Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

$24.5 million to progress Cape York Welfare Reform

The Australian Government will invest $24.5 million over two years to build on the significant gains that have been made in improving Aboriginal people’s lives in the four communities participating in the Cape York Welfare Reform trial.

This funding injection in the 2013-14 Budget will continue the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) and other key parts of the program, as well as introducing new measures to further support school enrolment and attendance, and re-engage disengaged youth with education, jobs and life skills in the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the Australian Government’s funding includes provision to operate the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) in the participating communities, to help ensure children attend school every day.

“The recently released evaluation of the Cape York trial showed that the Family Responsibility Commission is very effective in increasing parental responsibility and school attendance amongst many families it works with,” Ms Macklin said.

“While we have seen a significant increase in school attendance through the trial, it is clear that for some families more needs to be done to ensure all children are getting a decent education and attending school every day in all four communities.

“The local Family Responsibility Commissioners have told us that further efforts are needed to engage hard to reach families and ensure they send their children to school.

“That is why we want to work with the Family Responsibility Commission and our welfare reform partners to implement SEAM as part of the Cape York welfare reforms, with a key role for the FRC.

“The Queensland Government has a key role to play in ensuring children attend school and I am asking them to work with us to support the introduction of SEAM in these communities.”

Under the enrolment component of SEAM, parents will be required, if requested, to demonstrate to Centrelink that their children are enrolled at school.

The Family Responsible Commission will be made aware of parents of children who are not enrolled and will work with them to address any barriers to enrolment.

If children fall below the set attendance benchmark, the Family Responsibility Commission will work with families, the schools and Centrelink to develop attendance plans.

If parents do not meet their part of the agreed attendance plan, income support payments may be suspended. Payments will be reinstated once the parent complies with their responsibilities.

Ms Macklin said that the evaluation also showed that there a number of young people who are not participating in education, training or employment.

“We want to see young people fulfilling their potential and learning the benefits of personal responsibility,” Ms Macklin said.

“That is why we will also introduce a package of measures to support disengaged young people between the ages of 16 and 21.”

Newly funded youth workers will be available to provide better support to young people in the communities. They will work closely with the FRC and with disengaged young people to help them develop an action plan to undertake education or training, address any barriers to participation, develop the skills needed to get a job, and where relevant, improve their parenting skills. The FRC will also have the option of referring them to income management.

Ms Macklin said that while progress has been made in the Cape York Welfare Reform communities, the Australian Government did not underestimate the challenges that remain.

“It is clear that communities in Cape York are making changes and want to take responsibility for themselves and their families. We will continue to support them to do this.”

“The Australian Government’s continued investment and the introduction of the additional measures will help build on the significant gains already made, as well as target the harder to reach groups in the communities,” Ms Macklin said.

“Local communities have shown they want to take responsibility and the Australian Government is committed to working with them to do this.

“The Queensland Government has a clear role to play in relation to school attendance and support for disengaged young people, as well as in ensuring that the important gains already made through the Cape York Welfare Reforms are not lost.

“I will continue to urge the Queensland Government to fulfil their ongoing responsibility to the people of Cape York.”