Leaving their tribal lands to avoid more work for dole


p2235-Adrian-DixonBy ERWIN CHLANDA
People in remote communities would rather leave their tribal homelands than working for the dole there, for periods longer than they would need to in an urban centre. So says Central Desert Regional Council president, Adrian Dixon (pictured).
The Alice Springs News Online put to Mr Dixon that being on their traditional lands is commonly assumed to be of paramount importance to Aboriginal people. Would they leave because of the extra work, and take their families with them?
Mr Dixon said they would.
A media release from the Central Desert Regional Council predicts this would cause a “calamity” in Alice Springs and refers to the work requirements, which enable people to get the dole, as “harsh penalties”. The obligations would “create further disharmony in our towns,” the release says.
It explains that under the recently announced reforms, remote community job seekers aged between 18 and 39 years will be required to work for 25 hours per week for 52 weeks per year. Meanwhile most urban job seekers will only be required to work 15 hours per week for just 26 weeks a year.
Council Chief Executive Officer Cathryn Hutton is quoted in the release as saying: “A two tiered employment … provides a perverse incentive for people to leave their communities and move into town.  The urban drift will have significant and negative implications for services in regional centres.
“The policies will potentially have disastrous impact on communities and families. The future of vibrant, developing communities depends on our people staying on community, adults participating in the economy and kids going to school,” Ms Hutton is quoted as saying.


  1. For rural and remote communities the challenge remains to ensure they actually encourage a wider range of businesses, alternative approaches, which satisfy any requirements of community contribution policies.
    For NT obstructive, totalitarian, lease policies currently restrict opportunities more than create them in most communities.
    The Senate may reject regulatory changes requiring rural or remote community job seekers to satisfy higher standards than metropolitan areas.

  2. To avoid working, why wouldn’t you move. This needs to be stopped, payments need to be stopped.

  3. Where is the interview with the elected official who “recently announced reforms” and who can explain the reasoning behind this “perverse incentive”?

  4. Welfare is not a way of life. It is for a temporary time. It’s time to get up and do some work. If these people don’t work they can expect a very ordinary lifestyle. It is amazing when someone says something, the new word is, you are racists, things have to change.

  5. Adrian Dixon and Cath Hutton are right about this; a discriminatory two-tiered system of deliberately alienating, virtual slave labour will have the perverse effect of both depopulating remote communities and also increasing problems such as poverty, child neglect and crime.
    You would think that by now the penny would have dropped amongst the inner circle of the Abbott Gang: people really resent being treated unfairly.
    The most predictable outcome is that more people will breach their conditions for income support entitlements more often in these remote villages under these welfare arrangements.
    Many of these people will quickly drift away to places where they are more easily able to engender support from family networks, or by other means, such as begging, burglary, bludging on friends, or applying to charitable institutions.
    Most will apply to regain access to welfare from their new, heavily overcrowded, addresses, under the less onerous and less discriminatory conditions that apply in the urban centres.
    This is probably not what the designers of this myopic policy – Abbott, Scullion, Credlin, Tudge and their ilk – intended: they show no signs of providing all the extra affordable accommodation and others services (such as prison expansion) that will be needed to meet the needs created by this population shift to already crowded, Aboriginal-occupied housing in towns like Tennant and Alice.
    This has all the hallmarks of more impulsive, back-of-the-envelope, simplistic and prejudiced policy making in Indigenous affairs by the Coalition.

  6. Another example of problematic two-tiered policy making is the failure by the NT Government to provide even minimal policing presences in many remote communities.
    At the same time they provide overwhelming protection in the major urban centres.
    This leads to many people wanting to move to these safer places when there is too often unpoliced drunken fighting or inter-family violence in these remote communities, and no hope of getting a police response until hours later at best.

  7. On the brighter side, it was good to see that on Friday morning, the Police Commissioner temporarily banned takeaway grog sales from some Stuart Highway roadhouses north of Alice, for two days or more.
    The police have also been on the Stuart Highway near the Laramba turnoff, confiscating grog from cars illegally carrying it west to Napperby and Mt Allen (and thus sometimes up the backroads into Yuendumu and Willowra).
    It’s a shame it took a drunken spillover onto the highway and a stabbing to bring this about, but perhaps, the Police are at last getting the message about the situations surrounding some of these remote roadhouses and unpoliced communities, which are way beyond oversight from Alice Springs or other permanent police posts.

  8. Is it racist that these work for the dole requirements only apply to Aboriginal people? How does the government get away with it? How come Abbot’s Camp, Truckies, Larapinta Valley etc are rural or remote but the areas surrounding them aren’t?

  9. If Colin Barnett gets wind of this he will be able to achieve his policy goal for some remote communities without having to shut down services to them.

  10. Adrian Dixon and Cath Hutton correctly state that there exists a discriminatory two-tiered system depopulating remote communities.
    Commonwealth needs to cancel its racist two tiered system, all its legal exemptions, which deny equality of opportunity and accountability.
    Is not the responsibility of the NT Government to fix problems created and managed by the Commonwealth, particularly where Commonwealth obstructs the relevant NT legislation.

  11. Re: Bob Durnan Posted May 9, 2015 at 4:00 pm
    “Another example of problematic two-tiered policy making is the failure by the NT Government to provide even minimal policing presences in many remote communities.”
    Care to name any such community in which minimal policing presence or service is missing?

  12. Re: Dr Wrongo Posted May 9, 2015 at 5:26 pm
    Can the relevant authorities deny, or if confirming then please explain why: Abbot’s Camp, Truckies, Larapinta Valley etc are rural or remote but the areas surrounding them aren’t?

  13. Paul (Posted May 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm), some of the larger Central Australian communities which I am aware of needing a police presence but not having one include Docker River, Mt Liebig, Nyirrpi, Laramba, Yuelamu, Areyonga, Ampilatwatja and Engawala.
    There are probably others, especially in the Barkly.
    I am not sure about Apatula and Alpurrurulam. Drug dealing tends to flourish in those places which do not have a police presence, domestic violence tends to go unpoliced, and there are often dangerous situations when alcohol is brought into these places.

  14. Population, events, location, and available funding all effect decisions of whether a Police Station is built, and each community needs present their own request.
    Consider frequency of regular visits, delays identified when attend in response to urgent calls; BTW for decisions Police need reliable information to decide IF and how an urgent response is required.
    Lower populations rarely warrant full-time presence, so even IF Police based in community expect they have wider areas to cover.
    – – – – – – – –
    pop:311 Kaltukatjara (Docker River)
    pop:252 Mt Liebig (Watiyawanu)
    pop:320 Nyirrpi (*believe NT Police there)
    pop:311 Laramba (Napperby Station)
    pop:300 Yuelamu
    pop:245 Areyonga (Utju)
    pop:360 Ampilatwatja
    pop:165 Engawala (Alcoota)
    – – – – – – – –

  15. Thanks Paul. I am aware of the factors affecting police decision making about where to place stations; I have been trying to assist a number of these communities to lobby to get their wishes about police presence for 20 years or more.
    The point is, a number of the places which do now have a police presence are smaller than most of these communities (think Imanpa, Ikuntji and Arlparra), and some are closer to pre-existing police stations than are several of those still without (e.g. Ikuntji, Mutitjulu, Santa Teresa).
    A police presence does not have to mean a fully fledged police station. It can be simply an overnighting facility for police, so that they can at least spend some nights per month actually in the community when the trouble is most likely to occur.


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