The UN expert committee on racial discrimination issued a please explain to the Australian Government overnight, asking how it will eliminate racial discrimination in the remote ‘work for the dole’ program imposed on remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The program, called the Community Development Program (CDP), undermines basic rights to waged work and income equality for people in remote communities. The program came to the attention of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in a hearing overnight in Geneva.
John Paterson, a partner CEO of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT alliance, said that the Government’s program requires people looking for work in remote communities to work up to 760 hours more per year for the same basic payment as people in non-Indigenous majority urban areas.
“We already knew that the Government’s program is a racially discriminatory one, which is displacing waged work and causing suffering in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Now the program has been called out on the world stage. What else will it take for the Government to listen to us and end CDP,” said Mr Paterson.
Adrianne Walters, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the program is also strangling opportunities for waged work in remote communities.
“Some people are required to do work that they should be employed to do. Instead, they receive a paltry social security payment that is nearly half of the minimum wage in Australia. It shouldn’t take being hauled over the human rights coals for Australia to realise that this program must come to an end and be replaced by a community-led approach,” said Ms Walters.
Australia was recently elected to a coveted seat on the UN Human Rights Council on a pledge to uphold Indigenous peoples’ rights ‘in word and deed’.
“The Australian Government said to the world that it would tackle Indigenous disadvantage in partnership with our people. Meanwhile the Government’s racially discriminatory program, imposed on remote communities by Canberra, is devastating our communities,” said Mr Paterson.
The Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT has developed an alternative model for fair work and strong resilient communities, a program designed around services and opportunities and institutional arrangements, called the Remote Development and Employment Scheme, which was launched in September with broad community support.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities want to take up the reins and drive job creation and community development. Communities need a program that sees people employed on decent pay and conditions, to work on projects the community needs. Our alternative Scheme will do just that. It’s time for Government to work with us,” said Mr Paterson.
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519
Brionee Noonan, Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT: 0488 006 680