A regional CDEP for four remote communities? Papunya, Ikuntji, Watiyawanu and Walungurru

Author/editor: Sanders, WG
Year published: 2001
Issue no.: 224


The four remote Aboriginal communities involved in this study have not been among those with a Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) over the last ten or twenty years. Some interest in these communities having CDEP was expressed in early 2000, and as a result this study was commissioned by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). Papunya was given a CDEP with 50 participant places in October 2000, so by the time this study was conducted in June and July 2001 one of the four communities already had a CDEP.

Interviews based on a structured questionnaire were conducted in each of the communities with 20 Indigenous adults. Less structured interviews were also conducted with Council Clerks and with some other employees of organisations which might potentially take on CDEP participants as employees. ATSIC officers involved in CDEP administration in regional and central offices were also interviewed.

CDEP size has been an issue of some interest within ATSIC over recent years, with an emerging push towards larger multi-locational CDEPs as a better way of utilising CDEP on-cost resources. Hence the questionnaires in the four communities dealt not only with knowledge of and interest in CDEP, but also with whether interviewees thought their community could share a CDEP with the other communities in the regional group, particularly Papunya.

Interviews at Papunya revealed a good level of knowledge of CDEP. They also revealed grand plans for CDEP work activities which had, over the early months of CDEP implementation, not been realised. The report analyses in some detail why the challenge of providing 50 CDEP participants with purposeful work and adequate administrative and supervisory support has not been fully met at Papunya. It suggests that this issue is not unique to Papunya but is quite generally experienced in remote Aboriginal communities whose community councils take on large increases in their workforces through CDEP.

Interviews at Ikuntji revealed a quite different approach to CDEP. This community wished to start small, taking up only 12 of the 20 participant places on Papunya's CDEP which, at the time of the study, had just been offered to them. Interviewees at Ikuntji had less knowledge of CDEP than at Papunya, but their knowledge was still quite good. Half thought that Ikuntji could share a CDEP with Papunya without any problems, while the others were unsure or more doubtful. To overcome the potential for conflict and disagreement in sharing a CDEP, Ikuntji Community Council, on the advice of its Council Clerk, was seeking a written agreement with Papunya Community Council on how the CDEP participants based at Ikuntji would be serviced by the two organisations. Ikuntji Community Council's approach to CDEP, both in terms of starting small and wanting a written service agreement with Papunya, is endorsed and supported in the report.

At Watiyawanu, both an informal meeting of councillors and interview responses revealed some interest in going onto CDEP, but only if the CDEP could be separate from Papunya's. Knowledge of CDEP at Watiyawanu was considerable and further consultations between ATSIC and the Watiyawanu community are recommended before any move towards CDEP is made.

Interviews at Walungurru revealed considerably less interest in going onto CDEP than in any of the other communities. This was not because of a lack of knowledge, as knowledge of CDEP in Walungurru was considerable. Any mention of sharing with Papunya reduced interest in CDEP in Walungurru to virtually none. The report argues that the first priority in Walungurru is to stabilise Walungurru Community Council administration. Even after this is achieved, any move towards CDEP in the community will need to contend with a lower level of interest than in the other communities and virtually no interest in sharing CDEP with Papunya.

The final section of the report provides an overview analysis of CDEP size directed more to policy makers within ATSIC than to the communities. It argues that rather than being too small, many CDEPs in remote Aboriginal communities may in fact be too big. It argues further that rather than trying to develop larger multi-locational CDEPs, ATSIC should perhaps, through changes in rules and funding arrangements, be giving more support to small CDEPs.

ISBN: 0 7315 2659 7

ISSN:1036 1774

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