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The Indigenous Welfare Economy and the CDEP Scheme

The Indigenous Welfare Economy and the CDEP Scheme

F. Morphy
W.G. Sanders
Volume: CAEPR Monograph No. 20
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    The Indigenous Welfare Economy and the CDEP Scheme
    Book Description:

    In recent debates about the Indigenous welfare economy, the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme has not been given the attention it deserves. It represents a major adaptation of the Australian welfare system to the particular social and economic circumstances of Indigenous people. Part I of this volume contains overview papers which place the CDEP program in its wider cultural, sociopolitical, and economic contexts. The contributions in Part II address policy and policy-related issues which impact directly, or indirectly, on the structure and function of the CDEP scheme as a whole and of individual CDEP projects. Part III presents research based case-studies of particular CDEP projects in their regional contexts, drawn from the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Victoria. Part IV consists of short case studies, from the perspective of the participants themselves, of a number of CDEP organisations. These case studies provide an important perspective, taking up and providing a grass-roots view of many of the broader policy themes and concerns that are discussed elsewhere in the monograph. The crucial issue, addressed by many of the contributions, is how Indigenous self determination and the rights agenda, which argues for the unique and inherent rights of Indigenous Australians, will sit with (or in opposition to) the 'mutual obligation' of the Howard government's welfare reform. The volume thus represents a contribution to an ongoing and important debate in current Australian social policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-9751229-3-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. iii-vi)
    Jon Altman

    The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) is an independent research centre within The Australian National University (ANU). Its funding comes from four sources: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), ANU, Department of Family and Community Services (DFACS) and its own consultancy activities. CAEPRʹs mission, as defined in its strategic plan, is to contribute to better outcomes for Indigenous people by independently monitoring changes in socio-economic status, influencing policy formation, and informing constructive debate. CAEPR does this through research that combines academic excellence of the highest standards with policy relevance, objectivity, and realism. Its two principal aims are...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. List of figures
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. List of tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations and acronyms
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)
    Will Sanders and Frances Morphy

    The aim of the conference on which this volume is based was to encourage debate and discussion about the Indigenous welfare economy and, in particular, one major manifestation of that economy, the long-running and now widespread Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme. Many conferences on Indigenous issues institute (and institutionalise) debate between academic researchers, or between the bureaucrats charged with implementing and delivering policy, and sometimes between the two, but few deliberately engage in an extended way with the views of the people who are the subject of discussion. This conference was different, and so too is the volume which...

  8. Part I: Overviews

    • 1. Welfare and social justice for Indigenous Australians
      (pp. 5-10)
      Brian Butler

      Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are just as keen as the government is to address welfare and social justice issues. These have to be understood in the context of the early European settlement of this country, which destroyed the structure of our way of life and cultural values, and led to the dispossession of our land. Our peoples still face what is described by the Commonwealth Grants Commission (CGC) in a recent draft report (CGC 2000) as ʹthe historical legacy of exclusion from the mainstream provisions of Australian societyʹ. It is imperative that we understand the importance of these...

    • 2. CDEP, racial discrimination, and social justice
      (pp. 11-18)
      William Jonas

      In this paper I will address the human rights dimensions of CDEP in relation to the principles of racial non-discrimination and ʹspecial measuresʹ, and also in relation to the concepts of formal and substantive equality. In 1997 a report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissionʹs (HREOCʹs) Race Discrimination Commissioner (RDC), The CDEP Scheme and Racial Discrimination (HREOC 1997, henceforth the HREOC Review), found that the CDEP scheme did not appear to raise any significant issue of racial discrimination, although it had some specific concerns with the administration of the scheme. Since then changes have been made in light...

    • 3. The changing social security policy context: Implications for the CDEP program
      (pp. 19-30)
      Peter Saunders

      There is a certain irony in the fact that at a time when Western industrial economies are entering their eighth year of solid economic growth, attention has focused on the limitations of the social security system. Governments, for long prepared to tolerate rising income inequality as the price to be paid for increased reliance on market flexibility and market forces, see joblessness and the unequal distribution of (paid) work as requiring a policy response.

      Although unemployment has fallen markedly in some Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, including Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the USA,...

    • 4. Community development in the context of welfare dependence
      (pp. 31-38)
      David Martin

      The beginning of the twenty-first century sees a number of quite fundamental challenges confronting the CDEP scheme, both at the policy level and at the level of local implementation. The first challenge arises from implications for the CDEP scheme of new international and Australian thinking about welfare policy in general. A second challenge concerns the establishment of meaningful and appropriate parameters for ʹdevelopmentʹ through the CDEP scheme which go beyond purely economic development. Another concerns the definition and operationalisation of an appropriate scope for the ʹcommunityʹ in which the particular CDEP scheme is operating.

