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Redfern Residents for Reconciliation submission on CDEP Chganges

This is a copy of the RRR submission to the "Indigenous potential meets economic opportunity" Discussion Paper concerning the removal of the CDEP program. RRR have made their submission specifically in relation to how the proposed changes impact on Redfern.

Indigenous potential meets economic opportunity

Redfern Residents for Reconciliation (RRR) Response


Question 1  -  Amendments to locations

Redfern is a unique community, in a unique situation.

The NSW government already has agreements in place with the Federal Government. The RWA, Redfern-Waterloo Authority, has begun to outline employment strategies in the Redfern-Waterloo Employment and Enterprise Plan. The RWA employment strategy encompasses the CDEP program, and what RAC, Redfern Aboriginal Corporation is doing.

What is the point of such a plan, if a successful organisation and service, already in place, run by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people, with people in the community responsible to each other in the community, is slashed?

Scenario 1: If another organization were to win the contract for STEP brokerage, it would be destructive for the community, and devastating if RAC is destroyed.

Scenario 2: If RAC were to win the tender, and funding were not available to cover the community development aspects (hinted at but not fully explained), the restriction in services provided would still be devastating, for reasons which will follow.

Even if it were not running successfully, (far from the case), it would be foolish and counter productive to risk either closing or curtailing RAC. It would create confusion, disappointment, anger, lowering of morale, and disempowerment. It would be taking several steps back, without any certainty of a step forward.

Proposing to cease funding to Redfern CDEP makes a mockery of the whole RWA process.

We urge you to

  1. Remove Redfern from the list of 40 communities to cease CDEP funding, and add it to the list of  210 that will retain funding.
  1. Reconsider this drastic proposal for ALL CDEPs.

Question 2 What would be the key transition issues for affected CDEP participants?

The new directions are too narrowly focused on employment outcomes. Effective employment agencies are well and good, but CDEP provides a service which assists in other essential ways, meeting real needs. How will this vital support be sustained, and itself improved? And if not, WHY NOT?

With no clear explanation of the community development side of CDEP, the not unreasonable concern is that DEWR wants to phase it out. i.e. There is a brief statement, with no clarification, commitment or explanation. Its minimal treatment makes it appear as though DEWR considers it irrelevant, unimportant, non-essential.

DEWR’s  new directions are not acknowledging the unique circumstances of some groups of Aboriginal people. Removal of community development programs would have dire effects.

‘Regardless of our best efforts, groups of people have always experienced discrimination and disadvantage. Despite their desire and efforts to work, these groups find it hard.’ Tanya Plibersek, Federal Member for Sydney

Many Aboriginal people in Redfern are not born and raised in the area; they come from a variety of regions, and bring with them some of the characteristics of people in communities exempted from CDEP closure.

Certainly STEP brokerage will be able to match people with jobs. However preparation to become job-ready for a number of people is a slow steady process. It can’t be measured easily.

Some groups of Aboriginal people have significant barriers to entering the labour market. For some it is taking time, in a culturally appropriate, sensitive, supportive environment. It needs to be recognized that some may never reach the desired point. What of these long term job-seekers?

Concerns were expressed succinctly at a community forum on the CDEP changes held at Redfern Community Centre on 9th December.

‘If community service goes, the brokers would need to be very selective about the people they choose to promote / push into the commercial world. The new scheme might be successful getting jobs, but for a narrower range of people. It looks as though the ones who need help the most, won’t get it.’

‘They are currently employed and working (even if not to mainstream standards.)’

‘The option that appears to be offered to them is – forget it, walk away, give up.’

‘Bottom line – we are not going to be able to look after the community’

‘Why would the government want to put these people back out onto the street, instead of working, and working towards working, even if it is happening slower than we want? If there are no resources to support them, and they are sent back to the street, some will return to crime, possibly becoming what is known as LOCers – life of crime.’

As was said in the Wallaga Lake submission, it is wrong to assume that indigenous people can be eligible and compete in the labour market on the same terms as the rest of the community.

Issues that have prevented, or delayed some people moving off CDEP include

  • racism
  • alcohol and drug issues
  • family obligation
  • no other experience of employment, e.g. raised in a household where unemployment is the norm, sometimes for generations
  • unstable housing
  • transient lifestyles
  • range of social issues
  • criminal records

CDEP is effective in that it gives people meaningful tasks to do, while developing job readiness. The government itself has said there are better alternatives to people on welfare, waiting for handouts.

