The federal government’s remote work-for-the-dole scheme is racially discriminatory and fails to address the key issues behind high unemployment in remote Indigenous communities, legal groups have said. The Human Rights Law Centre and the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency both provided submissions to the federal inquiry into the community development program, which was launched in July 2015. The CDP requires participants to do 25 hours a week of “work-like” activity to receive welfare payments. The Indigenous affairs minister, Nigel Scullion, has repeatedly defended the CDP, which he said provided greater flexibility for people, empowered communities, and would re-engage the 60% of participants who left the previous remote job program and ended up on “passive welfare”. But the organisations said the program forced people into positions which should be fully paid real jobs, was vaguely defined, poorly regulated and overly punitive. “The cultural, language and health barriers Aboriginal people in remote communities face accessing support and services are well known,” said the law centre’s director of legal advocacy, Adrianne Walters. “Taken with all the extra obligations under the program, it should come as no surprise to the government that Aboriginal people in remote communities are being unfairly and disproportionately penalised and left vulnerable.” The legal organisations said the program failed to address a key issue behind unemployment in remote communities – a lack of jobs – and in fact stifled employment because the CDP positions replaced paying jobs that would have workplace protections. They also criticised the program’s requirement of “work-like activity” as vague or not adequately regulated. “People are doing activities which should be paid employment or perceive activities as being the same as work,” Naaja’s submission said. A senior Naaja lawyer, Harley Dannatt, said the program was “not fair”. “If you live in a remote Aboriginal community, you can be doing three times more work for the same amount of money as someone living in town.” Naaja said the premise of the program was racially discriminatory because it placed higher obligations on people living in remote Indigenous communities, and Centrelink failed to properly communicate with clients.

Helen Davidson in Work for the dole racially discriminatory in remote areas, inquiry told (Guardian)

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