      I first want to turn briefly...

    • 5. The political dimensions of community development
      (pp. 39-46)
      Tim Rowse

      The self determination policy era has given rise to Indigenous political institutions with a mix of representative, service delivery, policy making and land owning functions. This ʹIndigenous sectorʹ is essential to the representation and satisfaction of Indigenous wishes. Without the Indigenous sector, Indigenous Australians would lack public policy recognition of their needs and aspirations; they would be invisible, as Indigenous people, within Australian society and they would be unable to make any demands, as Indigenous Australians, on Australian institutions. In short, the Indigenous sector is one of the defining material products of the Australian public policy change from ʹassimilationʹ to...

    • 6. Adjusting balances: Reshaping the CDEP scheme after 20 good years
      (pp. 47-50)
      Will Sanders

      There are two simple ideas flagged in the title to this paper. The first is that the first 20 years of the CDEP scheme, from 1977 to 1997, were very clearly good years. From its tentative beginnings in just a few communities, the CDEP scheme proved enormously popular both with Indigenous communities and with governments. Over the years the scheme grew accordingly; indeed, it became the largest single program in the Commonwealth Indigenous affairs budget.

      The second idea is that the CDEP scheme has always been a fairly delicate balancing act. It arose out of the extension of social security...

  9. Part II: Policy perspectives and issues

    • 7. Welfare dependence, mutual obligation, and the CDEP scheme: Lessons from community research and an overseas initiative
      (pp. 53-66)
      Diane Smith

      It is commonly asserted that Indigenous dependence on welfare is increasing; that it is a passive and debilitating experience rather than a valued citizenship entitlement. But to what extent is this actually the case? And if it is true, what policy tools and service delivery models might assist in addressing the situation?

      The Federal governmentʹs current welfare reform agenda suggests the problem of welfare dependency can be met by moving ʹbeyond reliance on income support to self-sufficiencyʹ. The concept of mutual obligation is proposed as a ʹnew participation frameworkʹ for facilitating this objective (Commonwealth of Australia 2001: 8; Newman 1999:...

    • 8. The Indigenous Employment Policy: A preliminary evaluation
      (pp. 67-74)
      Peter Shergold

      The Indigenous Employment Policy (IEP) was introduced by Minister Peter Reith in 1999 as a result of decisions made in the 1998 Budget. It has been administered by DEWRSB. The IEP is a significant development: there had not been a major Commonwealth government initiative in the area of Indigenous employment since the mid 1980s. Indeed it is fair to say that before responsibility for employment became part of DEWRSB as part of a machinery of government change following the last election, the issue of Indigenous employment had not had a high priority. There had been a reasonable expectation that the...

    • 9. Reforming the CDEP scheme
      (pp. 75-80)
      Terry Whitby

      I begin this paper with some facts which are indisputable. CDEP continues to be Australiaʹs largest employer of Indigenous people, with over 270 projects involving over 33 000 participants. Of these projects, 95 per cent are located in regional and remote Australia, in places with limited access to viable labour markets. Unemployment trends will deepen unless Australians invest in collaborative, holistic programs.

      CDEP is one of the most important programs for Indigenous people. It continues to provide an important focus for communities to undertake a wide range of activities which support the operation of the community, maintain services, and build...

    • 10. Myth-making and the delivery of banking and financial services to Indigenous Australians in regional and remote Australia
      (pp. 81-94)
      Neil Westbury

      This paper summarises the major findings of two case studies that examined Aboriginal peopleʹs access to banking and financial services in central Australia and north-west New South Wales, and some of the assertions that are commonly made about the delivery of banking and financial services to Indigenous Australians.¹ It then identifies some comparative best practice from overseas, drawing on developments in the delivery of banking services to indigenous peoples and low- and moderate-income earners in North America. It concludes that many of the assertions regularly employed in Australia by banks and others to justify the withdrawal or current lack of...

    • 11. Demographic challenges to the future of CDEP
      (pp. 95-108)
      John Taylor and Boyd Hunter

      Increasingly over the past three decades, the scale and the nature of initiatives aimed at achieving social justice for Indigenous Australians have been guided by information about the size, composition, and changing location of the officially identified Indigenous population. The data drawn from five-yearly censuses and, progressively, from other surveys and administrative collections have aided in determining the global quantum of Indigenous need for government services. More recently, there has been a growing recognition that an understanding of the dynamics of demographic change is important for the formulation of policies that are based on some estimation of anticipated requirements, and...

