Northern Territory intervention receives a mixed response

Article image - Northern Territory intervention receives a mixed response

The Federal Government’s plan to abolish 8,000 Community Development Employment Project (CEPD) jobs across the Northern Territory has been received with mixed reactions across the State.

The Government aims to create 2,000 of what it is calling ‘real jobs’, and will move the remainder of the CDEP workforce on to Work for the Dole or training programs. The abolishment has already begun in a handful of small Aboriginal communities in Central Australia, while bigger Territory communities are monitoring the progress closely.

While in Titjikala it has meant a unique tourism business has had to be put on hold, Finke residents are now generating more income in the community than what was generated through CDEP.

Otherwise known as the Aputula Housing Association Inc., the Finke community is located 235 kilometres southeast of Alice Springs. With approximately 250 residents, the town includes a school, health clinic, general store and service station, Council Office, mechanical workshop and an adjacent airstrip.

Of the 28 workers on CDEP at Finke, 17 have now got job contracts, and CEO of Finke Council, Neville Mitchell, said he expects another six to eight to follow.

“Workers have been employed in a variety of positions, such as night patrol and different positions at the local Family Centre,” he said. “Two women in particular are now paid a full time wage to provide a nutrition program at the local school. They prepare breakfast and lunch for the children at the Family Centre and then transport it to the school for distribution. Other meals prepared at the Family Centre are also distributed to children at the on location crèche and as Meals on Wheels.”

Neville Mitchell said the 17 full time positions are funded by the Federal Government.

“With the Northern Territory Government still to get on board, we expect further positions to become available in the near future,” he said.

Neville Mitchell said while the program operates similarly to that of CDEP, the result has been a positive one for Finke.

“People, for the first time in their lives, have got full time jobs,” he said. “We are probably generating more income into the community as a result of those 17 full time jobs than what was being generated through CDEP.”

Meanwhile, at Titjikala in the Tapatjatjaka Community Government Council area, luxury tents offering bush style accommodation geared towards the international market remain empty. The tourist camp, which has currently suspended operation, created 60 part time jobs in Titjikala.

Council Clerk, Harry Scott, said while the intervention has not forced the operation to close down, it was brought in with so much speed and haste, that Council and resort operators had no time to process and sort out what options they had to keep it running.

“Previously, people working under CDEP in the morning were able to come and work at the resort for 10 to 15 hours per week at $15 per hour, without jeopardising their CDEP pay packets,” he said. “Under Work for the Dole, extra work attracts a big tax penalty. For an average person working an extra 10 hours a week and earning $150, they will be taking home about $45 in net economic terms for working those hours.

“We have a lot to sort out, but we’re sure we will have the operation up and running again in the near future.”