APY Lands: Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP)

First posted on 27 November 2007 under APY Lands & Employment.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: CDEP

Summary

For 30 years, Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) on the APY Lands were run by a number of local community-controlled organisations. Since 1 July 2007, CDEP has been delivered by a single organisation (Bungala Aboriginal Corporation).

In July 2009, the Federal Government changed the way CDEP operates on the APY Lands and other remote locations. More than two years later, the Australian National University reported that the changes appeared to be undermining CDEP’s potential, creating work disincentives and “encouraging a return to passive welfare.”[i]

As of 10 November 2011, there were 479 CDEP participants on the APY Lands.[ii]

The Paper Trail

Background

The Community Development Employment Projects scheme (CDEP) started in 1977. Around that time, a significant number of Aboriginal people living in remote areas were becoming eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Under CDEP, it was possible for people to stay off the dole and, instead, work part-time on projects and services that were important to them and their communities.[iii]

CDEP was popular with Aboriginal communities. In 1976/77, there were 100 CDEP participants across Australia. A decade later, there were 6000. By 2002/03, there were more than 35,000.[iv]

Although CDEP started in remote communities, in 1987 it expanded its operation to include urban and regional areas. This expansion had a significant impact on how governments began to view the program, particularly in connection to employment outcomes. Whereas in remote areas there were few jobs opportunities, in urban and regional areas governments became concerned that people were remaining on CDEP even when full-time employment was available.

In 2005, the Federal Government conducted an Australia-wide review of CDEP. In releasing the findings of the review, the Government emphasised the need for participants “to know that CDEP can provide a stepping stone to non-CDEP jobs even in more remote communities.”[v]

Throughout 2006, the Government implemented a series of changes to CDEP, particularly to urban and regional programs. This first wave of changes culminated on 30 June 2007 with the defunding of 40 CDEP organisations that, from the Federal Government’s perspective, were located “in strong labour markets with genuine access to real jobs.”[vi]

The rise and fall of urban and regional programs had a major impact on remote programs. This included an increased emphasis on moving people into ‘real’ jobs.[vii] For example, in November 2007, the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations described CDEP as a program that provides Aboriginal people with opportunities “to participate in activities that develop skills and improve their employability to assist them to move into employment outside the CDEP programme.”[viii]

CDEP on the APY Lands

On the APY Lands, CDEP began in Pukatja and Kaltjiti in 1977.[ix] Within a decade, programs were being run out of 10 community and homeland centres. All together, these centres were able to employ up to 767 Anangu.[x]

By 1998, 16 separate organisations employed 773 Anangu.[xi]

In 2004, there were still 16 organisations, though the total number of participants had fallen slightly to 747. At that time, the number of participants attached to particular organisations ranged from 10 at Yunyarinyi to 92 with the Anilalya Homelands Council.[xii]

By 2006, the number of CDEP organisations operating on the APY Lands had been reduced to 10. The overall number of participants had also fallen further.[xiii]

In late 2006, representatives from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations attended a special general meeting of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY). At that meeting, the Department indicated that it was reviewing the way CDEP operated on the Lands.[xiv]

In March 2007, the Department commenced a competitive tender process for a contract to manage and deliver CDEP across the APY Lands.[xv] Four applications were received, including two from Anangu organisations.[xvi]

In June 2007, the Department awarded a single, 12-month contract to Bungala Aboriginal Corporation for the delivery of CDEP across all APY communities.[xvii]

Bungala is a Port Augusta-based organisation with a long history in delivering training and jobs to Aboriginal people across regional and remote South Australia. It has run CDEP programs in Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta and in Aboriginal communities across the Northern Flinders ranges.[xviii]

Departmental update (October 2007)

On 25 October 2007, the Paper Tracker met with the representatives of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations to discuss the new arrangements.[xix] In the course of that meeting, the Department indicated that:

  • all existing CDEP participants had been able to transfer to Bungala,
  • it was hopeful that the total number of CDEP participants on the APY Lands would increase over time,
  • Bungala’s contract could be extended for an additional 12 months if the current arrangements proved satisfactory, and
  • there was no limit to the amount of time that a person on the APY Lands could remain on CDEP (in non-remote areas, a 12-month limit then applied).

