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Better Than Welfare?

Appendix 2: Annotated bibliography of author publications on CDEP 2005–15

Compiled by Bree Blakeman

Altman JC (2005). CDEP 2005—A new home and new objectives for a very old program? Topical Issue No. 07/2005, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra.

The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme has existed since 1977; it is arguably the oldest Indigenous-specific program still in existence, relatively unchanged. From 1 July 2004, with the division of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS) Indigenous-specific programs between Australian mainline departments, it has been located in the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR). At face value, its new administrative home suggests that this innovative and highly flexible program might have a stronger, or even singular, labour market focus. This paper provides a perspective on CDEP based on analysis of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) 2002 data and explores the various impacts of the scheme on Indigenous participants, especially in rural and remote Australia. Using this evidence base, the paper questions if there is any need for fundamental change in this program, and if so, what?

Altman JC & Gray MC (2005). The CDEP scheme: A flexible and innovative employment and community development program for Indigenous Australians. In Considine M, Howe B & Rosewarne L (eds), Transitions and risk: New directions in social policy, International Social Policy Conference, Centre for Public Policy, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 1–9.

The CDEP scheme is an unusual program for Indigenous people, primarily underwritten by welfare entitlements. Currently there are 39,000 CDEP places and around 60,000 Indigenous people participate in the scheme each year. This paper discusses the roles that the scheme plays. First, the scheme provides flexible employment opportunities, often in remote contexts where there are no, or minute, labour markets. Second, it provides income security and the opportunity to earn additional income from employment and enterprise. Third, it provides opportunity for education and training. Fourth, and most innovatively, it acts as an instrument for economic and community development. This is especially so in remote and very remote Australia where people reside on the Indigenous estate and operate within an unorthodox ‘hybrid economy’ where customary (non-market) activity looms relatively large. The customary sector has considerable economic value, both for Indigenous people directly and in spillover benefits to other Australians. The links between the CDEP scheme and the operations of the hybrid economy are explored.

Altman JC & Gray MC (2005). The economic and social impacts of the CDEP scheme in remote Australia. Australian Journal of  Social Issues, 40 (2): 399–410.

Despite the significance of the CDEP scheme, in recent times, relatively little attention has been given to the potential for the scheme to be used as an instrument for economic and social development in remote areas of Australia. This paper presents new evidence on the impact of the CDEP scheme on economic and social outcomes for Indigenous people in remote areas of Australia. It concludes that the scheme has been successful in generating positive economic and community development outcomes at minimal cost to the Australian taxpayer.

Altman JC, Gray MC & Levitus R (2005). Policy issues for the Community Development Employment Projects scheme in rural and remote Australia. Discussion Paper No. 271, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra.

The CDEP scheme is one of the most important programs for Indigenous community and economic development. CDEP employs around 35,000 Indigenous Australians and accounts for over one-quarter of total Indigenous employment. This paper reviews the evidence on the social and economic impacts of the scheme. The available evidence demonstrates that the scheme does have positive economic and community development impacts and that it is cost-effective in achieving these outcomes. The paper argues that the CDEP program should continue to be supported and resourced and outlines options for future policy directions in regard to Indigenous economic development and the role of the CDEP scheme.

Altman JC, Gray MC & Levitus R (2005). Skilling Indigenous Australia: Policy issues for the Community Development Employment Projects scheme in rural and remote Australia, Chifley Research Centre, Canberra.

This paper reviews the evidence on the social and economic impacts of the scheme and canvasses options for future policy directions in regard to Indigenous economic development and the role of the CDEP scheme. While the main focus of the paper is on the operation of the scheme in regional and remote areas of Australia in which the majority (73 per cent) of CDEP participants live, there is some discussion of the role and future of the scheme in major cities.

Hunter BH (2005). The role of discrimination and the exclusion of Indigenous people from the labour market. In Austin-Broos D & Macdonald G (eds), Culture, economy and governance in Aboriginal Australia, University of Sydney Press, Sydney, 79–94.

