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Working paper

In July 2013, a new Australian Government-funded labour market  program was implemented across remote Australia: the Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP). The program (now renamed and restructured as the Community Development Programme - CDP) had a case load of around 36 000 people, of whom about 85% were Indigenous. Most people in the program were required to participate in activities as a condition of receiving income support and were subject to the Job Seeker Compliance Framework, which sets out financial penalties and safeguards for those who fail to comply. This paper examines penalties applied to participants in RJCP during the two years from 1 July 2013 and compares them with penalties applied under the general equivalent program, Job Services Australia. We find that penalties were applied to RJCP jobseekers at a much higher rate, and that this was particularly the case for penalties associated with mandatory Work for the Dole-type activities and 'persistent noncompliance'. The difference appears to arise from (1) more onerous program requirements in RJCP, (2) ineffectiveness of protections for remote jobseekers, and (3) different individual and local responses to program requirements and penalties. We end by noting the recent reform of RJCP into CDP and the likely impact on future application of financial penalties. 

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