Working for the BasicsCard in the Northern Territory

21 May 2010

The “ration days” have returned to NT Aboriginal communities.
People involved in the recently reformed Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) are working up to 40 hours a week, but only being paid the equivalent of their Newstart allowance through Centrelink.
50 per cent of this payment is quarantined through the Income Management system. It is put onto a BasicsCard that can only be used to buy certain items in certain shops.
Regional Shire Councils are relying on this free pool of labour to provide a host of services including garbage collection, construction, maintenance and cleaning. CDEP participants are also employed in a diverse range of community workplaces, from art centres to schools.
In some areas, notices are being posted at the shop and shire office, listing the names of local people on Centrelink and demanding they report for CDEP work or lose their payments.
Aboriginal communities in the NT have historically been among the most neglected and impoverished areas in the country, giving rise to a range of acute social problems.
Compounding these problems, a number of Federal and NT Government policies have been operating together since 2007 to create an environment where overtly discriminatory and exploitative employment relationships have been able to thrive. Brief detail on each of these policies is provided in this paper.

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