Friday morning us language centre mob were invited to a CDEP meeting at the local council office. CDEP is the employment scheme that provides that bulk of employment here at Ngukurr and in every other Aboriginal community. In reality, it’s little more than work-for-the-dole, but it’s something.
Anyway, John Howard’s government is implementing changes to CDEP (along with every other scheme pertaining to Aboriginal people!) which will make it tougher for this mob to keep going the way they have been going. So now, the CDEP mob who work with me will either have to go into the ‘employment’ stream – where they have one year to be trained up to move into a proper job (which don’t really exist) – or they go into the ‘community activity’ stream – where they can keep going the same way, but aren’t allowed to get any top-up pay so have to be content working for $200 a week!
All the changes the Howard government are bringing in seem to assume that there is some kind of viable economy here at Ngukurr and some kind of oppurtunity for economic development. Well, you’d have to be a big optimist to believe that. A study done in 1999 found that 23 Aboriginal people at Ngukurr had full time jobs. (The adult population is about 500). Even if Aboriginal people took over all the jobs currently held by munanga, you’d probably have about 50 people in full time jobs. How does John Howard expect the other 450 adults to get decent jobs in a place with little economy and no scope for economic growth? Especially when they have poor education, housing and health and little scope to improve education, housing and health.
Come on man, give us a break.
Would you like the list of other schemes that have or will change under John Howard?
ASSPA funding: Before: local school councils received funding to spend on their students in ways that they wanted. Under Howard: bureaucrats now decide on how that money is spent (and so far $0 have reached Ngukurr).
Abstudy: not sure what’s changed, but some changes were announced in the budget last week. and I can’t imagine they were good changes!
ATSIC: gone. now everything is ‘mainstreamed’, which means that disadvantaged remote Aboriginal people are now competing with the rest of the country (who have massive headstarts)
Land Councils: no changes yet… but the government has starting dropping hints
Centrelink: Before: This mob were exempt from looking for work obligations because they live in a place with little employment. Under Howard: no exemptions. This mob are treated like everyone else (NB: ‘everyone else’ meaning people that actually have access to employment opportunities).
I’ve heard some city folk ponder, if places like Ngukurr are so badly off in terms of employment etc. why do this mob stay here? Easy. Because it’s home. Because it’s their land. Because their language and culture belongs to this land. Because their ancestors lived here for thousands of years. Because their amazingly huge extended family are all here. All these things tie this mob to this country. But John Howard and his government won’t give them a break.