On 19 November 2007, the Department provided the Paper Tracker with a written overview of Bungala’s work on the APY Lands.[xx] It included the following information and statements:

  • Since 1 July 2007, “there has been a steady increase in the number of CDEP participants” on the APY Lands. The Department expected this trend “to continue as future work activities are developed and employment outcomes are achieved.”
  • A ‘no work no pay’ policy was “now being strictly enforced across the APY Lands … This means that CDEP participants must attend a work activity for the minimum hours each week (generally 14 hours) in return for their CDEP payment.”
  • Bungala had “already assisted ten CDEP participants into jobs and … negotiated with the Commonwealth Bank to improve access to banking services on the Lands.”
  • Bungala had “been working with communities to develop activities that will build work skills and provide work experience as well as contribute to communities.” Across the APY Lands, CDEP activities will also include “waste management, cleaning, fencing, gardening and office work.”
  • Bungala had “begun the establishment of orchards at the majority of communities on the APY lands.”
  • Bungala had employed a person “as a motor mechanic to service and recondition equipment” in Iwantja. This person would “also provide training for CDEP participants.”
  • In Amata, “a turfing project for the football oval [had] been developed.”
  • Other activities under consideration at that time included:
    • a sewing centre at Pukatja where CDEP participants could “manufacture uniforms which would be supplied to other CDEP participants to promote pride in work,
    • a poultry farm at Pukatja
    • financial literacy training for CDEP participants and their families, and
    • a landscaping project at Kaltjiti “for a ‘town square’ development.”

On 19 November 2007, the Department agreed to provide the Paper Tracker with another written update by the end of February 2008.[xxi] The Federal Government subsequently transferred the administration of CDEP to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Understandably, this transfer delayed the preparation of the second report.

Departmental update (May 2008)

On 18 May 2008, the Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs provided the Paper Tracker with an update on Bungala’s work on the APY Lands.[xxii] It included the following information and statements:

  • Since 1 July 2007, the number of CDEP participants on the APY Lands had “increased from about 500 to 580.”
  • The literacy and numeracy skills of 71 CDEP participants from Kaltjiti and 55 from Pukatja had been assessed. Each assessment was “undertaken by two staff engaging with 1 participant face to face” and took approximately three hours to complete. Bungala was planning to conduct assessments of all APY participants. These assessments would assist it “in developing workplace literacy and numeracy training.”
  • As part of a program to establish orchards in APY communities, Bungala had supplied “1200 trees including, avocado, lemon, orange and mandarin.”
  • Orchards had “been established” in Mimili, Watinuma, Pukatja (and surrounding homelands), Pipalyatjara and Kaltjitji (and surrounding homelands). In relation to this work, the Department added:

“Whilst the idea was to establish an orchard in each of the communities, Pipalyatjara and [Pukatja] have opted to plant the trees in different places throughout the community to also provide shade once the trees are established.”

“The orchard in [Kaltjiti] has not been established yet, however the trees are in the community and are a part of an ongoing landscaping project Bungala negotiated with the Community Council.

  • “Turfing of the Amata oval was completed in November 2007. Further development of the oval surface and oval maintenance [would be] undertaken as an ongoing CDEP activity.”
  • A motor mechanic had been based in Iwantja for nine weeks. “During this time a lot of interest was shown by CDEP participants to undertake work and training in this area. … training was provided to 6 participants in general motor vehicle maintenance and tyre repair.” Bungala was “currently recruiting a new mechanic” to work in Iwantja.
  • In consultation with Kaltjiti Community Council, plans for the development of a town square had been drawn up and materials had been purchased. Bungala was “waiting on planning approval from APY,” after which it would “erect the shades and complete the landscaping.”
  • Bungala was continuing to negotiate with Pukatja council for “access to a suitable building to carry out [a] sewing project” and for “an area to establish the poultry farm. An in principal agreement [had] been reached and materials [had] been purchased.”
  • Since 1 July 2007, Bungala had helped 30 CDEP participants gain “other paid employment.”

