The first response to the news that Community Development Employment Funding Projects (aka CDEP) will be reinstated has been fantastic. CDEP has always been treated here as a job and this is one of the communities where it actually functioned well. Work for the dole has never been treated with any enthusiasm, it’s always been seen as a shame job.
We’ve already started about getting our tourism venture, Gunya Titjiklala, up and running again. It was a really successful enterprise done with private money and without government support. It was one of those casualties that the former government didn’t really expect.
The rules of CDEP allowed for people across the community to do extra top up hours, and be paid by the council for those hours. There was no CDEP involvement in the business, but the rules of CDEP enabled us to pay people as a second job. We had around 80 people in the community doing work for the venture and getting paid for it. The moment they dismantled CDEP, they changed all the rules and it got very complicated.
When CDEP ended, those people were left waiting. The government has spent a lot of money creating the service delivery jobs, which are really government jobs, that you would just take for granted. Now a lot of people who were on CDEP have fulfilled those jobs. We had 105 people on CDEP and following the intervention we got almost half of them into some kind of employment. Much of it wasn’t full time work, so it wasn’t like they were any better off, but at least they are in a proper job and we can see how that can be expanded.
In this move, the government has done exactly as we suggested. That was bring CDEP back and then sit down and work out the whole story. In essence, the intervention just looked at one government side of things and completely forgot that private enterprise existed out here. Now they appear to taking a more case-by-case approach to the issue.
I think the claim in today’s Australian that CDEP allowed the government to massage the figures on social breakdown is too microscopic. The real issue with CDEP isn’t the question of whether it’s a labour market hire mechanism or a job, it’s that for years government departments were using CDEP labour to deliver services.
We copped a hell of a lot of flak because we are meant to have the same rules as every other Australian, but the government wasn’t delivering the same services to Indigenous people in remote communities. They were having everything delivered by CDEP.
In some ways you could say that it was contributing to massaging the figures, but we have an enormous deprivation to Indigenous to people, from education and to health to all the service delivery that other Australians just take for granted. In reality, once the intervention came in and they recognised the proper service delivery jobs and created them, the government got a different perspective.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.