The CDEP scheme in a new policy environment: Options for change?

Author/editor: Altman, JC
Year published: 1997
Issue no.: 148


The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme was first introduced in 1976-77, by the Fraser Coalition Government. It is currently being reviewed by a team appointed by the Howard Government. The paper discusses the genesis of the scheme, its nature, past reviews and its survival and expansion.

The major achievements of the CDEP scheme include:

  • its undiminished popularity;
  • its sheer survival;
  • its ability to create a mechanism to facilitate productive activity in many contexts; and
  • its ability (and potential) to supplement low cash incomes that would otherwise hit a very low welfare ceiling, especially in remote, relatively underdeveloped, regions.

Limitations of the CDEP scheme include:

  • the lack of tangible and convincing evidence of success, be it in income supplementation, employment creation, community development or enterprise creation;
  • its inability to provide training to scheme participants and participating organisations;
  • the absence of well-defined exit options; and
  • ongoing administrative problems, especially in maintaining accurate participant schedules.

This paper suggests that the future survival of the CDEP scheme may be dependent on:

  • a concerted government focus on the resolution of a number of marginal eligibility issues;
  • the relative performance of the mainstream work-for-the-dole scheme as a benchmark that may highlight the efficiency or inefficiency of the CDEP scheme;
  • significant rearrangement so that the employment creation and income supplementation objectives can be clearly differentiated from the income support and community development (welfare substitution) objectives; and
  • clearly distinguishing scheme participants that work from non-working participants who are usually spouses of workers.

Addressing these major issues may require some reduction in the current independence afforded participating communities in deciding how CDEP scheme funding allocations are divided. While such community autonomy is a major strength of the scheme from the Indigenous perspective, it is also resulting in a wide diversity in outcomes that is making rigorous evaluation and associated allocation of discretionary resources extremely problematic.

ISBN: 0 7315 2583 3

ISSN:1036 1774

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