Departmental update (November and December 2008)

On 21 November 2008, the Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs provided the Paper Tracker with another update on the operation of CDEP on the APY Lands.[xxiii] The update included the following information and statements:

  • There were currently 564 CDEP participants on the APY Lands.
  • Bungala had completed literacy and numeracy assessments of the “vast majority” of CDEP participants on the APY Lands. In January 2009, it would begin delivering formal literacy and numeracy training.
  • Since 1 July 2007, Bungala had helped a total of 50 Anangu to move from CDEP into paid employment with: Department of Families and Communities, Nganampa Health Council, APY schools, the PY Ku Centres, Centrelink, AP Services and the South Australian National Football League (SANFL).
  • “Community orchards have been established or maintained in all communities across the lands including a number of Homelands in the [Pukatja] area.”
  • “There is no longer a motor mechanic at Indulkana. However, Bungala have staff across the APY Lands with extensive mechanical knowledge and background who can provide on-the-job training and assistance to participants.”
  • “The [Kaltjiti] town square development has only just had building approval and now requires ETSA to dig the holes.” Once this digging has been completed “the town square will be erected.”
  • “The [proposed] poultry farm was not considered a priority by [Pukatja] participants.”
  • In Pukatja, a sewing project is being run by the Department for Families and Communities (DFC) and “Bungala have host participants placed with DFC.”
  • “Turfing of the Amata oval was completed in November 2007. Further development of the oval surface and oval maintenance is undertaken as an ongoing CDEP activity.”
  • The “Athol Pine removal project” in Pukatja had been completed.

On 2 December 2008, the Paper Tracker asked the Department for some information on a rose-planting project that Bungala had delivered across APY communities. In reply, the Department provided the following information:

Bungala have distributed 3,000 rose bushes across the APY Lands at all Communities. Three roses are being planted out the front of all the houses (not in the yards) and then distributed and planted in public areas throughout each community, and councils have been consulted as to where these should be planted. This project is completed.

Bungala are currently planting 2000 ornamental shrubs in every community across the lands and this will be completed shortly.[xxiv]

Participant numbers

On 28 April 2011, the Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs advised an Australian Senate Committee that:

As at the 28th February 2011, there were 356 CDEP Participants on the APY Lands.[xxv]

In the same advice, the Department released data outlining a continuing decline in participant numbers on the APY Lands:

Date                                Participants

30 September 2009:       495

31 December 2009:        439

31 March 2010:               440

30 June 2010:                 447

30 September 2010:       427

31 December 2010:        354

As of 10 November 2011, there were 479 CDEP participants on the APY Lands, with the number of participants based in individual communities ranging from 10 in Watarru to 128 in Amata.[xxvi]

Impact of 2009 changes (added 13 November 2011)

In mid 2009, some major changes to the CDEP program came into effect on the APY Lands. The changes included:

  • restricting the types of tasks and projects CDEP participants could undertake,
  • requiring all participants to register with a Job Services Provider, and
  • requiring that Provider to create individual “employment pathway plans” for each participant.[xxvii]

Also, as part of the changes, people who joined CDEP after 1 July 2009 no longer received “wages” from Bungala but, instead, “income support payments” (i.e. unemployment benefits) directly from Centrelink.[xxviii]

On 2 November 2011, the Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research published a report assessing the impacts of the 2009 changes. [xxix]

The report concluded that the changes:

  • were “undermining the demonstrated potential of CDEP to produce positive results”, and
  • “creating a disincentive for Anangu to participate in productive work … while … encouraging a return to passive welfare.”[xxx]

The report found that since the 2009 changes came into effect “participant engagement [had] significantly declined”, especially among participants on Centrelink income support payments. As of March 2011, only 24% of those participants “were regularly turning up for CDEP work or training.”[xxxi]

On 11 November 2011, Bungala advised the Paper Tracker that 63% of all CDEP participants on the APY Lands were Centrelink recipients.[xxxii]

This article was last updated in November 2011. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] Jordan, K. 2011. Work, Welfare and CDEP on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: First Stage Assessment. CAEPR Working Paper No. 78/2011, Australian National University, pix.

[ii] Woolford, E. 11 November 2011. Email to J. Nicholls from Bungala Aboriginal Corporation.

[iii] Sanders, W. 2007, “Changes to CDEP under DEWR: Policy substance and the new contractualism,” Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Topical Issue 6/2007, p1. Available at: http://www.anu.edu.au/caepr/Publications/topical/Sanders_CDEP.pdf  Accessed 23 November 2007.

[iv] Sander, W. October 2004, “Indigenous Centres in the Policy Margins: The CDEP Scheme Over 30 Years”, Paper presented at the ACOSS Annual Congress, Alice Spring, p4. Available at: http://online.anu.edu.au/caepr/Publications/topical/SandersCDEP.pdf. Accessed 22 November 2007.

