Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Cape York welfare reform trials to begin in 2008

Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, today announced $48 million to fund welfare reform trials in Cape York.

Mr Brough said the Australian Government’s agreement to support the trials followed consideration of the recommendations in the Cape York Institute’s From Hand Out to Hand Up report, which was presented to the Australian Government in June.

“This initiative is an expression of the overwhelming desire of people in Cape York to ensure their children grow up in a safe home, attend school and enjoy the same opportunities like any other Australian child,” Mr Brough said.

“Four communities will be invited to participate in the trials – Hope Vale, Aurukun, Mossman Gorge and Coen.

“The trials will begin at the start of the 2008 school year, subject to the support of the communities and the passage of legislation by the Queensland Government.”

Mr Brough said the trials would promote engagement in the real economy, reduce passive welfare and rebuild social norms, particularly as they affected the welfare of children.

“Education will be at the forefront of the trials with $12 million that will fund programs to improve literacy, assist parents contributing to their children’s education and introduce changes to ABSTUDY allowing eligible students to study at boarding school,” Mr Brough said.

“There will also be reforms to Indigenous employment services and programs to enhance incentives to take up real jobs, education or training, improve work readiness and people’s capacity to find work both within and outside their communities.

“I am also pleased to announce that 40 Australian Government jobs in service delivery will be created by converting existing CDEP positions into real jobs.

“This is in addition to $5 million to boost local job creation through infrastructure and support required for self-employment opportunities and the development of small businesses.

“Another $2 million will be provided to extend the Pride of Place initiative which will be linked to tenancy reforms.”

Mr Brough said he expects the Queensland Government to pass legislation to create a Family Responsibilities Commission, constituted by respected members of the community and chaired by a retired magistrate.

“The Commission will be authorised under the Social Security Act to refer Centrelink customers into an income management arrangement in certain circumstances.

“The Australian Government will also provide $5 million to contribute to the cost of case managers who will support people referred the Commission and provide a fund from which they will be able to purchase specialist services.”

Mr Brough said additional funds would be provided for Conditional Income Management services and for the expansion of the Family Income Management program.

“Families will be required to send their children to school, protect them from harm and meet basic tenancy obligations.

“Those who fail to meet these obligations will be referred to the Family Responsibilities Commission which will decide if a breach has occurred and what the consequences should be.

“The Australian Government will work together with the Cape York Institute and the selected communities throughout the duration of the trials.

“I thank the people of Cape York for their determination and commitment to improve their lives and provide a safe and prosperous future for their children,” Mr Brough said.