This paper presents a statistical analysis of the five census counts between 1981 and 2000. It explores the extent to which discrimination against Indigenous people operates in the labour market, especially in regard to employment. The CDEP scheme is identified as a positive reform that enhanced employment prospects of Indigenous people in the mainstream labour market. The introduction of the CDEP scheme in 1977 was instrumental in creating ‘employment’ in areas where there are no or few jobs available. Under the CDEP scheme, Indigenous community organisations get an allocation of a similar magnitude to their collective unemployment benefit entitlement to undertake community-defined ‘work’. In the course of this paper, Hunter notes that a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission review (1997) found that the CDEP scheme did not appear to raise any significant issue of racial discrimination, although it had some specific concerns with the administration of the scheme. While the CDEP scheme is race-based and applies only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it is designed to deal with the disadvantage experienced by Indigenous communities in their access to social security and mainstream labour market programs and opportunities. Moreover, it seeks to do so in ways that enhance the economic, social and cultural rights of Indigenous peoples. The CDEP scheme is also not racially discriminatory insofar as it does not disadvantage non-Indigenous people. The social security service delivery agency, Centrelink, is now part of the CDEP scheme’s administration and the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (DFACS), which oversees the social security system, also has a background policy presence. The recent reshaping of the CDEP scheme has brought it, and its participants, considerably closer to the social security system than ever before.

Sanders W (2005). CDEP under DEWR: The flexibility challenge. Impact: News Quarterly of the Australian Council of Social Service, Summer 05(7).

The CDEP scheme funds Indigenous organisations to employ community members part-time, as an alternative to their receiving unemployment payments. The scheme has been in existence since 1977, overseen by the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs until 1990, and then by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). In July 2004, anticipating the abolition of ATSIC, the CDEP scheme was transferred to DEWR. What will this mean for the CDEP scheme and for DEWR? In this paper, Sanders argues that the challenge for DEWR will be to keep CDEP flexible.

Sanders W (2005). CDEP and ATSIC as bold experiments in governing differently—but where to now? In Austin-Broos D & Macdonald G (eds), Culture, economy and governance in Aboriginal Australia, University of Sydney Press, Sydney.

Both ATSIC in the late 1980s and CDEP in the mid-1970s were bold experiments in governing with an emphasis on difference. They strove to achieve better public policy by ensuring that people in dissimilar circumstances were treated, or governed, differently. This paper begins with the CDEP scheme, which the author has previously analysed in relation to ideas of equality, difference and appropriateness. The paper then asks ‘where to now’ with the enactment of difference in Australian Indigenous affairs—now that ATSIC has been abolished and CDEP has transferred to DEWR.

Sanders W (2005). Indigenous centres in the policy margins: The CDEP scheme over 30 years. Australian Council of Social Service Congress 2005, Strawberry Hills, NSW, 75–82.

Thirty years ago, the CDEP scheme grew out of some rather marginal policy concerns within the Australian social security system about the inclusion of Aboriginal people in unemployment payments. Those concerns were, at the time, unable to be fully accommodated within the social security system and so the CDEP scheme was established within the Aboriginal or Indigenous Affairs portfolio. While CDEP began as a somewhat marginal concern within the Indigenous affairs portfolio, over time it became the largest single program in that portfolio and a policy centre in its own right. Recently, with the demise of ATSIC and the ‘mainstreaming’ of its programs, the CDEP scheme has been transferred to the Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio within the Australian Government. In this paper, the author asks, will this new program location lead to a new marginalisation of the CDEP scheme? The answer to that question is: possibly, but not inevitably. The paper concludes with a challenge for the Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio; to allow the CDEP scheme to continue as a policy centre in its own right.

Sanders W (2006). Indigenous affairs after the Howard decade: Administrative reform and practical reconciliation or defying decolonisation? Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, 9(2-3): 43–53.

