Black Australia Would Be 'Essentially Free Labour' Under Work-For-The-Dole Changes


Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory will be working for around $5 cash an hour under changes to a remote work-for-the-dole scheme, bringing back memories of the old 'work for rations' days. The Abbott government has announced changes to the Remote Jobs and Community Program (RJCP), which replaced the Aboriginal-controlled Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) after it was scrapped by the Howard government. It will put tougher requirements on welfare recipients in remote areas, who are already working for the dole, and where the scrapping of CDEP has had disastrous consequences.


In the Northern Territory, the situation is even more dire because of compulsory income management, one of the most controversial planks of the NT intervention.


CDEP was abolished under the NT intervention in 2007, but the Rudd government brought back a severely watered down version of the scheme, before it was transitioned into the RJCP.


Previously, CDEP employed about 7000 Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, who were paid real wages for their employment, which was provided through a block grant to community-controlled Aboriginal organisations. It included superannuation and protection under industrial mechanisms like the Fair Work Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.


In many communities it was the only source of employment and before 2007 was the largest employer of Aboriginal people in the Territory.


The scrapping of CDEP in the Northern Territory increased unemployment rates "dramatically", Indigenous policy expert Jon Altman has written.


Under the current RJCP, Aboriginal workers in NT communities were already working 16 hours a week for Newstart wages. The new changes will toughen requirements, forcing welfare recipients in remote areas to work 25 hours, five days a week over 52 weeks in order to receive their welfare payments.


In contrast, recipients in regional areas and cities will only be required to work under these conditions for six months, under wider reforms to welfare across Australia.


It is the first response to mining magnate Andrew Forrest's Creating Parity report, which called for the end of 'passive welfare'.


If welfare recipients under the RJCP do not turn up to work, their payments are docked. The Abbott government plans to make job providers "contractually obliged to report non-compliance".


"The changes proposed will ensure RCJP job seekers do attend their appointment or feel the consequence of their passive welfare behaviour more immediately," a briefing document obtained by Guardian Australia says.


"Job seekers will learn the behaviours expected of workers, for example by there being immediate consequences for passive welfare behaviour."


Parliamentary secretary on Indigenous affairs Alan Trudge confirmed this in The Australian today, writing "The new remote work-for-the-dole scheme will have a no-show, no-pay policy. Fail to turn up one day, then the person's payment for that week will be 20 per cent lower. Strict rules are constantly requested by community leaders. We will deliver".


But Aboriginal workers under RJCP are already working for rations, many doing council, municipal or aged care work that would be real jobs anywhere else in Australia.


In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal welfare recipients will in turn have half of their welfare payments quarantined under compulsory income management, meaning that single recipients with no dependents will effectively be working for $5 an hour cash, with the other $5 going on their Basics Card.


In the absence of work in these NT remote communities, many of the 'activities' involve council and municipal work for the Super Shire councils, which replaced 52 Aboriginal-controlled local government councils in 2008.


The shire councils are largely controlled by non-Indigenous people.


Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning researcher Paddy Gibson refers to it as "essentially free labour".


"Most of the work under RJCP is free labour for these big shire councils. I know people grading roads, fencing, people doing all sorts of construction projects, people in child care and aged care."


He says these changes will just make it harsher and tighten up the requirement to dock pay.


"In theory this is already happening with people having to work 16 hours. The difference between this and CDEP is that CDEP was Aboriginal controlled, and it was an actual job with a wage covered by the industrial system.


"A lot of the time it was supporting black enterprise and you could do more work and get paid for it.


"Under the RJCP there's no provision for top up pay."


The government told the ABC it will be looking to employers, such as local councils, aged care facilities and schools to host "work for the dole activities".


Mr Gibson also says under the current RJCP, the call was also opened up for businesses to take part.


He says RJCP also discourages job seekers because if you are employed in other work, it will mean your Newstart wages will be cut.


"If you do any work that brings in an income, it will actually make the amount of money you are getting on the dole go down. So you could get a 10-hour casual contract at the local store, but why would you when you still have to work 25 hours for RJCP for a reduced dole?"


