Internet Edition Issue 5
The Essential "Kimberley Companion"
La Grange Mission 50th Anniversary
From the Office of Justice,
Ecology & Peace
Opening of Kimberley Education and Resource Centre
Changes to CDEP
By Br Shane Wood cfc
In recent months, the Government, through the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, has indicated that there will be significant changes to the management and delivery of the CDEP (Community Development Employment Projects) program. The subtitle to the Future Directions paper was ‘Building on Success’. There might be those who would want to question howsuccessful previous programs have been, but we will leave that asidefor the moment and concentrate on the proposals.
One of the basic building blocks for the new approach is a commitment to match programs with local community needs. This is an admirable aim and most people would applaud such a goal. Another is the desire to have a ‘whole of government approach’ as has been experimented with COAG arrangements in places like Balgo. Despite this likewise admirable goal, many people on the ground in these places
would say that nothing much has changed and that COAG has not brought the benefits that were promised.
More worrying however, is the desire of the Minister to link CDEP programs more closely with SRA’s (Shared Responsibility Agreements). [Ed. See this month’s Editorial] While there are serious questions about the SRA’s there must surely be doubt about the effectiveness of this linkage.
There is more to come! The further hopes of the Minister are that those on CDEP will not stay there for very long and that they will move to non-CDEP employment in time and that the current exemptions from this expectation for those living in remote areas will eventually be removed. Why the concern? Well, what has been put in place to provide training and education in workplace practices for those who are expected to move to non-CDEP employment? How many non-CDEP jobs are there going to be for those in the very remote areas of the Kimberley? Cultural attachment to country and close links to family preclude the obvious solution – move to where the jobs are.
In many places and for a variety of reasons, the current CDEP programs are not a success if they are to be measured by Government expected outcomes. So why would anyone expect this new approach to be any better? There are too many other social factors working against the success of such programs, and these factors are well upstream of getting on a CDEP program. While communities are unable to have guaranteed supplies of water and power, while health and nutrition
remain significant issues, while the achievement of basic literacy and numeracy remains a huge challenge, while overcrowding and substandard housing remain the norm, whilst family violence linked to substance abuse continues to traumatise many young people, ‘the one size should fit all’ proposals of Kevin Andrews seem to be destined to become another failed Government program thrown at remote
Some of our Federal Ministers would do well to spend more of their parliamentary recesses living for a few weeks in some of our Kimberley remote communities. Maybe then they would come closer to understanding why their programs and plans are beyond the capacities and readiness of our most disadvantaged people, and therefore likely to set them up for failure (and no doubt blame) once again. At this time, it seems to me that capacity building at the front end is a more urgent need than tinkering with CDEP.