How will the Indigenous affairs policies of the first decade of the Howard Government be remembered in years to come? One history, which the author predicts, is that the worldwide movement towards decolonisation continues apace during the first half of the 21st century and that Australian governments after Howard’s return to ideas of self-determination and Indigenous group recognition in Australian Indigenous affairs policy. If this is the more convincing history, then the Howard Government will be seen as perhaps having presided over an administrative revolution in Indigenous affairs with the abolition of ATSIC, but at the same time, as having defied for a brief period the historical trend towards decolonising values in Australian Indigenous affairs policy.

Altman JC (2007). Neo-paternalism and the destruction of CDEP. Arena Magazine, August–September 90: 33–35.

This article examines the role of the CDEP in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and the consequences of its sudden abolition.

Altman JC (2007). Scrapping CDEP is just plain dumb. Topical Issue No. 11/2007, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra.

Ministers Joe Hockey and Mal Brough’s decision to abolish CDEP in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory will have marked impacts on the arts industry, the management of Indigenous Protected Areas, and community-based Caring for Country ranger projects. This article argues that it is not just these success stories that will suffer; it is likely that there will be wider local, regional and national costs from this myopic, ill-considered policy shift. (First published in Crikey, 24 July 2007.)

Hunter BH (2007). Arguing over [the] remote control: Why Indigenous policy needs to be based on evidence and not hyperbole. Economic Papers, 26(1): 44–63.

Recent public debate on Indigenous issues has focused on the extent to which policies have been effective in improving the living conditions of Indigenous Australians since the era of self-determination commenced. Unfortunately, the quality of historical data is questionable, and hence we need an appreciation of the reliability of estimates. The empirical analysis in this paper begins with a description of national trends in Indigenous employment, because of the instrumental difficulties in disaggregating administrative data on the CDEP scheme, and then outlines some sub-national trends in private sector and public sector employment. The CDEP scheme is found to be a substantial and growing element in Indigenous employment in Australia that cannot be ignored when analysing trends in Indigenous labour force status.

Hunter BH (2007). Conspicuous compassion and wicked problems: The Howard Government’s National Emergency in Indigenous Affairs, Agenda, 14(3): 35–54.

A ‘wicked problem’ is a term used in the planning literature to characterise a complex multidimensional problem. The article argues that Indigenous child abuse is one such problem. Whatever the merits of the recent federal intervention into NT Indigenous communities, it is unlikely to succeed without both long-term bipartisan commitment of substantial resources and a meaningful process of consultation with Indigenous peoples. As part of the intervention, for example, Mal Brough also announced that all CDEP employment in the NT will be replaced by ‘real jobs’. While some commentators question how meaningful the term ‘real job’ is, the major unresolved issue is where these new jobs might come from and who might finance such positions. Several NT schemes have already closed, with a concomitant loss of governance capacity for administering community-level initiatives. Brough had previously indicated that he wants the state to deliver development directly to Indigenous families and individuals, thus bypassing mediating institutions and representative structures. While these policy thrusts are not intrinsically inconsistent, the federal government is likely to have difficulty in developing the organisational capacity to deal directly with Indigenous people and their families—especially given the problems recently experienced in hiring and retaining Indigenous employees. If we are to learn from what policies worked (and what did not work), Hunter argues, then it is particularly important that a transparent evaluation framework be established before undertaking policy initiatives.

Sanders W (2007). CDEP under DEWR: Policy changes and the new contractualism. Impact: News Quarterly of the Australian Council of Social Services, March 2007 (Autumn): 6–7.

The CDEP scheme is an Indigenous ‘workfare’ program that has existed since 1977. In 2004, with the abolition of ATSIC, CDEP became a responsibility of DEWR. Since early 2005, DEWR has been engaged in a reform process that has led to some significant changes to CDEP. This article looks at those changes under two headings: policy substance and the new contractualism.