    • 12. Training by doing: Pathways through CDEP
      (pp. 109-122)
      Shirley Campbell and Jerry Schwab

      Indigenous Australians often say that their traditional forms of education involved ʹlearning by doingʹ—a hands-on and practical approach that fitted with the immediate needs and interests of individuals and communities. This particular approach is certainly not unique to Indigenous education and is a strategy deployed at every level of education today, from preschools to postgraduate studies. At the vocational level ʹtraining by doingʹ is the heart of effective skill and knowledge acquisition, making this level of education particularly amenable to Indigenous students (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Training Advisory Council (ATSIPTAC) 1997, 1998, 1999b, n.d.; Australian National Training...

  10. Part III: Regional studies

    • 13. ʹMutual obligationʹ, the CDEP scheme, and development: Prospects in remote Australia
      (pp. 125-134)
      Jon Altman

      Many observers feel that current social policy, and particularly the payment of welfare to the unemployed, needs to be fundamentally rethought. It is notable that advocates of change include both the government-appointed McClure Committee and influential Indigenous spokespersons, most notably Noel Pearson. In their publications Participation Support for a More Equitable Society (McClure 2000) and Our Right to Take Responsibility (Pearson 2000b) both these parties adopt the language of mutual obligation and, on the face of it, appear to agree with the general principle. The central tenet of mutual obligation in the context of current debates is the problem of...

    • 14. CDEP and careers: Some good news and some bad news from Torres Strait
      (pp. 135-142)
      Bill Arthur

      Having been in place for around 25 years, the CDEP scheme is the longest standing government work program. It would be surprising therefore if people did not have some view of its possible role in their futures. A recent survey in Torres Strait shows that although communities appear to utilise CDEP to create employment and training opportunities young people feel that the scheme has limited potential to further their careers. This paper uses data from the survey to analyse the apparent contradiction between these ʹgood newsʹ and ʹbad newsʹ stories and suggests what the implications may be for the future...

    • 15. CDEP as a conduit to the ʹrealʹ economy? The Port Augusta case
      (pp. 143-152)
      Matthew Gray and Elaine Thacker

      The role of the CDEP scheme as a stepping stone to employment in the ʹmainstreamʹ labour market is receiving a great deal of attention at present. This accords with the emphasis in the current social policy environment on ʹmutual obligationʹ. The CDEP scheme undoubtedly has similarities to the ʹwork for the doleʹ program available to all Australians, but its success in acting as a stepping stone to unsubsidised employment is clearly related to the non-CDEP labour market opportunities in particular regions. In remote areas these opportunities are generally much more limited than in rural and urban areas. There has been...

    • 16. Yuendumu CDEP: The Warlpiri work ethic and Kardiya staff turnover
      (pp. 153-166)
      Yasmine Musharbash

      Yuendumu is one of the largest Aboriginal communities in Central Australia: the ABS reported 773 usual residents for the community in 1996.² It was set up as a government ration station in 1946 (Meggitt 1962) and is located about 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs on the Tanami Track. The main languages spoken are Warlpiri and English.

      Yuendumu CDEP started up in March 1997. Fig. 16.1 shows the CDEP participant numbers from the beginning of the program to early in 2001. Until June 1999 the numbers were relatively stable at 140. They then plummeted to about 60 where they remained...

    • 17. Outstations and CDEP: The Western Arrernte in central Australia
      (pp. 167-176)
      Diane Austin-Broos

      The issues bearing on remote communities, welfare, and economy are not new. Four of them frame this account of the Western Arrernte outstations and their CDEP schemes.² The outstation system is one of the largest in Australia. It developed from Ntaria, the erstwhile Lutheran mission of Hermannsburg that lies due west of Alice Springs and south of the MacDonnell Ranges in an arid but beautiful landscape.

      More than a decade ago, Young noted that ʹremote communities throughout Australia depend heavily on public subsidies for the provision of servicesʹ and, due to public sector employment, for a high proportion of family...

    • 18. CDEP in Victoria: A case study of Worn Gundidj
      (pp. 177-184)
      Raymond Madden

      In 1992, when Will Sanders looked at CDEP across the country (Sanders 1993), there were only two CDEP schemes in Victoria, both based in Gippsland in the east of the State. Since that time the scheme has expanded rapidly, and now there around 750 participants involved in about a dozen CDEP schemes across the State. The subject of this paper is a corporate CDEP scheme in Western Victoria which operates under the mantle of the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Co-operative.

      Worn Gundidj is located in Warrnambool, in south-west Victoria. Warrnambool is a rural city with a population of 28 000 people,...

