The Abbott Government is to embark on a major reform of employment services in remote Australia to put an end to sit-down welfare.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said Work for the Dole would be introduced into remote communities from July 2015, with the majority of remote job seekers to undertake work-like activities five days a week, 12 months of the year.
”The existing Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP), introduced hurriedly by the former Government in its dying days in 2013, failed local communities because it wasn’t geared to the unique social and labour market conditions of remote Australia,” the Minister said.
“Labor simply put the urban model of employment services into remote Australia. The result was widespread disconnection and a return to passive welfare.
“The Forrest Review – Creating Parity, highlighted that idleness is again entrenched in many remote communities, significantly contributing to the erosion of social norms.
“Our approach will be very different. To ensure we get this right, we will be discussing the new programme with communities on a community-by-community basis right up to and beyond its introduction in June 2015, to ensure Work for the Dole activities meet the needs of individual communities.
“In many communities there will be opportunities to establish businesses that can support the needs and desires of local people. Some communities will want activities that support critical issues like housing repairs and maintenance. In others, there may be a need to support older members of the community in aged-care facilities or their own homes, or to support children in school.
“I am determined to ensure that communities help us frame the activities that suit their particular needs and circumstances.”
The Minister said existing RJCP funding of $1.5 billion over four years from 2014-15 would be redirected to the reform.
“Work for the Dole however is not the end-point,” the Minister said.
“The key aim is providing real pathways to employment. There are 37,000 job seekers within RJCP regions, almost 30,000 of whom will be required to be engaged in Work for the Dole activities from July 2015.
“The reformed programme will provide benefits to all jobseekers in remote areas, including Indigenous jobseekers.
“Employment is critical to Closing the Gap, not just on employment, but on other indicators, such as education and ensuring communities are safe and people are healthy,” the Minister said.
“Getting job seekers active is the first step.
“Our reforms will create a responsive, demand-driven employment service that reduces red-tape and puts an end to the culture of sit-down money.”
All job seekers aged 18 to 49 will be required to be involved in Work for the Dole activities for up to 25 hours per week, based on their individual assessed capacity.
Getting adults into work is one of the Abbott Government’s top priorities in Indigenous affairs, along with getting children to school and ensuring communities are safe.
“As well as driving employment outcomes, Work for the Dole will support our other priorities. Parents of school-age children will be able to have as one of their Work for the Dole activities, getting and collecting their children from school,” the Minister said.
“$25 million will be available each year to support the establishment of local businesses such as butchers, hairdressers and other businesses that you would find in any small town. These businesses will provide real work experience and ultimately, real jobs in remote communities.
“In some communities this could include support for the creation of businesses that can secure contracts for housing maintenance, to end the farcical situation of this work being awarded by states and territories to out-of-town contractors thousands of kilometres away.
“We will also be identifying activities within existing institutions, such as local councils, aged care facilities, child care facilities, ranger programmes and schools, which will be provided with support to take on job seekers and supervise Work for the Dole activities.
“Training will be available through providers for skills that are needed in communities, to ultimately achieve real jobs in areas such as education, health and trades.
“Most of these jobs are currently filled by people from outside of communities. There is no reason local people cannot be skilled up to take on these jobs.”
The Minister said the Government would also provide strong financial incentives for employers to look to the bush for their labour needs and to help job seekers stay in employment.”
The grandfathered CDEP Wages Scheme, which continues to operate in some remote communities, will wind up early as recommended by Mr Forrest’s review. This will ensure that from 1 July 2015 all job seekers in remote communities will have consistent incentives and obligations in return for their income support.
“These changes will be rolled out carefully and methodically – it won’t be rushed. Providers will receive close support over the next 12 to 18 months. We are committed to not disrupting communities by repeating the mistakes of the past,” the Minister said.
Download media release:
2014-12-06 Scullion MR FINAL RJCP.pdf