Altman JC (2008). Submission to the Australian Government’s Increasing employment opportunity discussion paper. Topical Issue No. 16/2008, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra.

This submission briefly revisits the history of the CDEP scheme, its growth, problems associated with its success, its key shortcomings, the likely impacts of proposed reforms and a few recommendations for more constructive rather than destructive reforms of the program. Many of these issues have been raised in Altman’s public seminar ‘Closing the Employment Gap, proposed changes to CDEP and the nature of Indigenous affairs policy making today’ presented at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, on 20 October 2008.

Altman JC (2008). Submission to increasing Indigenous economic opportunity—A discussion paper on the future of the CDEP and Indigenous Employment Programs. Topical Issue No. 14/2008, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra.

The Rudd Government has repeatedly claimed that it is only interested in evidence-based policymaking. The attachment to this submission provides statistical evidence about what is good about CDEP, what are the evident problems, the first order problems to address, and some proposed solutions (with numerous references to completed research). In putting forward this statistical evidence it is hoped that this submission assists the Government’s CDEP policy reform process.

Altman JC (2008). Killing CDEP softly? Reforming workfare in remote Australia. Crikey, 9 October.

This article addresses reforms to the CDEP program proposed as part of the Rudd Government’s employment creation strategy. These reforms are couched broadly under the umbrella of the revamped and complicated Universal Employment Services and the less complicated discussion paper ‘Increasing Indigenous Economic Opportunity’. Altman argues that successful CDEP organisations with track records over many years should be replicated and supported, not jeopardised by radical reform with uncertain intended and unintended consequences.

Altman JC & Jordan K (2008). Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Inquiry into developing Indigenous enterprises, July.

This submission highlights the emerging opportunities for Indigenous enterprise in natural resource management, including in the response to climate change, and the need to identify and support these activities. In doing so, it examines whether current government, industry and community programs offering specific enterprise support programs and services to Indigenous enterprises are effective, particularly in building sustainable relationships with the broader business sector. It suggests that the dominant policy approach to Indigenous economic development has tended to assume that the goal for remote Indigenous communities should be economic independence. For many communities faced with limited opportunities for standard commercial activity, however, this goal may be unrealistic. A more appropriate goal may be economic interdependence, where ongoing state support (such as through CDEP) allows a range of options, including self-employment and enterprise development. Many successful Indigenous enterprises have historically been underwritten by CDEP. This is not an indication of commercial failure. Rather, the CDEP scheme can assist in the development of microbusinesses that generate additional income as well as sociocultural objectives. For example, CDEP allows the development of viable businesses while providing a living wage based on CDEP (as a wage subsidy) plus ‘top up’ for workers who take on extra hours or responsibilities.

Altman JC & Jordan K (2008). Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry into government expenditure on Indigenous affairs and social services in the Northern Territory, October.

This submission outlines a number of key and apparently intractable issues from the literature that have hampered the funding of Aboriginal communities in the NT on an equitable needs basis. It notes that from 1990 to 2004, ATSIC-funded organisations were often expected to administer the programs of other agencies. This has been a problem in the administering of some CDEP programs, particularly where CDEP organisations have been required to provide infrastructure and services in the absence of any other provider. Since the early 1990s, Altman has been noting this potential pitfall, where CDEP has been seen as a substitution rather than supplementary funding regime, allowing all levels of government to renege on their responsibilities to fund infrastructure and services in Aboriginal communities. This submission also foregrounds the fact that the small size of many Indigenous communities in the NT, along with the mobility of the Indigenous population, creates particular challenges for service delivery. The expenditure of federal and NT moneys needs to better take these concerns into account. For example, as far back as the early 1990s, in a review of the CDEP program, Altman highlighted the different effects of CDEP at different communities, according to size and remoteness region. The submission recommends that in any proposals to reform the CDEP program its suitability for small and dispersed communities is properly considered.

