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Howard's Intervention

Howard's Intervention - Howards Intervention and the...

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Howard ʼ s Intervention and the Community Development Employment Program Will Owen November 2007 Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the invaluable assistance and guidance that Jon Altman, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University has given me in preparing this talk. Up until fifty years ago, Aboriginal stockmen worked cattle stations for clothing and rations, not wages. White Australians believed that Aboriginal people weren't "ready" to participate in a cash economy. Finally, in the 1960s, it was recognized that feeding and clothing workers, while providing them with no money, and chasing after them if they ran away and refused to provide labor under those circumstances was indeed a peculiar institution. Consequently, laws were passed to insure equal pay for equal work. The result was large numbers of Aboriginal stockmen found themselves unemployed, bereft now not only of cash but of food and clothing as well. Since that time cash has found its way into Aboriginal hands, in the form of unemployment benefits, payments to elderly pensioners, and support for women with children: through, in a word, welfare. Or in the more direct parlance of its recipients: sit-down money. In 1977, then, to provide employment and as an alternative to "sit-down money," the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) was born. The program was instituted "at the request of several remote Communities as an alternative to receiving unemployment benefits” The program takes the form of block grants to Indigenous communities for development, income support and employment creation. It supports activities as varied as: environmental monitoring through a program of land and sea rangers, packing and crating of art works for sale in urban galleries, operating community shelters for women and young people and, night patrols that help to keep safe tiny communities that have no police presence. In the community of Titjikala, south of Alice Springs, CDEP workers ran an Outback tourist resort: like many CDEP ventures, it offered on-the-job training in addition to providing the only significant employment opportunity in an isolated settlement.
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Individuals participate in CDEP on a voluntary basis: it's the opposite of passive welfare. One of the key factors in its success is its flexibility to accommodate cultural responsibilities. Participants can work fulltime or part time at their choosing. When ceremonial obligations take them away from the communities,
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