[v] Andrews, K. 22 April 2005, “CDEP Future Directions Announced,” Media Release.

[vi] Hockey, J. 17 February 2007, “Indigenous Employment Services Reforms Announced,” Media Release.

[vii] Hockey, J. 17 February 2007, “Indigenous Employment Services Reforms Announced,” Media Release.

[viii] DEWR, 19 November 2007, “CDEP on the APY Lands,” information provided to J Nicholls.

[ix] Bonner, N. 1988, Always Anangu: a review of the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal communities of Central Australia, p110. See also: “No work, no dole for Aboriginals,” 13 July 1977, The Advertiser; and “North-west experiment” 14 July 1977, Editorial, The Advertiser.

[x] Bonner, N. 1988, Always Anangu: a review of the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal communities of Central Australia, p119. On page 110 of his report, Bonner indicates that his data was collected in May/June 1987.

[xi] Information provided by DEWR to the Parliament of South Australia’s Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee on 11 January 2005.

[xii] McNally, C (DEWR). 19 July 2004, “Summary of DEWR/ATSIS Activity on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005,” p4.

[xiii] At the time that Bungala won the APY contract, DEWR estimated that there were 580 CDEP participants on the APY Lands. This number was cited by Bungala’s Chief Executive Officer during his appearance at a public meeting held by the Parliament of South Australia’s Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee on 10 September 2007. On 25 October 2007, DEWR told the Paper Tracker that there were then close to 600 CDEP participants on the APY Lands.

[xiv] Minutes of the Special General Meeting of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara held at Umuwa on 19 October 2006, p2-4.

[xv] DEWR, 19 November 2007, “CDEP on the APY Lands,” information provided to J Nicholls.See also: Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara held at Umuwa on 21-22 March 2007, p1, 4-5.

[xvi] Minutes of the meeting of APY Executive held at Umuwa on 2-3 May 2007, p3. The two Anangu organizations to lodge applications were: Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Services (APS).

[xvii] Information provided to the Paper Tracker during a meeting held at South Australian Office of DWER on 25 October 2007. Parts of this information were stated by D Pearce during his appearance at a public meeting held by the Parliament of South Australia’s Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee on 10 September 2007.

[xviii] DEWR, 2006, “Bungala CDEP building a solid foundation,” Employment and Business News, p6.

[xix] This meeting was held in DEWR’s SA State Office on 25 October 2007.

[xx] DEWR, 19 November 2007, “CDEP on the APY Lands,” information provided to J Nicholls.

[xxi] Govan, N (DEWR). 19 November 2007, email to J Nicholls.

[xxii] Toovey, V. 18 May 2008, Email to J Nicholls.

[xxiii] Toovey, V (FaHCSIA). 21 November 2008. Email to J. Nicholls

[xxiv] Toovey, V (FaHCSIA). 2 December 2008. Email to J. Nicholls

[xxv] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. 28 April 2011. Reply to question on notice asked by Senator Siewert during the 2010-11 Additional Estimates Hearings, Question No. 184 (link to question and answer).

[xxvi] Woolford, E. 11 November 2011. Email to J. Nicholls from Bungala Aboriginal Corporation.

[xxvii] See: Cox, T (FaHCSIA). 22 May 2009. Email to J. Nicholls and accompanying attachment entitled “CDEP is changing, presentation speaking notes”. See also: Jordan, K. 2011. Work, Welfare and CDEP on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: First Stage Assessment. CAEPR Working Paper No. 78/2011, Australian National University.

[xxviii] Jordan, K. 2011. Work, Welfare and CDEP on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: First Stage Assessment. CAEPR Working Paper No. 78/2011, Australian National University, p16.

[xxix] Hughes, J (CAEPR-ANU). 2 November 2011. Email entitled “New Publication from CAEPR”. Also: Jordan, K. 2011. Work, Welfare and CDEP on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: First Stage Assessment. CAEPR Working Paper No. 78/2011, Australian National University, pi.

[xxx] Jordan, K. 2011. Work, Welfare and CDEP on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: First Stage Assessment. CAEPR Working Paper No. 78/2011, Australian National University, pix.

[xxxi] Jordan, K. 2011. Work, Welfare and CDEP on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: First Stage Assessment. CAEPR Working Paper No. 78/2011, Australian National University, pviii.

[xxxii] Woolford, E. 11 November 2011. Email to J. Nicholls from Bungala Aboriginal Corporation.

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