Jobs with Justice Statement

The following statement was published in The Australian and launched at rallies in Sydney, Alice Springs, Melbourne and Brisbane on October 29th 2010:

Stop the NT Intervention – Jobs with Justice for Aboriginal workers

Worse than Workchoices

The NT Intervention promised to deliver ‘real jobs’ for Aboriginal communities. Instead, thousands of waged jobs have been lost and Aboriginal organisations have been crippled as Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) close down.i

Under the new CDEP scheme designed by the federal Labor government, Aboriginal people no longer receive wages. They are being forced to work providing vital services such as rubbish collection, school bus runs, sewerage maintenance, construction and aged care in exchange for quarantined Centrelink payments.ii

People are compelled to work 16 hours a week for $115 cash, plus $115 credit on a ‘BasicsCard’ which can only be used on ‘priority items’ in government approved stores. Aboriginal workers have described this as a return to the “ration-days’ when they were paid in food instead of cash.

Centrelink is threatening to cut off payments entirely if people do not participate. Unclear guidelines and the vulnerable position of many workers have seen cases of people working 30 hrs or more for no extra money.[iii] This is far worse than anything the Liberals inflicted on workers under Workchoices.

The Labor government committed to halving the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in a decade. But due to a continuation of Howard era policies such as the Intervention, Indigenous unemployment has drastically worsened from 13.8% in 2007 to 18.1% in 2009.[iv]

500 ‘real jobs’ created to replace some of the lost CDEP positions in remote NT shire councils face the axe next year. The Commonwealth is refusing to guarantee ongoing funding of $8.5 million per year needed by the NT government to keep the jobs.[v] Many Aboriginal communities serviced by these shires already suffer atrocious living conditions – 500 more job losses will be devastating.

The NT Intervention shames Australia. Despite recent amendments, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) ruled in August that Intervention legislation provides clear evidence of  “embedded racism” against Aboriginal people. [vi ] The UNCERD report said living conditions had deteriorated for Aboriginal people under the Intervention through loss of land, property, employment, legal rights and opportunities for cultural development. [vii]

Rather than abandon failed policy, the government is planning to spend $350 million (over 4 years) to expand income management across the NT.[viii ] This money is desperately needed to create real jobs in Aboriginal communities and ensure the provision of basic services.

The government must act immediately to:

  • Guarantee the 500 threatened Shire jobs
  • End compulsory income management
  • End current CDEP arrangements forcing people to work for the BasicsCard
  • Turn all CDEP positions into fully waged jobs
  • Provide massive investment in job creation and service provision in all Aboriginal communities.


[i] There were approximately 7500 CDEP participants receiving wages in the NT before reforms that came with the Intervention. See Altman, J. Neo-Paternalism and the Destruction of CDEP, Arena90, September 2007 at

[ii ] See Gibson, P. Working for the BasicsCard in the NorthernTerritory, Jumbunna Indigenous House of  Learning UTS Briefing Paper at

[iii] The Age, June 16 2010,

[iv] Crikey, June 4 2010,

[v] ABC,

[vi] ABC,

[vii] A full copy of the UNCERD report is available at

[viii ] ABC,

List of endorsements:

Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc
Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA)
Aboriginal Support Circle – Older Women`s Network
Aboriginal Support Group Manly Warringah Pittwater
ANTaR Armidale
ASU Canberra/NSW branch
Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Australian Nursing Federation, Federal Office
Australian Services Union (ASU) SA/NT
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR)
Brisbane Aboriginal Rights Coalition
Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA)
Communist Party of Australia
‘concerned Australians’
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union
Ethnic Child Care Family and Community Services Cooperative Ltd
Greens NSW
Gurindji stop-work meeting (October 20)
Illawarra Aboriginal Rights Group
Intervention Rollback Action Group Alice Springs
Leichhardt Council LHMU (NT)
Liberty Victoria
Maritime Union of Australia
Melbourne Unitarian Church
Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC)
National Association of Community Legal Centres
National Tertiary Education Union
Ngoppon Together Inc
NSW Aboriginal Land Council
NSW Reconciliation Council
NSW South Coast branch of the MUA
NT Greens
Peace and Social Justice Network, Victoria Regional Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Reconciliation for Western Sydney
Socialist Alliance
Solidarity Choir, Leichhardt NSW
South Coast Labour Council
Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney
Tangentyere Council
The Amoonguna Community Council Inc.
The Greek Orthodox Community of NSW Ltd
The Network of Immigrant and Refugee Women of Australia Inc
Tribal Warrior
Unions NT
UQ/QUT Students for Indigenous Rights
Urapuntja Aboriginal Corporation
Women for Wik
Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF)

Professor Jon Altman
Gil Appleton
Associate Professor Barbara Baird
Alice Beauchamp
Prof. Larissa Behrendt
Leonie Nampajinpa Chester
Sha Davies
Jocelyn Fairley
Judith Gamper
Vivi Germanos-Koutsounadis OAM
Dr Peter Gibson
Don Gobbett
Estelle Gobbett
Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM
Cathy-Anne Grew
Marcia Guild
Dr. Freya Higgins Desbiolles
Dr Kay Hollingshead
Brian Johnstone
John Leemans
John Lehman
Ian E Macindoe
Jeff McMullen
Wendy McMurdo
Sandra Milne
George Newhouse
The Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Susan Norrie
James Oaten
Christine Olsen
Sue Packham
Jane Paterson
Linda Pearson
Loui Pham
Elspeth Reid
Jon Rose
Dr Rosie Scott
Stephen Sewell
Senator Rachel Siewert
Gracelyn Smallwood
Marcus Strom
Warwick Thornton
Dr John Tomlinson
Anne Vadiveloo
Bronwyn Vost
Sam Watson
Bethany Wheeler
Alexis Wright
Josephine Zappia


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