Abbott government resigned to ‘work for the dole’ life sentence - APO NT

Posted: Wed, March 04, 2015

“We warned four years ago that the removal of the CDEP would decimate local community initiatives…” - David Ross

Northern Territory Aboriginal leaders are disturbed by Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion’s comments that it was not "a bad thing" that many residents in remote Aboriginal communities may spend three decades working for the dole.

"It's just soul destroying for unemployed Aboriginal people to learn that the government is relaxed and comfortable about them serving 'work for the dole' life sentences and never getting a job," Central Land Council Director David Ross said.

“How is this demoralising prospect going to inspire children to go to school?”

“Not so long ago the government claimed that the Community Development Employment Program had to go because it had become a destination rather than a conduit to a real job. Now it is content with a scheme that really entrenches low expectations of Aboriginal people.”

“CDEP, for all its shortcomings, was a lot more real than the dead end of ‘work for the dole’ because it rewarded personal effort with subsidised wages.”

Following an outcry from Aboriginal leaders, including from his own side of politics, the Minister yesterday defended his comments, asking the ABC: “What’s the alternative?”

"The Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the NT strongly disagree with the Minister's lazy claim that 'there are no alternatives' to his disturbing vision and would like to help him out," Mr Ross said.

The alliance called on the Abbott government to urgently replace its remote 'work for the dole' scheme with a community development approach to job and business creation.

"When we sought bi-partisan support for our comprehensive remote employment and enterprise development proposal in 2011 we were ignored, as are most solutions that are informed by on-the-ground evidence and experience." he said.

"Our proposal retains the successful features of the CDEP while overcoming its limitations," he said. "Yet it continues to languish while the Minister resigns himself to eternal unemployment out bush."

"We warned four years ago that the removal of the CDEP would decimate local community initiatives, such as the successful tourism enterprise at Titjikala community near Alice Springs", Mr Ross said.

He said the systematic destruction of the program has led to an entirely predictable dramatic loss of community participation, morale and resilience.

APONT's creative and positive model aims to support a multitude of sustainable livelihood options, by stimulating small local enterprise and help participants to progress from basic activities to more demanding employment arrangements.

"Instead of exploring constructive approaches the government is hell-bent on wasting tax dollars on an unfair and punitive agenda that will see Australians in remote communities work more hours for their welfare benefits than those in urban areas," Mr Ross said.

"Without a plan to stimulate local economies and build sustainable enterprises the new 'work for the dole' scheme will see many Aboriginal people fall through the cracks, creating a permanent burden on their already stressed and struggling families."


Contact Elke Wiesmann, (08) 8951 6217, 0417 877 579,