Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Progress for Cape York Welfare Reforms

An independent evaluation of the Cape York Welfare Reform trial has found that significant gains in the four participating communities are making a real difference in the lives of Indigenous people living in the cape.

In releasing the evaluation today, the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin acknowledged the progress being made but said there was still more to do.

“Since the trial began in July 2008 the Cape York communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge have seen improved school attendance, care and protection of children and community safety,” Ms Macklin said.

“We have seen a significant increase in school attendance in Aurukun, where it has risen from 46.1 per cent in the first term of 2008 to 70.9 per cent in the first term of 2012,” Ms Macklin said.

“The evaluation also found a large sustained fall in serious assaults resulting in injury in Aurukun in mid-2008, which reflects the impact of the closure of the Aurukun Tavern in 2008.

“The Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) has been shown to have played a crucial role in increasing parental responsibility and restoring social norms in communities.

“The evaluation also highlights challenges with assisting harder to reach groups in the communities, including young people who are no longer engaged in education.”

Ms Macklin said the Australian Government was committed to continuing funding for the trial, and called on the Queensland Government to do likewise.

“The Queensland Government should not be walking away from the people of Cape York because Premier Newman isn’t prepared to fund much needed services,” Ms Macklin said.

“I am extremely disappointed by the lack of commitment and lack of understanding shown by the Queensland Government.

“If Tony Abbott is serious about closing the gap and welfare reform he will get on the phone to Campbell Newman and demand Queensland reverse this bad decision.

“Minister Elmes talks about extending the FRC to other communities, without providing adequate funding.

“Setting up the FRC and the Welfare Reform Trial was intensive and the right conditions need to be in place in communities for it to be successful – eighteen months of consultation and community engagement was undertaken prior to the trial commencing in the current four communities.

“The FRC also relies on support services and structures to refer people to for support – in particular Queensland Government services like early childhood services, family, health and mental health services. It is essential that Queensland continue to support these efforts,” Ms Macklin said.

Ms Macklin said the Australian Government did not underestimate the challenges that remain and increasing employment and home ownership opportunities remains a key priority.

“The trial aims to restore positive social norms, re-establish local Indigenous authority and support community and individual engagement in the real economy,” Ms Macklin said.

“The Australian Government knows this work takes time. We are committed and we want the Queensland Government to show similar commitment.”

Cape York Welfare Reform Trial has been a partnership between the four communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge, the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and Cape York Partnerships and regional organisations.

View the Cape York Welfare Reform (CYWR) Evaluation Report