Altman JC & Sanders W (2008). Re-vitalising the Community Development Employment Program in the Northern Territory: Submission prepared in response to the Northern Territory Government’s Review of Community Development Employment Program Discussion Paper, Topical Issue No. 05/2008, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra.

This paper addresses perceived shortcomings in the NT Government’s discussion paper on CDEP released in March 2008 (Review of Community Development Employment Program). It provides evidence-based research findings that CDEP is an important and beneficial program for NT Aboriginal communities and individuals. Rather than engage issue by issue with the NT Government’s CDEP Discussion Paper, the authors take up the invitation to provide an alternative approach that should be considered, and hopefully adopted. Their alternate visioning is based on a body of evidence-based research that they and their colleagues have undertaken at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) since 1990.

Hunter B (2008). Is policy the problem or the solution for Indigenous people? Agenda, 15(3): 95–7.

This paper is a rejoinder to Gary Johns’ in the previous issue of Agenda (2008), which asked whether the underlying cause of Indigenous disadvantage in the NT is a ‘wicked problem’ or the result of ‘wicked policy’ of ‘self-determination’. The policy ‘take-away’ of Johns’ paper is a radical change in the set of incentives for mobility facing Indigenous people: the removal of unconditional income support and services provided in such communities by CDEP schemes or other government initiatives. The optimal level of mobility depends on both the individual and the social costs and benefits of moving. Even if one is willing to ignore Indigenous perspectives on culture and interventions made on their behalf, however, it is not entirely clear that mobility will necessarily result in the benefits anticipated by Johns—especially when one takes into account the likelihood that there will be substantial short-run adjustment costs (for example, in social dislocation) and the difficulty that many Indigenous people have in securing employment in complex labour markets. Another factor that is discounted in Johns’ analysis is that the ongoing existence of an authentic and living Indigenous culture has a considerable market and non-market value to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. From a national perspective, CDEP jobs are also important for much of the natural resource management work undertaken in remote Australia. For example, Indigenous Protected Areas are an integral part of the conservation estate, and ensuring that such areas are adequately maintained is in the national interest. One aspect of Johns’ argument that Hunter does agree with is that the CDEP scheme supports the existence of remote Indigenous communities that might not continue to exist if all government support were withdrawn. In that sense, the CDEP scheme provides tangible support to Indigenous culture in such areas. Furthermore, mainstream (non-CDEP) jobs provide more protection against entrenched Indigenous disadvantage than CDEP scheme jobs. Consequently, one can argue that there is, in a sense, a trade-off between cultural maintenance (which is clearly supported by the CDEP scheme) and other important socioeconomic dimensions of Indigenous social exclusion.

Altman JC (2009). A nation building and jobs plan for Indigenous Australia. Crikey, 12 February.

This article is a response to the announced decision to progressively close down regional CDEPs from 1 July 2009 and to end ‘grandfathering’ arrangements (i.e. abolish CDEP wages) in remote CDEPs from 1 July 2011. The author proposes that the Australian Government suspend the planned abolition of CDEP, and re-fund those CDEP projects with a proven track record that have either recently been de-funded or that are facing closure. He argues that CDEP should never have been abolished, but this is even more the case given the predicted dire downturn in the Australian labour market in 2009 and beyond.

Altman JC & Jordan K (2009). Submission to Senate Community Affairs Committee inquiry into the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (2008 Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2008, 20 April.

During the 2007 federal election campaign, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) committed to a reformed CDEP. Instead, in December 2008, just as the Australian economy was slipping into negative growth, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin outlined key elements of the Rudd Government’s new Indigenous employment strategy that centred on significant changes to CDEP and reform of the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP). The proposed changes will see CDEP cease to operate in non-remote areas as of 1 July 2009. In remote areas existing CDEP participants will continue receiving CDEP wages until 30 June 2011, while new entrants to the scheme from 1 July 2009 will receive income support instead of CDEP wages. Associated with the changes to CDEP will be a new ‘jobs package’. While the ‘roll-out’ of these jobs is due to be completed by 1 July 2009, as yet we have seen no information on where these jobs will be located or what sort of work will be underwritten. Exactly how these changes will affect the number of Indigenous people in paid work is difficult to tell.

