The Australian Government is denying access to basic rights to equality, work and income for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through its racially discriminatory remote work for the dole program.
In a joint statement lodged with the UN Human Rights Council, the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT and Human Rights Law Centre urged the Australian Government to abandon its racially discriminatory ‘Community Development Program’ and replace it with an Aboriginal-led model.
John Paterson, a CEO of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, 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.
“The program discriminates on the basis of race, with around 83 per cent of people in the program being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. This is a racially discriminatory program that was imposed on remote communities by the Government and it's having devastating consequences in those communities,” said Mr Paterson.
Adrianne Walters, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the program is also denying basic work rights to many people in remote communities.
“Some people are required to do work that they should be employed to do. Instead, they receive a basic social security payment that is nearly half of the minimum wage in Australia. People should be paid an award wage and afforded workplace rights and protections to do that work.” said Ms Walters.
The statement calls for the Federal Government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a model that treats people with respect, protects their human rights and provides opportunities for economic and community development.
“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. It’s time for Government to work with us,” said Mr Paterson.
The Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT has developed an alternative model for fair work and strong communities, called the Remote Development and Employment Scheme, which was launched in Canberra two weeks ago with broad community support.
“The new Scheme will see new opportunities for jobs and community development and get rid of pointless administration. Critically, the Scheme provides incentives to encourage people into work, training and other activities, rather than punishing people already struggling to make ends meet,” said Mr Paterson.
The Human Rights Law Centre has endorsed the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT’s proposed model.
“Aboriginal organisations have brought a detailed policy solution to the Government's front door. The Scheme would create jobs and strengthen communities, rather than strangling opportunities as the Government's program is doing,” said Ms Walters.
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519