Senate Committee told Government’s remote work for the dole program is racially discriminatory

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities are being denied basic rights and fair payment for work as a result of a racially discriminatory Federal Government program.

Today the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) gave evidence to a Senate Committee examining the appropriateness and effectiveness of the Government’s remote work for the dole program, known as the Community Development Programme.

Adrianne Walters, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that for some workers, the program requires them to work up to 760 more hours over a year, than someone in a job seeking program who lives in a non-remote area.

“The program exposes people to more financial penalties and requires people to work far more hours without any extra pay and for pay well below the national minimum wage. This is a racially discriminatory government program that is displacing waged work, seeing families go hungry and young people disengaged,” said Ms Walters.

A copy of Adrianne's opening statement to the Committee can be found here.

Around 83 per cent of the people covered by the remote program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The HRLC have endorsed a proposed new scheme by the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, a summary of which can be found here.

"Aboriginal organisations are bringing the 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.

The Federal Government introduced the Community Development Programme in remote communities on 1 July 2015. Since its introduction there’s been a sharp increase in financial penalties and reports of parents unable to buy food for their kids.

Ms Walters said even the Federal Government’s own data indicates that people in the program are at least 20 times more likely to be financially penalised than those under the non-remote job seeker program.

“The cultural, language and health barriers faced by Aboriginal people in remote communities trying to access support and services are well known. Taken with the more onerous obligations under the program, it should come as no surprise to the Government that Aboriginal people in remote communities are being unfairly penalised and left without money for food,” added Ms Walters.

A copy of HRLC’s submission to the inquiry can be read here.

For further information contact:

Adrianne Walters, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre: 0432 049 383