Hunter BH (2009). A half-hearted defence of CDEP scheme. Family Matters, 81: 43–5.

CDEP was developed as a response to the perceived social threat of ‘sit down money’ to Indigenous communities in the 1970s. Ironically, Hunter argues, the scheme is now being criticised as being one of the main factors driving the social effects of prolonged welfare dependence. This paper updates the Office of Evaluation and Audit 1997 report that evaluated the scheme. While this paper shows that the CDEP scheme has a significant effect of reducing social pathologies, vis-á-vis unemployment, the positive effect of the scheme is generally substantially less than the protective effect of having mainstream (non-CDEP) employment. Consequently, it is the lack of mainstream employment options, rather than the presence of the CDEP scheme that drives the social pathologies identified in recent public debate.

Hunter BH (2010). Socio-economic conditions: Reconciling practical reconciliation with Indigenous disadvantage in the Howard years. In Gunstone A (ed.), Over a decade of despair: Howard Government and Indigenous Affairs, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne.

This paper evaluates the success of the Howard Government in achieving practical reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The focus is on assessing Howard’s legacy in sustainably improving Indigenous socioeconomic outcomes relative to the rest of the Australian population. Accordingly, it is necessary to rehearse some of the arguments about the relative importance of practical and symbolic issues. It does this, in part, in the context of a discussion about the ‘social limits’ to achieving ongoing improvements in Indigenous socioeconomic status, at least as articulated in the public debate about social inclusion of Indigenous Australians. The CDEP scheme, for example, undeniably supports the existence of remote Indigenous communities that would not probably exist if all government support were withdrawn. In that sense, the CDEP scheme provides tangible support to Indigenous culture in such areas. However, it is also true that mainstream (non-CDEP) jobs provide more protection against entrenched Indigenous disadvantage than CDEP scheme jobs. One can argue, in this sense, that there is a trade-off between cultural maintenance (which is clearly supported by the CDEP scheme) and other important socioeconomic dimensions of Indigenous social exclusion. As with politics, Hunter argues, it is not possible to assume that nothing changes in social and economic contexts, and hence his conclusion elaborates on the prospect for achieving sustained improvements in Indigenous socioeconomic status after the Howard Government.

Kerins S & Jordan K (2010). Submission to FaHCSIA on the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy draft for consultation, 26 November.

This submission addresses the Australian Government’s draft Indigenous Economic Development Strategy (IEDS), with specific lessons learned from working with Aboriginal people to further their economic development in remote areas. The IEDS Action Plan suggests that the changes to CDEP are designed to ‘build individual skills and capacity’ and ‘create positive incentives to work’. In practice, there is growing evidence that the changes are having the opposite effect in at least some instances. Under the old system of CDEP wages, where CDEP has been well administered, participants have been required to fulfil minimum part-time work requirements and many CDEP workers have been paid additional income (‘top up’) for extra hours worked or granted ‘top up’ in cash or in-kind outside their formal workplace. Many participants have used CDEP to undertake paid land and sea management work, apprenticeships and traineeships, or worked for ‘third party’ employers where they have received additional wages. A number have moved off CDEP into mainstream jobs as they have developed appropriate capacities and as jobs have become available. These are all outcomes the government says it wants. There are also many examples of these successes that the government should be aware of. However, the recent changes to CDEP are undermining these successes by creating a disincentive to participate in the scheme. Without the attraction of ‘top-up’ wages, participants are well aware that they can receive equivalent income if they exit the scheme and register for Newstart Allowance. Once in receipt of this payment, the reality in remote areas in which we have worked is that the mutual obligation requirements are not enforced and Newstart Allowance becomes ‘sit down money’. This is increasing the incidence of passive welfare: ostensibly what the government and common sense seek to curtail and indeed what the CDEP scheme itself was designed to minimise.

