The times they are a-changin’ in some remote communities?
The 500,000th member of the Aboriginal population was born this year and for the first time, Indigenous Australian numbers are back to the level they were at when the First Fleet sailed into that southern harbour!
Nicholas Rothwell, writing for The Australian in September 06, says the rapid build-up in Indigenous numbers was the key to the policy revolution launched by the Federal Government 18 months ago, with ATSIC being abolished and the delivery of services to Aboriginal Australia brought into the mainstream.
According to Rothwell demographers had painted a clear picture of the spiralling expense of a welfare-dependent Indigenous population, and the vast “opportunity cost” that would come from continued poverty and ill-health across large parts of the centre and the north.
Mutual responsibility and private home ownership became watchwords.
‘Work for the Dole’ & CDEP
Critics of the Community Development Employment Program have long said this program is a meaningless form of labour that keeps people from seeking ‘real employment’ and gaining skills.
Now, under the new federal policies, CDEP workers must seek, and train for, proper jobs and find new positions within a year or go on to Centrelink’s Newstart program for job seekers, although there is a paper exemption to this rule for those in the most remote communities.
What has this meant ‘on the ground’? It seems some communities have lost their grant to run CDEP and also the ‘self-management’ that went with it.
PWF would love to hear firsthand as to what is going on?
Regional Partnership Agreements
The Australian also reported more recently that Indigenous organisations, employers, Local Government, WA Government and the Australian Government are the parties involved in two new Regional Partnership Agreements signed in November 06. (The first of these Agreements was signed last year with Ngaanyatjarra Council representing 12 Central Western Desert communities.)
It is possible that in five years unemployment in the remote Indigenous communities of Port Hedland and East Kimberley could halve, now there is a plan that commits companies to hiring Aboriginal workers.
Under a $1.5 million commitment in the East Kimberley about 300 Indigenous Australians are expected to get jobs.
The ‘priority areas’ of the Agreements
Parties involved in the East Kimberley (pdf page 14) Agreement
Parties involved in the Port Hedland (pdf Page 13) Agreement
Rothwell comments that the most striking feature of this policy approach is ‘the neat match between the near-total unemployment in the remote Aboriginal world and the vast labour shortages in the booming Northern Territory and the northwest of Western Australia’.
The aim to integrate the younger generations living in remote communities into a rapidly diversifying economy, while increasing Aboriginal wealth and freedom of choice, is shared by all. Is it a problem that bureaucrats have all the power over remote Australia….. is this the right path?