July 2019 Guest Speaker, Lara Watson

Lara acknowledged that we met on the country of the Ngunnawal and paid her respects to elders past and present. She herself is a Birri Gubba woman from central west Queensland.

Lara is the ACTU’s Indigenous Officer and has worked for two years with the ACTU’s First Nations Workers’ Alliance. She spoke about the federal government’s “Community Development Program” (CDP), a work-for-the-dole scheme which was launched by Tony Abbott in 2015. The CDP has its roots in the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme, established in 2003, with similar programs running in remote communities since the 1970s.

The FNWA is an alliance of union members, trade unions and union-like organisations giving CDP people a voice. Lara reports the work of FNWA to the indigenous committee of the ACTU. So far it’s just her! She covers the whole country. She relies on national unions to get information out.

The CDP is the work-for-the-dole program which only operates in remote Indigenous communities, some regional towns with high Indigenous populations and is different from JobActive the work-for-the-dole program covering everywhere else. The CDP is a racist and disfunctional scheme. The worst aspect of it is the punitive measures in place for infractions of its rules. It features aggressive job provision services run by private Job Service Providers. 

Lara mentioned a case of a young bloke who was “breached” [i.e. in violation of the rules, so not paid] for eight weeks for refusing to operate a drop saw with no protective clothing or gear.  When you are breached for eight weeks you get no money coming, not even the social security payment that the rest of Australia can rely on if suddenly finding themselves out of work.

Continue reading