  11. Part IV: Community perspectives

    • 19. The community game: Aboriginal self definition at the local level
      (pp. 187-192)
      Frances Peters-Little

      This paper is based on a larger discussion paper (Peters-Little 2000) that I wrote for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The research I undertook focused on my motherʹs people, the Uralarai and Kamilaroi people from the north-west of New South Wales. I wanted to raise the question: ʹWhat is an Aboriginal community, what are the boundaries, and how does one identify it?ʹ I had always felt very strongly about the fundamental changes that have taken place in my community since my early childhood and the period I grew up there prior to the 1967...

    • 20. CDEP and the sub-economy: Milking the CDEP cow dry
      (pp. 193-198)
      Phil Bartlett

      When I first set about researching material for this paper I searched through extensive reports, reviews, papers, comparisons, and sample budgets—these are CDEP history. For years now strong arguments have been put forward covering almost every angle of CDEP, every convincing argument. These are found in policy papers, analyses of grant conditions, and so on. Apart from these documents we know CDEP has been reviewed, reworked, revamped, changed, enhanced, audited, upgraded, downsized, made to fit, nationalised, regionalised, localised, centralised and decentralised.

      What more, then, can be added to the mountain of information that already exists? There is no point...

    • 21. Measuring expropriation: Enumeration of opportunity costs imposed on the remote community of Burringurrah, Western Australia
      (pp. 199-202)
      Daniel Kean

      Development of the economic base necessary for social empowerment requires four factors operating in unison: land, labour, capital, and knowledge. This paper sketches how European settlement in the Gascoyne pastoral region expropriated Aboriginal people from these means of production, how the dispossessed people returned to their lands and implemented development using their knowledge and a capital contribution from the State, and why this development is under threat from the imposition of bureaucratic decisions on the CDEP system. Finally it proposes that the opportunity costs of curtailing this development must be enumerated in order to support arguments in favour of continuing...

    • 22. A part of the local economy: Junjuwa Community/Bunuba Inc., Western Australia
      (pp. 203-204)
      Rowena Mouda

      In the Kimberley, we practice our law and culture right through the year. Our elders are very well respected and play a big part in decision making in the Fitzroy Valley.

      Junjuwa Community receives funding from ATSIC for two programs. One is the Community Housing and Infrastructure program, and the other is CDEP. Junjuwa is further supported by the collection of contributions from the participants, or ʹchuck-insʹ as we call them. For example all CDEP participants have to chuck in from their CDEP wages for fuel and stores for their outstations, to help develop their communities. This is necessary because...

    • 23. Self determination and CDEP: Tjurma Homelands Council, South Australia
      (pp. 205-206)
      Katalin Mindszenty

      I would like to put Tjurmaʹs situation in the context of self determination. Tjurma is a small, remote homelands community in the Musgrave Ranges, 500 kilometres south-east of Alice Springs. The community members want to keep a traditional homelands lifestyle. Most of our people are artists, and they also have other skills, which they put to full use. We have 45 people on our CDEP program. Prior to my arrival there had been about six or seven CDEP managers who came and went because of the uncertain situation and the local politics of the time. We have built up our...

    • 24. Job creation and ʹmutual obligationʹ: Tapatjatjaka Community Government Council, Northern Territory
      (pp. 207-208)
      Harry Scott

      My comments are directed at the policy makers. I want to challenge the notions of job creation and mutual obligation. Titjikala is 120 kilometres south of Alice Springs, in central Australia. It has a community of between 275 and 290 people, distributed between the main community of Titjikala and four or five outstations. We have 90 people on our CDEP program. We are at the limit, and we do not have, and probably do not intend to have, any jobs for them.

      I will first list the various jobs that we do at Titjikala that are focused on service delivery...

    • 25. Regional development and CDEP: Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre, Northern Territory
      (pp. 209-210)
      John Nicholas

      My topic is regional development. I want to put forward the proposition that within States and Territories where there are regions or sub-regions that are marginal economically, the CDEP has at least the potential to become important to State and Territory governments in terms of actually putting regional development policy on the ground.

      The Northern Territory government has created a document called Foundations for the Future. And I am told by senior Northern Territory public servants that their jobs will basically be accounted according to how they succeed in laying those foundations. One of those foundations is regional development, and...

    • 26. Catering for mobility and diversity: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation CDEP, Northern Territory
      (pp. 211-212)
      Rupert Manners

      We have a large CDEP at Bawinanga, with about 350 people on outstations and 160 in Maningrida itself. As a result we probably see a lot of the problems which are found generally in CDEP schemes. The CDEP is a very multifaceted organisation: it is income support to some people, it is work to other people, to some of the other organisations in the community it is wages subsidy, and it is long-term employment for a lot of people. We should accept that this is the situation and we should not try to push CDEP in ways that it is...

