11. Employment and CDEP
Employment is a key social determinate of health and wellbeing, and represents one of the biggest challenges in ‘closing the gap' on Indigenous disadvantage and creating sustainable communities. CDEP, whilst not a perfect solution, has significant advantages over conventional labour market programs in that its objectives also include community development and enterprise assistance. Prior to the NTER, CDEP employed 7,500 people who, on average earned $100 per week (or 60%) more than those on unemployment benefits. CDEP also supported 50 mainly community-based Aboriginal organisations carrying out a broad range of projects and activities in communities including municipal and essential services, housing, infrastructure and maintenance services, human and aged care services, art enterprises, health and nutrition programs, caring for country and land management programs, and tourism and other enterprises.45
AMSANT strongly opposed the previous federal government's decision to abolish CDEP, although we supported the proposal to convert some CDEP positions into full-time jobs. These are mainly municipal and essential service jobs such as garbage collection, road and other maintenance jobs etc. These full-time jobs should be properly funded by government, however, that does not mean that the remaining CDEP positions should be abolished. AMSANT has welcomed the subsequent commitment of the Rudd Labor Government to reinstate it.
AMSANT also supports the sensible reform of CDEP, but is concerned that such reform does not lead to the situation where communities are refused access to CDEP and as a consequence find the economic viability of the community threatened. [See Recommendation 16]. AMSANT is concerned that the issue of the viability of communities is being raised without input from Aboriginal communities and in a manner that does not adequately address current evidence and future prospects concerning the economic, cultural, social and health aspects of communities (see Section 14).
45. Altman, J.C. 2007. ‘Neo-Paternalism and the Destruction of CDEP'. Arena Magazine, Aug-Sep 2007.