Financial penalties imposed on 'job seekers' in remote areas: Why did they rise under RJCP (And what will happen under CDP?)

The Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP) began in July 2013 as a new single-provider, integrated approach to Commonwealth-funded employment and community participation services in remote areas. While not an Indigenous-specific program, the clientele of RJCP was anticipated to be predominantly Indigenous and Indigenous organisations were encouraged to apply for provider contracts, if not solely then in partnership with other organisations. Also RJCP was moved to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as part of the Abbott government's approach of administratively bringing together Indigenous programmes.

Data published quarterly by the Commonwealth Department of Employment shows that financial penalties imposed on 'job seeker' income support recipients in remote areas rose significantly and almost continually during the two-year life of RJCP. (RJCP was renamed the Community Development Programme from July 2015). This seminar will graphically present this significant rise in financial penalties (compared to non-remote areas and programs) and explore why this occurred. Increased activity requirements imposed on RJCP recipients will be prominent in these explorations. So too will be the limited face-to-face service capabilities of government and other service organisations in remote areas. We will even suggest, more speculatively, that some people may be leaving income support under the weight of these financial penalties.

In the final part of the seminar, we will suggest that these upward trends in penalties are likely to continue under the re-named Community Development Programme. CDP increases further activity requirements on 'job seekers' in remote areas and also directly links provider funding to monitoring attendance at these activities.

This research is part of Linkage Project 130100226 funded by Jobs Australia and the Australian Research Council.


Lisa Fowkes is a PhD Research Scholar attached to the 'Implementing the RJCP' project. For ten years she worked at Job Futures, a non-profit provider of government-funded employment services including JSA, DES and Green Corps. She was its CEO from 2007 to 2010. Job Futures' sub-contracting model assisted many remote Indigenous organisations to enter and compete in the employment services market. Since leaving Job Futures Lisa has worked as a consultant on employment services policy, social enterprise and non-profit management. 

Dr Will Sanders is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University.  He is the Chief Investigator on the 'Implementing the RJCP' project. Will joined CAEPR in 1993. His undergraduate training was in government, public administration, and political science, and his PhD in the 1980s was on the inclusion of Aboriginal people in the social security system. In 1997 he was commissioned by the Department of Family and Community Services to examine differences in the rate of penalties applied to Indigenous and non-Indigenous identified unemployment payment beneficiaries (CAEPR Research Monograph No 15). Will's research interests cover the political and social aspects of Indigenous policy, as well as the economic. He regularly works on Indigenous people's participation in elections, and on housing, local government and social security policy issues.


Date & time

Wed 02 Mar 2016, 12.30–2pm


Humanities Research Centre Conference Room, First Floor, A.D. Hope Bldg #14 (opposite Chifley Library), The Australian National University, Canberra.

Event series


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