Brennan queries axing of indigenous jobs

Evan Schwarten May 8, 2009

Image: Utopia indigenous homeland 200 kilometres north of Alice SpringsThe Rudd government may be breaching the human rights of indigenous Australians by abolishing jobs programs in remote Aboriginal communities, a key adviser says.

Father Frank Brennan, chair of the government's National Human Rights Consultation Committee, said many in Aboriginal communities felt their right to find employment was being jeopardised by the decision to abolish the community development employment projects (CDEP) scheme.

Evan Schwarten May 8, 2009

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin late last year announced the CDEP scheme, which provides part-time community-based employment to top up dole payments, would be abolished in all "non-remote" communities from June 30.

Fr Brennan is currently travelling across Australia gathering feedback for a report to the government on ways to protect and promote human rights in Australia.

Speaking after a meeting in the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah, south of Cairns, he said his committee would investigate whether the government was breaching residents' rights by abolishing the scheme without providing other opportunities for employment.

"If the only prospect of employment is through a CDEP scheme then what is government doing in taking it away?" he told AAP.

"How do you then realistically speak about upholding the right to employment, the right to work and even the right to training the people living in these communities?"

The Yarrabah council has appealed to the government to continue the scheme, which is the only major employer in the community, until after the current economic downturn was over because there were currently few job opportunities in the region.

Fr Brennan said the committee would also consider several other issues raised by residents in indigenous communities, including land rights and alcohol management programs.

He is due to report back to the Rudd government in July (2009).