Altman JC & Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (2011). From CDEP to CEEDS? Arena Magazine, 111: 36–7.

The Australian Government is seeking to fundamentally reform CDEP throughout remote Indigenous Australia as a part of the NT Intervention. This article seeks to inform a broad audience about the current political status of CDEP. The scheme is characterised here as a mutual obligation workfare program that was a vehicle for engaging Aboriginal people in a range of community development, service delivery and enterprise development projects, funded from block grants roughly equivalent to unemployment benefit entitlements.

Howorth P, Jordan K, Munro I & Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (2011). Creating and supporting sustainable livelihoods: A proposal for a new Remote Participation, Employment & Enterprise Development Scheme, Submission to the Australian Government review of remote participation and employment services, October.

Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory’s proposed model for a remote participation, employment and enterprise development scheme builds on the positive achievements of CDEP while overcoming limitations of the current arrangements. Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory’s model recognises the reality that many Aboriginal people in remote areas have significant educational disadvantage, including very low literacy and numeracy. It identifies the need for long-term transitional pathways to assist individuals and communities to achieve sustainable livelihoods.

Jordan K (2011). Blaming individuals will get Indigenous employment policy nowhere. The Conversation, June 29, 2011.

Consistent with its broader approach that sees paid work as a responsibility as well as a right, the central thrust of the Gillard Government’s approach to Indigenous affairs is to pathologise Indigenous disengagement from mainstream employment and implement policies designed to alter individual behaviour. This articles suggests that we should be wary of analyses that cast this lack of engagement with mainstream employment as simply ‘bad behaviour’ or a lack of ‘positive social norms’. Such analyses, Jordan argues, conflate serious social problems with highly valued aspects of Indigenous cultures that can also precipitate conflicting attitudes to paid work.

Jordan K (2011). Work and Indigenous wellbeing: Developing a research agenda. Insights: Melbourne Business and Economics 9, April 2011, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.

Differing attitudes to paid work give rise to much misunderstanding, if not animosity. The author shows how such misunderstandings manifest, for example, in activities that some Aboriginal people perceive as highly productive—such as prioritising familial needs over employment commitments—but are perceived by non-Indigenous work managers as ‘simply lazy’.

Jordan K (2011). Work, welfare and CDEP on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: First stage assessment. CAEPR Working Paper No. 78, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra.

This paper examines the impacts of changes to the CDEP scheme in 2009 on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. The author draws on qualitative interviews and administrative data to show that most of the changes appear to be counterproductive. She argues there may be a need for additional policy intervention to ensure that further changes to the scheme scheduled for 2012 do not exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, the multiple disadvantages experienced by many Aṉangu on the APY Lands.

Jordan K (2012). Closing the employment gap through work for the dole? Indigenous employment and the CDEP scheme. Journal of Australian Political Economy, 69: 29–58.

The CDEP scheme has been a unique feature of the Indigenous employment landscape since the late 1970s. While there is evidence CDEP has improved outcomes for some Indigenous Australians, in recent years it has been strongly criticised as a barrier to Indigenous participation in the mainstream (non- CDEP) labour market. Successive Australian governments have progressively wound back the CDEP scheme, culminating in recent changes that may see it transformed from a community-managed work program paying the rough equivalent of award wages into a ‘Work for the Dole’ program within the social security system. While the implications of these changes are strongly contested, this paper draws on fieldwork on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in remote South Australia to suggest that the unintended consequences may be a greater incidence of welfare passivity and reduced support for remote-living Aboriginal people to find non-CDEP work.

Sanders W (2012). Coombs’ bastard child: The troubled life of the CDEP Scheme. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 71(4): 371–91.

