On Wednesday 23 January 2019, a media release from the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion, outlined changes to the Community Development Program (CDP) which he states will be implemented from March this year.

The bulk of these changes had been included in the Social Secutiry Legislation Amendment (Community Development Program) Bill 2018 which was rejected by the Senate. At the time that the Senate was required to consider proposed reforms under this Bill, the Government had not released the final evaluation report on the CDP, thereby denying the Senate an opportunity to access a source of evidence to inform its decision-making.

In the absence of due process and irrespective of not securing support from the Senate, a series of reforms to the CDP are to be unilaterally implemented as from March 2019.

Sue Tilley of Uniting Communities says: ‘While increasing flexibility for job seekers, reducing participation hours and establishing a capital investment fund can be seen as an improvement on the existing arrangements, these reforms constitute tinkering around the edges. What is needed is a comprehensive overhaul of the scheme.

‘Given that in 2017, CDP participants across South Australia received 8,864 penalties, of which 1,684 were serious penalties for ‘persistent non-compliance’1, the promise of the potential for a reduction in penalties is welcomed but the introduction of the Targeted Compliance Framework and proposed reforms do little to significantly alter the inherently punitive, discriminatory and exploitative nature of the Program.

‘The expenditure of $1.6 billion over four years from 2014/15 to 2017/18 equates to about $400 million per year, but has resulted in negligible positive outcomes. During the first three years of the CDP, there were only 629 instances across South Australia where CDP participants were placed in jobs that lasted at least 26 weeks2. Across the APY Lands during this three-year timeframe, only 33 jobs were achieved that lasted 26 weeks or more. The cost-benefit analysis simply doesn’t stack up.’

Uniting Communities calls on the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion, to give serious consideration to alternative models that have been provided to his office. These include the proposal from the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT proposal – Fair Work and Strong Communities: Proposal for a Remote Development and Employment Scheme – which has received widespread support and has been endorsed by more than 30 organisations across Australia, including many First Nations organisations that are currently delivering the CDP.

The tinkering around the edges of this failed Program and the proposed reforms will only serve to exacerbate the existing levels of poverty and unemployment being experienced across remote communities. These reforms do little to address the real conditions under which people in these communities are living and does not demonstrate the much-needed or espoused reforms to the Community Development Program that many were expecting and hoping for.

For media comment:
Sue Tilley, Manager of Aboriginal Policy and Advocacy
0437 320 954

1 Regional penalty data released under FOI, 30 May 2018.
2 Tabled in Senate 20 August 2018 covering July 2015 – May 2018.