Labor's Indigenous affairs spokesman Shayne Newmann has already questioned whether the policy is discriminatory, raising the possibility it could breach Racial Discrimination Act.


Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion says it doesn't as "there is no distinction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous job seekers".


Senator Scullion says the government will also support the creation of businesses in remote communities.


But Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has slammed the new requirements, saying they create "false hopes".


"I don't think that the program that the Government said that they are going to do, which is put some money in to promote small businesses, will be effective," she said.


"You need to be training people on the first instance. There are job-ready skills that need to be provided and the work, at the end of the work-for-the-dole-program, I suspect won't be there."

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MELBOURNE, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- The gap in indigenous infant mortality rate Australia's Victoria state has not closed over the last decade but is still higher than anticipated, researcher said on Tuesday.


A six-year report on research by fellows from the University of Melbourne has shown highlighted that during 1999 and 2008, aboriginal births made up 1.6 percent of all births in Victoria, yet accounted for 3.1 percent of infant deaths.


The researchers based their "Victorian Aboriginal Child Mortality Study" on data surrounding the number of births and deaths of indigenous Victorians in the ten years.


"We now have data that shows there has been no significant change in the rate of deaths between 1999 and 2008 of aboriginal babies in Victoria and the risk of aboriginal infant deaths in the first year of life remains twice as high as for non-aboriginal babies," said Professor Jane Freemantle, lead researcher at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.


"While the gap in aboriginal mortality in the first 28 days is closing, by all other measures the Victorian aboriginal infant mortality gap is not," he said in a statement on Tuesday morning.


"The results of this research are fundamental to improving health systems and developing evidence-based policies to improve the health of Victorian aboriginal infants and children," the professor said.

Press Release - Freedom Summit: “Tougher rules” are racially discriminative.

Tougher rules for the Aboriginal communities who will be forced to “work a full year 5 days a week on welfare wages”.

The Original Peoples Freedom Movement are diametrically opposed to the punitive and exploitative work; five days a week, 12 months a year, dole scheme proposed by the Abbott Government that racially discriminates against the Original Peoples of Australia.

“This is nothing more than an all too familiar ploy to further assimilate our people through forced removal from their Traditional Homelands. Research from Amnesty International and the Menzies School of Health clearly shows it remains essential to our peoples wellbeing and long-term health that we are to remain in our Traditional Homelands and APY communities, ” said Freedom Summit representative Paul Spearim Jnr.

This is the Government’s first policy kow-tow response to mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s Indigenous employment report that discriminates against both race and locality. The remote scheme targets Aboriginal communities without Government infrastructure and industry not supported by Government. It is a policy that will force Homeland Communities to come into the already disease ridden overcrowding and poverty-riddled townships funded by Government that Aboriginal people escaped from over 40 years ago.

The Northern Territory Australian of the year, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks was forceful in her rejection of the policy. “Stop the assault, the Government is in violation of human rights. We demand that they stop the dictatorship and assault on first Australians. I want an absolute halt to the punitive assault of our people. I will not use diplomacy when I speak as a Black woman under threat. The trauma of the intervention has cost lives... depression is high, suicide in numbers we have never seen – and now with the call for five days a week slavery on welfare wages will mean the end of the homelands and moving our people into the ghetto’s and townships.”

“We have to rise above what is happening. I will not be dictated to by anyone. I speak from the degree of my Traditional Homelands. That is who I am and who I represent and I now find myself speaking as a Black woman fighting for survival. I will not be whitewashed in my thinking. Once again I state that we are not the problem,” said Ms Kunoth-Monks.

This racially targeted, racist policy will be aggressively rolled out region by region, starting next July.

“This is nothing but an outrageous land grab and obscene discriminatory policy that as usual is being only implemented against one people without even the guise of consultation or negotiation. It is part of an ongoing attack against the human rights of the most vulnerable of our First Nations. And who is leading this? Andrew Forrest? Or Tony Abbott? They are looking for the cheapest labour force they can establish on the backs of our people,” said Tauto Sansbury.

Media Contacts:

Tauto Sansbury
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks
Paul Spearim Jr