29 November 2014
A peak Aboriginal health organisation has slammed reported changes to employment policy in remote communities calling it bad policy developed in isolation from the reality of community life and likely to worsen already poor health outcomes for Aboriginal people.
“This is poor policy, as thin as the paper it’s written on, and as remote from our people’s lives as Canberra is from the bush,” said Justin Mohamed Chair of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).
“Forcing Aboriginal people to work in “work-like” dole activities to supposedly replicate “real work” means the government is admitting what we all know, that there is a drastic shortage of jobs in these remote areas.
“Jobs will not magically appear because a policy changes.
“What is needed is investment in better infrastructure through local communities to work as the lever to create jobs.
“Adding more punitive measures for non-compliance is also likely to further entrench poverty in remote communities and impact on health – extending the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
“We already witness appallingly high rates of mental health and suicide in these communities and there is no evidence that forcing individuals to do meaningless work for the sake of it does anything to improve their health outcomes.
“This proposed policy thinly resembles a back-to-the future CDEP (Community Development Employment Program) but is bereft of the broader understanding of how community and development influence employment.
“We again see no evidence of understanding the interconnection between social, cultural, health, education and economic factors, and people’s ability to engage in work.
“The biggest employer in many communities is the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. ACCCOs provide real employment and on the job training and is the biggest employer of Aboriginal people in some communities.
“A larger investment in infrastructure such as ACCHOs, and expanding them into more communities, will improve health and will also contribute towards the multifaceted employment challenges in remote communities.
“Without this recognition of the systemic and infrastructural barriers to achieving good health and workforce participation in remote communities this policy is unlikely to help Aboriginal employment opportunities in any way.”