As a federally funded Job Services Australia provider we are contracted to deliver services to job seekers in Amoonguna and Santa Teresa, the communities your Friday article (“Workers say they’re being ripped off under indigenous housing program“, Item 5) relates to, and the majority of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) participants are linked to us.
I would like to begin by saying that I knew this was going to be a rort right from the start.
Two of my employment consultants have received a number of complaints from CDEP participants about being underpaid for working on Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) projects using CDEP as a vehicle. We have had to tell these job seekers that our only affiliation with CEA is as a Job Services Provider and that we have nothing to do with CDEP participants wages.
There are another two communities we service — Titjikala and Finke — who will also have SIHIP work done using CDEP as a vehicle. SIHIP work using CDEP workers and some coerced from one of my work experience programs has just begun in Titjikala and again CEA is the CDEP provider.
It has always been my belief that when the federal government rolled out SIHIP that it was supposed to provide actual paid work at the proper industry award pay rates and employ local indigenous people in each of the affected communities. It was also a requirement that these workers receive an accredited qualification.
Right from the beginning when I tried to find out who the actual employer was in Santa Teresa where SIHIP began I was told by CEA that “Ingerreke” were going to be the lead contractor and that they would employ and pay the wages for local indigenous workers at the proper award rates. Later on this changed to being told that CEA would be the employer paying the wages and they (CEA) would be reimbursed by invoicing the contractor. What difference if any to what was invoiced and to what workers actually got paid is another question!
The reason that I needed the correct information was that to be entitled to employment outcomes as a Job Services Australia Provider and to comply with our contract with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations (DEEWR) we needed to correctly record details into the system including correct start dates for each job seeker.
We also needed this information because the details of who the CDEP job seekers were working for and the days of work that they were working (etc.) also had to be recorded in each person’s Employment Pathway Plan. CEA was well aware of DEEWR’s requirements that these details had to be recorded in each job seeker’s Employment Pathway Plans.
The correct information was never forthcoming. We did not know who they were working for, what days they were working, how much they were getting paid, and what training was going to be done as this was also required to be recorded in their Employment Pathway Plans.
The end result was that we achieved no placements or outcomes for Santa Teresa or Amoonguna and the same will apply for Titjikala and Finke. The end result of this is that job seekers have been underpaid and CatholicCare NT has lost money for placement and outcome fees.
Before the SIHIP program commenced in these communities I attended a number of meetings with CEA and NFA at the CEA office together with other stakeholders to talk about the SIHIP program, but it did not take me long to figure out that this was going to be a rort which would benefit CEA and NFA and no-one else, and that the majority of CDEP participants who were also our job seekers were going to be screwed. I stopped going and declined each further invitation to attend.
As this concerned our job seekers I also voiced my concerns with the Department Of Education and Employment Relations to no avail.
There are quite a number of other communities whose CDEP programs are run by CEA that we do not service who, if SIHIP is going to them, will be in the same position as the communities named in your article.