The Federal Government has announced trial sites for a replacement for the controversial Community Development Program.
The Remote Engagement Program, which will be “co-designed with community”, will roll out in 2023 after the end of the trial period, set to start later this year.
The Community Development Program (CDP) was a work-for-the-dole program which was heavily criticised and likened to slavery. It was scrapped earlier this year at the Federal budget, with $111 million allocated to the Remote Engagement Program over the next five years.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said five regions across Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland have been selected for the trial, with communities hosting the trial to co-design the jobseeker support program.
“I am pleased to announce that the remote engagement program trial regions will be Mid West/West Region and Ngaanyatjarra Lands region in Western Australia, Eyre in South Australia, Barkly (South West Barkly and North Barkly) in the Northern Territory, and Palm Island in Queensland,” Minister Wyatt said.
The Minister said the trial regions will test a cross section of jurisdictions with differing geographic proximity to regional centres and varying proportions of job-ready CDP participants.
A national working group will be established, alongside co-design groups in each trial region.
“The whole purpose of the trials is to try different approaches. We want to see what works best and [for] regions determine their priorities so that a national program has the flexibility it needs to work in each region,” Minister Wyatt said.
Labor Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy said the Remote Engagement Program was a “continuation of a welfare model” that simply renames the CDP.
“Labor has many concerns with the Morrison Government’s new trial and re-named work for the dole program. The new supplementary income support payment for job-like placements does not include proper working conditions such as superannuation or workers compensation.”
“Evidence given in the Senate inquiry showed that this legislation risks undermining successful job on-County programs such as Indigenous rangers.”
“Evidence submitted to the Senate inquiry from the Coalition of Peaks says this legislation already does not reflect the National Partnership on Closing the Gap.”
Senator McCarthy said Minister Wyatt had made “hollow promises, in particular to the Warlpiri in Central Australia who were given assurances … that they would be included in the trial.
“They told me of their hopes when I travelled to the Tanami desert region earlier this month,” she said.
Federal Greens First Nations Spokesperson Lidia Thorpe said the program would not create opportunities for sustainable employment.
“First Nations people are strong and capable. We know what’s best for ourselves and our communities. Like Everyone else, we succeed when we are free to make our own decisions,” she said.
“The Morrison government needs to understand that ‘co-design” is not consent. It is not clear is any of the communities selected to trial this program chose to participate. The Coalition of Peaks and APO NT only learnt about this plan when it was tabled in parliament.”
The Remote Engagement Program was first announced at the Federal Budget.
A spokesperson for Minister Wyatt said the announcement has been ‘well received’ by communities.
“Then National Indigenous Australians Agency has been engaging with relevant local Indigenous leadership and stakeholders, State and Territory Governments and CDP Providers in the pilot sites to confirm willingness of various parties to be part of this trial,” they said.
“While this process is ongoing, the announcement of the sites has been well received by local stakeholders and service providers.”
“A local co-design group will be established in each trial site to co-design how the Remote Engagement Program pilot will be implemented in the site.”
The Remote Engagement Program public discussion paper is currently open for submissions.
The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions and community information sessions seeking feedback later this year.