RAC submitted ‘The Community Development side of CDEP is vital to our community. It:

  • builds self worth,
  • raises self esteem,
  • builds community by contributing in a positive way, reducing anti-social behaviour,
  • helps people learn life skills,
  • raises awareness of our community needs,
  • promotes self determination and sustainability,
  • reinforces identity and culture’

The proposed changes are incomprehensible in the light of very recent statements from Kevin Andrews about substantial improvements, good figures and strong performance. i.e Twice as many people moved from CDEP into jobs in the last year. Worse, the welfare to work policy in this context has the following flaws regarding adequate training and skill development.


It has been said that if the expectation is that we have sustainable outcomes, it is in the community development environment of CDEP that the social issues and other barriers are addressed. It appears that the scheme only provides support for a limited time and the changes could leave people in trouble.

CofFEE, the Centre of Full Employment and Equity, referred to a paper from a Conference on Economic Efficiency and Social Justice. ‘Policies achieve tentative or short term reattachments to the labour force at the expense of deepening employment security.’

What assurance is there that there will be ENOUGH jobs – enough RELEVANT, APPROPRIATE jobs, and  how will people moving from CDEP into jobs be supported?


‘One of the main effects of forcing people into the labour market is that it cuts off their access to training, rather than providing them with skill development in order to move higher up. i.e It forces people to the bottom of the job pile’ Dr Ben Spies-Butcher, Greens candidate for Heffron


As stated in many submissions to the first proposal, Aboriginal people need

·         hands on training

·         in a culturally friendly environment

·         customised training with individual support

·         motivational training

‘The ability to perform well in training, and in a workplace dominated by non-indigenous people is an acquired skill that takes time and experience to develop.’ Sydney Region submission

CDEP is successful because it moves people from welfare to work through work experience and effective opportunities to develop skills useful in employment. It is a unique opportunity to gain work skills and learn work routines in a supportive team environment.

QUESTION  Can, or will a new enhanced employment ‘broker’ do the same ??

The government needs to remain sensitive to these issues. CDEP supports people to challenge the barriers they face, in gaining employment or education, to a sustainable outcome.

‘To claim that the government’s objectives can be achieved through the artificial separation of employment and community development activities of CDEP is to misunderstand, at a fundamental level, the productive nature of public sector employment.’ CofFEE

Question 3 What would be the key transition issues for affected CDEP service providers?

DEWR has dropped a bombshell on CDEP service providers.

1. If they win the contract, they will have to force their long-term job seekers off CDEP and send them to Centrelink,with the instability and fear of the future that will create. They would need to rebuild relationships, and a climate of trust. They would welcome the enhancement to their goal of enabling economic stability for as many people as possible, but that will be in the midst of a destructive, restrictive climate. Why cannot that very thing be done in such a way as to build on the current success?

2. If another organisation gets the ‘brokerage’, the ramifications will be huge. Aboriginal people will be even more excluded. How can such a thing be contemplated, even for a moment? Even if vague hints that  STEP might continue CDEP activities bear fruit, the proposal to abolish and replace Aboriginal services, successful and steadily improving, is extraordinary. The apparent repeating of history by this ‘mainstreaming’ has serious implications and repercussions.

Nobody disputes the need for people who are job ready to go into appropriate paid work, nor the desirability of improving what is successfully in place.

There is scope to improve  - why not ‘build on the successes’, AND meet our mutual obligations of reducing disadvantage and providing social and cultural support.

The impact, on the community of service providers, and the community as a whole, of this erosion of self determination, and community capacity building, would be too negative. If not racist, it is impractical.

4. What issues would need to be addressed when managing the impact on employers in the locations where enhanced STEP would be offered?

The amount of good will of employers would need to be ascertained, and further developed.

The racism that is still a reality; is still being practiced, would need to be countered and eradicated by a rigorous and committed education program. It should not be optional.

There would need to be extensive training in intercultural awareness and communication, and SENSITIVITY to Aboriginal peoples’ culture, history, protocols and social needs.

'There are currently around 20,000 jobs in the Redfern-Waterloo area –
more than double the resident workforce. Driving down local unemployment