Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Independent evaluation of Cape York welfare reform finds signs of change

Joint Media Release with:

  • Desley Boyle MP, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships

An independent evaluation of the ground-breaking Indigenous welfare reform program underway in Cape York has found that positive change is occurring in the communities where the program is running.

It shows that governments have worked with local Indigenous leaders to successfully implement an innovative initiative over a short time.

The report, prepared by consulting firm KPMG in partnership with Courage Partners, focuses on the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC), which is a key part of the trial in the Indigenous communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

The FRC is made up of Local Commissioners, who are respected local people, and retired senior magistrate Commissioner David Glasgow. The Local Commissioners hold conferences with community members and refer people to support services, and when necessary income management.

The report also found average attendance rates for community members called to attend FRC conferences were around 60 – 70 per cent, which compares favourably with other conditional welfare initiatives, such as when job seekers are required to attend interviews with case managers.

The Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the FRC was an example of the Government’s commitment to work with Indigenous people to rebuild the social norms that are necessary for strong families.

“The FRC works in very practical ways to protect children and other vulnerable people. The report found improvements within these communities in school attendance, care of children and community safety,” Ms Macklin said.

“Some of these changes are still fragile and we are not underestimating the challenges that remain. However, we believe this is an encouraging start.”

Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Desley Boyle said the Cape York program demonstrated the Government’s commitment to work in new ways to support Indigenous-led efforts to improve the lives of individuals and families.

“Many people consulted for the report said they found the FRC a good place to solve problems, and that the FRC can help people resolve troubles through talking with the respected Elders and working out a plan to fix the problem,” Ms Boyle said.

KPMG’s evaluation also highlighted opportunities to improve the Commission’s processes and communication with partners and community members.

This research showed that ongoing communication was needed to help the community and service providers to understand the FRC’s role. Recommendations included:

  • appointing one or more deputy commissioners;
  • streamlining FRC administration processes; and
  • providing training and development support for emerging and existing Indigenous leaders in the four communities.

The FRC is currently implementing these recommendations, in partnership with the Queensland and Australian Governments.

KPMG visited all four communities, where they observed FRC conferences in progress and worked with local Indigenous people to conduct focus groups and individual interviews.

This report is the first of a three-part evaluation of the Cape York welfare reform trial, which runs until the end of 2011.

A progress review will be undertaken in early 2011, feeding into the final report on outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

Cape York Welfare Reform is 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.

The evaluation is available at FaHCSIA website