Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Reforms to Indigenous employment programs

Joint Media Release with:

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

The Australian Government today released a paper on the Government’s preferred model for Indigenous employment programs, Increasing Indigenous Employment Opportunity.

The proposed model includes reforms to Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP).

The Government’s reforms are a key element to meeting our target 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 strongly contributes to personal, social and economic development.

Indigenous employment programs must be geared towards creating opportunities and giving Indigenous people the skills and training needed to get and keep a job.

Following extensive community consultations earlier this year, the Government is proposing a model that will benefit Indigenous job seekers, communities and employers.

The Government recognises that conditions differ greatly between remote and non-remote Australia and this demands new solutions adapted to local needs and local economies.

The Government’s proposed reforms to CDEP and IEP build on reforms to the Universal Employment Services (UES). The UES reforms will commence on 1 July 2009.

For the first time UES providers will be required to have a comprehensive Indigenous employment strategy and to coordinate the delivery of services with local CDEP providers. CDEP providers are also being encouraged to play a greater role in the provision of UES.

Under the UES reforms, employment providers will work together forming partnerships at the local level.

Each of these programs will play a vital role in ensuring Indigenous job seekers develop the skills and capacity to find sustainable and meaningful employment.

UES will offer tailored help to get people ready for work and into sustainable jobs. In remote parts of Australia increased resources will be provided for service delivery.

Under the proposed new model, IEP would be expanded and would continue to focus on support for employers across Australia with assistance to meet the specific needs of employers and Indigenous job seekers. This would include developing foundation literacy and numeracy skills, mentoring, and support for business development.

In non-remote areas with established economies, CDEP would cease and Indigenous job seekers would be supported by the reformed UES and IEP. In remote areas with emerging and limited economies CDEP will be re-structured.

CDEP positions that have supported the delivery of government services would be converted to properly paid jobs.

A new community support program would be established to assist Indigenous job seekers access employment programs and other services in these areas. This will be separate from the reformed CDEP.

In remote areas, CDEP would be clearly and strongly focused on building skills and work readiness.

This would include:

  • building individual skills and capacity to take up work where opportunities arise;
  • boosting community development, including support for projects seen as priority by the community;
  • expanding the capacity of local Indigenous CDEP providers to deliver a range of employment and other services; and
  • supporting voluntary employment-related mobility.

A key element of the proposed reforms to CDEP would be aligning the incentives and participation requirements of CDEP participants with other Indigenous job seekers – within and across communities.

This would mean new CDEP participants would be paid income support from 1 July 2009.

It is proposed that existing CDEP participants would continue to be able to access wages until 31 March 2010.

Public consultations sessions on the discussion paper will be held across Australia and written submissions can be provided until 7 November 2008.

The Government encourages all interested individuals and groups to attend consultations to hear about proposed reforms.

The paper and details of sessions can be obtained at Indigenous Portal website ( or by calling 1802 102.