In the mid-1970s, HC Coombs was a major promoter of the idea behind the CDEP scheme. From this simple idea was born one of the most significant and, in time, one of the largest Indigenous-specific programs Australia has seen. The birth of this scheme, Sanders argues, was not easy and neither has been the subsequent life of what he refers to as Coombs’ bastard child.

Altman JC (2013). Seeing through the smoke and mirrors of a black job hunt. Journal of Indigenous Policy, 15: 127–32.

Policies are instruments of governance; they operate as ideological vehicles and as agents for constructing subjectivities and organising people within existing systems of power and authority. This, Altman argues, is precisely what we see with Abbott’s Indigenous employment review. The issues identified to date focus on conventional labour market approaches for unconventional Indigenous circumstances. Powerful like-minded people have been recruited to head the review with little prospect of innovation or acknowledgement of difference—normalisation pays lip service to the importance of difference then presses on remorselessly to promulgate and support imagined future labour market mainstreaming. The hard issues, he argues, have not been explicitly raised to date: has the abolition of programs such as the CDEP done more harm than good in increasing ‘passive’ welfare? Do outcomes on Cape York under the Cape York Welfare Reform trials or in jobs with AEC employers represent good value for significant public money? Why did the differential between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment outcomes increase between 2006 and 2011? Evidently, such questions do not matter. In this paper, Altman suggests that the way this review was established lacks sufficient legitimacy, appropriate conceptualisation and sound governance. Whatever the new government’s fine intentions, he writes, it is an early disappointment.

Hunter B & Gray M (2013). Continuity and change in the CDEP scheme. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 48(1): 35–56.

The CDEP scheme is an example of a program that combines community development and labour market program elements. This paper describes the nature of CDEP employment in 2008 and the extent to which it changed between 1994 and 2008. The paper also compares a selection of economic and social outcomes of CDEP participants with those of persons who are employed outside of CDEP, unemployed, and not-in-the-labour-force (NILF) in 2008, and the extent to which these associations changed between 1994 and 2008. The analysis shows that the nature of the jobs in which CDEP participants work and the experiences it provides to workers has been largely unchanged, despite substantial changes in underlying policy settings.

Gray M, Howlett M & Hunter B (2014). Labour market outcomes for Indigenous Australians. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 25(3): 497–517.

Recent research has identified a substantial increase in Indigenous mainstream employment since the mid-1990s, but there has been relatively little regional analysis of such employment. This article builds on this previous research using the 2006 and 2011 censuses to provide a more disaggregated descriptive analysis of changes in the character of labour market outcomes for Indigenous Australians aged 15–64 years. The key message of this article is that non-CDEP employment has increased substantially since the mid-1990s (at least until 2011). One of the primary drivers of the increase in employment has been the private sector. Between 2006 and 2011, there were increases in Indigenous employment in most industries, although some sectors played a more important role than others. While mining saw substantial and important increases in Indigenous employment, the changes were small relative to the challenge of closing the large ongoing gap in non-CDEP employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Similarly, despite recent increases in self-employment, in 2011, it was still a relatively minor portion of overall Indigenous employment.

Altman JC (2015). Basic income a no-brainer for remote Indigenous Australia. New Matilda, 17 September.

This article examines the applicability of a basic income scheme to the current landscape of remote Indigenous Australia. By detailing the history of government programs targeted in these areas, Altman argues that a basic income scheme would be an excellent way to help remedy the issues faced in these areas of Australia.

Altman JC (2015). Remote jobs proposals incoherent and inadequate. Land Rights News, Northern Land Council, January.

This article addresses the Abbott Government’s proposed reform of the Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP) applicable to 30,000 unemployed Indigenous adults living in remote Australia. Altman argues that the proposals to be introduced from 1 July 2015 are the clearest evidence yet that the ‘new’ government with a ‘new’ Indigenous Advancement Strategy focused on remote Australia and Prime Minister with aspirations to make an impact in Indigenous affairs have totally lost their way. Policymaking, he suggests, is in a deep muddle.


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