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Indigenous Employment Strategy at Risk

Indigenous Australians have not benefited from recent high employment rates to the same extent as other Australians. The high participation rate in the Indigenous based Community Development Employment Project programs (CDEP) shows that, while many Indigenous Australians want to work, barriers prevent them from obtaining mainstream employment. CLOVER'S eNEWS - Friday 19 January 2007 - No. 330

A Commonwealth Government report, "Indigenous Potential meets Economic Opportunity", now proposes replacing CDEP in regions of high employment with the Structured Training and Employment Projects (STEP) brokerage service.

While this report has the stated aim of improving employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians, it fails to provide any framework to overcome barriers to employment which many Indigenous Australians face. Instead, it relies on the employment market to provide opportunities despite considerable evidence that it has not done so in the past.

In inner Sydney, the Redfern Aboriginal Corporation (RAC) has operated CDEP since 1991 with employment support for up to 100 participants at a time. While the RAC assists participants to obtain mainstream employment and provides mentoring services once employed, it also helps those unable to get mainstream employment.

I share community concern that removing CDEP from inner Sydney will deny disadvantaged Indigenous Australians access to specialist programs and support. Unlike CDEP, Indigenous organisations might not provide STEP and I have recommended that the Government continue to fund community-based organisations to provide culturally sensitive employment and mentoring services, and I have called for wider consultation before changes are finalised.

My submission is available from the Bligh office.

Link to City of Sydney submission Clover Moore Submission on CDEP