, their organisations and other concerned Australians and revealed the deep-seated flaws with this top-down, punitive and discriminatory program. Finally, our concerns have been heard.”

“APO NT has put considerable effort into developing an alternative to the CDP (APO NT alternative to CDP).   We are extremely pleased that the committee has recognized this Indigenous-led work and drawn on many key elements of the APO NT proposal.  In particular, the inquiry found:

  • The committee is broadly supportive of an effective program for remote jobseekers that provides the opportunity for job placement and community development.

  • 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.

  • a jobseeker program must create and sustain real local jobs.

  • A new program needs to be developed which moves away from a centralised, top-down administration in which communities are told what to do and move towards a model where the local communities are empowered to make decisions that are best for them[3].

It also explicitly recommends that any reform process give consideration to the APO NT model.”

“It is extremely disappointing that the Minister for Indigenous Affairs has already labelled the report misleading and partisan.  On the contrary, it provides valuable evidence and recommendations that should inform the CDP reform process,” said Mr Paterson.

The Government committed to consulting with remote communities in May 2017 and just hours before the release of the senate inquiry report the Minister finally released a Discussion Paper outlining very broad reform models for CDP.

“The consultation process announced by the Minister does not answer our calls for a transparent, independent review process conducted in partnership with Indigenous people.  The review process is being conducted by the department that currently administers the program, does not appear to include any external oversight or the creation of a high level reform committee to guide and inform the process, and is being undertaken during the wet season and hot summer months when cultural business occurs in many communities,” said Mr Paterson.

“CDP affects the lives of around 29,000 Indigenous people and has caused immense harm. We will continue to work hard to shape the development of a new program to replace CDP that is non-discriminatory, ensures access to the social security safety net, empowers local communities, creates jobs with proper entitlements, and drives development in remote communities.  In the meantime, as recommended by the Senate committee, there must be immediate reform of the compliance and penalty regime of the CDP.”

Media contact:

John Paterson (Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT), APO NT Spokesperson: 0418 904 727


The CDP is the main program of job related assistance for unemployed people in remote areas of Australia.  It is the equivalent of jobactive (formerly JSA) and Disability Employment Services in the rest of the country.

The CDP has around 35,000 participants, around 83% of whom are identified as Indigenous.

People with full time work capacity who are 18-49 years old must Work for the Dole, 25 hours per week, 5 days per week, at least 46 weeks per year (1150 hours per year).  Under jobactive Work for the Dole only starts after 12 months, and then for 390-650 hours per year.

Despite having a caseload less than a twentieth  the size of jobactive, more penalties are applied to CDP participants than to jobactive participants.

In the 21 months from the start of CDP on 1 July 2015 to the end of March 2017, 299,055 financial penalties were applied to CDP participants. Over the same period, 237,333 financial penalties were applied to jobactive participants.


[1] APO NT is an alliance of five peak Aboriginal bodies, the Northern Land Council (NLC), Central Land Council (CLC), North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), Central Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (CAALAS) and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT).

[2] Finance and Public Administration References Committee 2017, Appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of the Community Development program (CDP), p.104

[3] Finance and Public Administration References Committee 2017, Appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of the Community Development program (CDP), p.104-105