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Government Employment Reforms a Calamity for Central Australia?

The Central Desert Regional Council has warned that new work for the dole rules announced by the Government have the potential to inundate Alice Springs and other regional centres with remote community job seekers and their families. 

The Council has written to the Australian Government urging them to review their policies. 

The Work for the Dole and jobactive employment services reforms, announced by the Australian Government over the last month, reveal a disparity between work for the dole obligations for remote residents compared to people living in urban addresses.

Council President Adrian Dixon says this could be a calamity for Alice Springs.  “There are different rules for people living in remote communities compared to people living in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek or Darwin.  If you live out bush you have to work for the dole for 25 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.  But if you live in an urban address your obligation to work for the dole is less per week and only 26 weeks a year. People will move into town to avoid the unfair rules and harsher penalties.” Mr Dixon said.

Under the recently announced reforms, remote community job seekers aged between 18 and 39 years will be required to work for 25 hours per week for 52 weeks per year. Meanwhile most urbanjob seekers will only be required to work 15 hours per week for just 26 weeks a year.

Mr Dixon fears that Government policy will once again drive people out of their remote communities and into town, as was the experience with the NT National Emergency Response.  “During the Intervention, people left their communities in droves to escape what they saw as unfair and racist rules. It resulted in over crowded public housing, increased alcohol abuse and increased violence, crime and anti social behaviour.  This just put more pressure on police, on housing and more demand on the hospitals”. Mr Dixon said

Council Chief Executive Officer Cathryn Hutton says that the disparity in the policies has the potential to create further disharmony in our towns.   “We should be learning from previous experiences. A two tiered employment service system doesn’t work. It provides a perverse incentive for people to leave their communities and move into town.  The urban drift will have significant and negative implications for services in regional centres. 

Ms Hutton said that equally, the policies will potentially have disastrous impact on communities and families. “The future of vibrant, developing communities depends on our people staying on community, adults participating in the economy and kids going to school.” Ms Hutton said.