Indigenous welfare reform in the Northern Territory and Cape York: A comparative analysis

Author/editor: Altman, JC, Johns, M
Year published: 2008
Issue no.: 44


This paper examines and compares two Indigenous jurisdictions in the Northern Territory and Cape York that have been subject to radical policy interventions by Federal and State Governments. The Northern Territory intervention emerged from the June 2007 release of the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle (Little Children Are Sacred) report into child abuse and neglect. The Cape York trial, as it has become known, is a four year trial devised by the Cape York Institute and Cape York Partnerships.

Although both interventions have focused on more than just welfare reform, the welfare reform legislation for both jurisdictions have been hotly contested in the public domain. This paper focuses principally on welfare reform and income management in the two jurisdictions, but does not examine all of the recent, related legislative changes in either the Northern Territory or Cape York. The focus also extends to the Community Development Employments Projects (CDEP) as it relates to the broader welfare agenda. Both the Cape York trial and the Northern Territory intervention assume a link between social dysfunction, child neglect and substance misuse on the one hand and ‘passive’ welfare on the other. The changes in both jurisdictions mean that a portion of welfare income can be sequestered for the purchase of basic household necessities. Both reforms aim to make welfare conditional upon responsible behaviour, which includes ensuring that children are enrolled at and attending school. The welfare reforms also target substance misuse by limiting income expenditure on alcohol. Further, both reforms aim to restructure labour market activity in remote communities by changing the rules for CDEP, Work for the Dole and other labour market programs.

This paper examines those welfare changes, looks at the similarities and differences between both interventions, and the potential consequences — intended or otherwise — of legislation targeted at only one section of Australian society.

ISBN: 0 7315 4943 0

ISSN: 1442 3871

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