Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Cape York Welfare Reform Trial set to continue

Joint Media Release with:

  • Curtis Pitt MP, Queensland Minister for Disability Services, Mental Health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships

The Australian and Queensland Governments have announced the Cape York Welfare Reform trial will continue until 31 December 2012, following extensive consultations with local communities.

The Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt also today tabled the Family Responsibilities Commission’s latest quarterly report in Parliament. The report outlines some of the trial’s progress.

Mr Pitt said since it began in January 2008, the ground-breaking trial had achieved encouraging results in promoting positive changes in the Far North Queensland trial communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

“Extending the trial provides an opportunity to build upon the success of initiatives already underway aimed at restoring local Indigenous authority, encouraging positive behaviours and improving economic and living conditions,” Mr Pitt said.

“The decision to extend the trial followed consultation with key partners in the reform program, the Australian Government and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, coupled with the Family Responsibilities Commission, elders, local councils and community representatives.

“Following on from these consultations, we became aware that while the reform trial has led to positive changes, there is still more to be achieved.

“Extending the trial will allow us to continue that work.”

The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) quarterly report tabled today showed that the trial is having some positive results.

“I’m pleased to see that people are finding income management a useful tool and are requesting the Family Responsibilities Commission to either continue or extend their time on income management, as it helps them stabilise their household budget and ensure bills are paid and children are fed,” Ms Macklin said.

“The Family Responsibilities Commission aims to move people from passive welfare dependence to engagement in the real economy, increase parental responsibility, restore local authority and build stronger, more resilient communities.”

Mr Pitt said one of the most positive changes from the trial was the contribution to closing the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

“The FRC works with community members to address school attendance, tenancy, Magistrate Court convictions and child safety issues,” Mr Pitt said.

Government agencies refer people to the FRC if their children are not attending school, there is a child safety issue, a breach of a tenancy agreement or they have been convicted of an offence in the Magistrates Court. The Commission then works with those people referred who are within their legal jurisdiction.

The latest quarterly report shows that the FRC received 677 notifications from government agencies within its jurisdiction between January and March 2011, down from 734 the previous quarter.

Across the four trial communities school attendance notifications dropped from 339 last quarter to 332 this quarter. Specific school attendance statistics for term one and two 2011 will be reported in the next quarterly report.

“While not a major drop, this is still a pleasing result because it demonstrates that fewer students had unexplained absences from school,” Mr Pitt said.

Ms Macklin said the FRC’s focus on education was an essential part of the trial.

“There’s no doubt that the work of the FRC is supporting increased levels of parental responsibility. I commend the outstanding work of the FRC Commissioners,” Ms Macklin said.

“The FRC will continue to work with schools and attendance case managers to ensure that parents of any child who hasn’t been attending school regularly are reminded by Local Commissioners of the importance of education,” Ms Macklin said.

“We want all children to attend school, so that they can get an education and the skills they need for their future.”

Mr Pitt said another particular point of interest was that Magistrates Court notifications decreased from 345 last quarter to 291 this quarter.

“Magistrates Court notifications decreased in all communities – and notably, Hope Vale has continued to see a decline in notifications for all quarters since quarter 6,” he said.