Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Cape York Welfare Reform Trial

The Australian Government will introduce measures to enable participants in the Community Development and Employment Program (CDEP) to come under the jurisdiction of the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC), as part of the Cape York welfare reform trial.

These measures will mean income management can be extended to CDEP participants who aren’t meeting parental and community responsibilities.

This could include circumstances where:

  • a child has three unexplained absences from school;
  • a person is subject to a child safety notification or report; or
  • is convicted of an offence; or
  • breaches a public housing tenancy agreement.

As part of the Cape York welfare reform trial, Family Responsibilities Commissions (FRCs) are being established in Aurukun, Hope Vale, Coen and Mossman Gorge from 1 July. FRCs will have the power to refer people to support services including drug and alcohol, mental health and relationship counselling, as well as recommend income management.

From 1 July, compliance with FRC directions will be required under CDEP guidelines in the four Cape York trial communities. This means FRCs will have the power to remove a non-compliant participant.

CDEP participants who are referred to the FRC and subsequently fail to comply with their directions may be moved on to a relevant income support payment for 12 months. As an income support recipient they will need to meet a number of obligations set out by the FRC. Centrelink will be able to income manage their welfare payments to ensure money is spent on essential items and is used for the wellbeing of children.

These measures aim to encourage stronger families and safety for children in remote Queensland Indigenous communities.

In December 2007, the Australian and the Queensland Government with the Cape York Institute announced an historic agreement to work together to tackle the problems caused by drug and alcohol abuse in four trial Cape York communities.

If the welfare reform trial is to successfully restore social norms and build strong families in these remote communities, the majority of people who live there must come within the jurisdiction of the FRC.

The Australian and Queensland Governments have committed $96 million to support the welfare reform trial.