    • 27. Resourcing CDEP: The case of East Gippsland Aboriginal CDEP Co-operative, Victoria
      (pp. 213-214)
      Lionel Dukakis

      I want to start off with a point, probably a political one, that was raised by my brother John Martin from Goulburn Valley CDEP. Victoria does not get the same recognition as the rest of Australia. For example it was said that the Chair of ATSIC would never come from Victoria because we were not black enough, or had no culture. So all credit to Geoff Clarke, he has done a great job. I am not saying that our needs are greater or less than those of our brothers and sisters in other parts of Australia. I just wanted to...

    • 28. Adequate funding as a question of equity: Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust CDEP, Victoria
      (pp. 215-216)
      Siva Nalliah

      The CDEP program is vital for the life of the Lake Tyers community. We have 73 participants in our community program. In 1998–99 the program was suspended for nine months, and we saw a marked increase in domestic violence, alcohol-related violence, and a general unrest in the community. This is also reflected in the police statistics. On the recommencement of the CDEP program we saw a marked decline in most of these social problems.

      However, there are numerous inequities in the way that the CDEP program operates. Many of these arise from the heavy burden that is placed on...

    • 29. Supporting employment inside and outside the community: Woorabinda CDEP, Queensland
      (pp. 217-220)
      Elizabeth Young

      Woorabinda is a community situated 200 kilometres south-west of Rockhampton, with a population of around about 1000 people. The largest group in the population is children up to 15 years old. The average age of death five or 10 years ago was 46 years of age, and it is probably lower now. The land at Woorabinda is in the form of a Deed of Grant in Trust lease. The community is situated near the Mimosa Creek and is surrounded by the Woorabinda property, an area of 40 000 acres.

      Within this community there are a number of organisations and government...

    • 30. Creating opportunities for training and employment: Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council CDEP, Western Sydney
      (pp. 221-224)
      Wendy Ann Lewis

      Tharawal Land Council, along with five other organisations, took on the CDEP approximately nine years ago. Our aim was to create opportunities for training and employment for Aboriginal people. We have grown with that CDEP program, but we are going to be discussing whether or not we continue it. This is not because it has not been successful, but because a bureaucratic stranglehold has been put on something that was really for communities to develop and evolve—their CDEP program to suit their needs, and their aspirations. Those are different things, but they can be woven into one to create...

    • 31. Using the system to our advantage: Redfern Aboriginal Corporation CDEP, Sydney
      (pp. 225-226)
      Bruce Loomes

      The topic I want to address is networking, playing the system, and being strong together. Redfern is an urban CDEP in the centre of Sydney. It is a small CDEP with about 80 participants and an annual turnover of about 200 per cent. Our people come from all over Sydney, and some of them commute for an hour and a half to get to work. The CAEPR report by Diane Smith (1995) showed that the people in Redfern suffer as great if not greater levels of poverty than the people around Alice Springs. We have a mix of community goals,...

    • 32. CDEP: A journey not a destination
      (pp. 227-230)
      Stephen Humphries

      There are two different organisations involved in providing employment and enterprise support within the Perth Metropolitan area, through the use of the CDEP. First there is the Perth Employment and Enterprise Development Aboriginal Corporation (PEEDAC), which was incorporated on 6 July 1997, and is run by an elected 20-member management committee. The PEEDAC management and members are all representatives from the five ATSIC Perth Regional Councils, which are classified as wards. The wards are Bibra in the inner-southern suburbs, Gnangara in the northern suburbs, Walunga in the north-western suburbs, Wungong in the southern suburbs and Yunderup, which encompasses the Peel–...

  12. Postscript
    (pp. 231-234)
    Tim Rowse

    In Chapter 9 Terry Whitby poses the question: ʹWho represents CDEP?ʹ He gives an all-inclusive answer: ʹEverybody represents CDEPʹ. Yet, competing representations of, or descriptions of, CDEP emerge from this volume, and the resulting diversity makes it a very interesting document. In this Postscript I want to put the emphasis on ʹcompetingʹ. The conference on which this book is based, like Parliament or the Press, was a political arena in which people tried out different ways of describing CDEP. Those exchanges of competing representations of CDEP made the conference a political process.

    In the current political climate, or in any...

  13. Index
    (pp. 235-242)
  14. Notes on the contributors
    (pp. 243-246)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-248)