Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Strengthening Indigenous employment opportunities

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon. Brendan O'Connor MP, Minister for Employment Participation

The Australian Government today announced significant reforms to employment services to ensure more Indigenous Australians have the skills needed to get and keep a job.

The reforms to the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) Program and the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) will begin on 1 July 2009 and build on recent reforms of universal employment services.

The reforms are key to making progress on the Government’s aim of halving the employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.

Meeting our target means that an additional 100,000 Indigenous Australians will need to find and keep jobs over the next 10 years, requiring major reforms to Indigenous and mainstream employment services.

Employment contributes strongly to personal, social and economic development.

This announcement follows an extensive national consultation process, involving 1600 people in 56 locations around Australia. The Government also received 86 written submissions.

The Government has committed $764 million over five years to IEP and will make services more responsive to the specific needs of Indigenous job seekers, Indigenous businesses and employers.

The expanded IEP will build on existing program strengths and include more support for employers, especially small and medium businesses, including pre-employment training and mentoring.

IEP will target regional areas and specific industries experiencing labour shortages, as well as provide assistance to develop plans to recruit and retain Indigenous employees.
CDEP will be restructured with a strong focus on work readiness in remote areas with emerging and limited economies.

Under the CDEP reforms, community development will be boosted, with local priority projects supported, and resources provided for community development workers and local engagement officers.

CDEP will cease in non-remote areas with established economies.

In areas with established economies, Indigenous job seekers will be supported by the expanded IEP and the reformed universal employment services.

A new Community Support program will be established in urban and regional locations with significant Indigenous populations to assist Indigenous people to better access the employment programs and other services in those areas.

The reformed universal employment services will provide job seekers with more tailored assistance as well as training and work experience.

Employment service providers will have contract requirements to have an Indigenous employment strategy within their own organisations.

CDEP on-the-job work experience will provide 3,000 placements, with salaries paid by employers and incentives for employers through wage subsidies to provide these opportunities.

Under the reforms, incentives and participation requirements of CDEP participants and other Indigenous job seekers will be aligned – within and across communities.

From 1 July 2009, new CDEP participants will be paid income support, with existing CDEP participants continuing to access CDEP wages until 30 June 2011 before transferring to income support. This means young people and school leavers have the strongest incentives to get a job and existing CDEP participants are given time to transition.

Support will be available to assist local Indigenous CDEP providers expand their businesses or take up employment and other service provision opportunities.

Two thousand jobs will be created from previous CDEP-funded positions in government service delivery, and these will attract mainstream benefits such as award wages, access to superannuation, training and professional development.

This initiative will receive $172.7 million from the Commonwealth Government and $56.2 million from State Governments over five years under the COAG National Partnership on Indigenous Economic Participation.

The Australian Government will also provide additional funding of $203 million for more than 1,500 jobs already created in the Northern Territory from CDEP activities, and 40 jobs in four Cape York welfare reform trial communities.

Four hundred new traineeships across government services sectors and 60 full-time additional ranger positions in remote communities will also be created as part of the new Indigenous remote workforce strategy.

The new employment servicing arrangements in remote Australia will be reviewed after two years to ensure they are effective in meeting the needs of Indigenous Australians.