Communities fight work for dole
Ten communities in the northern Goldfields could be heading to the Federal Court as part of an ongoing fight against the Commonwealth’s “discriminatory” work for the dole program.
The Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku has been in mediation with the Australian Human Rights Commission for the past two years to discuss the program, which they claim uses race to determine how people get access to income support. Shire president Damian McLean said the consequences of the Community Development Program, launched in 2015 to replace the previous Community Development Employment Projects program, had been severe and the last five years had proved particularly difficult.
“Any autonomy the community had over the payroll and over payments under the CDEP is gone,” he said.
He claimed the program requirements for access to income support for people in the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku breached the Race Discrimination Act. “The program is discriminatory because people who are Aboriginal in remote areas are required to do more to access their payments than those closer to the cities.
“This program has resulted in huge levels of poverty in Aboriginal communities.”
He said this was compounded by difficulties accessing Centrelink, with the nearest office and bank branch 1000km away either in Kalgoorlie or Alice Springs.
Mr McLean said the Shire would meet with the AHRC one or two more times before mediation ended, after which it would need to take the matter to the Federal Court before a judge.
“The level of dysfunction in this is very disappointing,” he said.
“The Commonwealth says and has said publicly it is a good program, and they haven’t addressed the issue of discrimination.
“For more than 30 years, Commonwealth Income Support was delivered in the Ngaanyatjarra communities through the indigenous specific, community controlled CDEP.
“The CDEP program was remarkably successful as a tool in taking Ngaanyatjarra people from extreme levels of violence, poverty, petrol sniffing and alcohol abuse, social and administrative dysfunction and almost every other conceivable expression of disadvantage.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the program was more efficient than previous programs because it had supported remote job seekers into more than 21,000 jobs and seen attendance rise significantly.