It was fire and brimstone at noon today when a crowd of 200 listened to prominent Aboriginal activists on the council lawns, thundering about the possible closure of remote communities in Western Australia. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
"I've got 55 positions across MacDonnell Shire – I can't fill all of them because I have to compete with Centrelink."
It was one of the starker statements of the two and half hour public meeting held in Alice on Tuesday evening, about the second phase of the Federal Intervention.
The speaker was Tracey McNee, coordinator of Community Safety at the shire, making a point about the disincentive to work created by ease of access to the dole. She "took her hat off" to shire residents who had taken the work, but commented on the remaining vacancies: "[People] don't necessarily have the same pressure and pushes to apply for those jobs."
The jobs are with night patrol services: "No-one is saying night patrol is an easy job, but it is a job," said Ms McNee.
Centrelink is potentially "a large part of the solution," responded veteran community development worker Bob Durnan, suggesting that the organisation has the motivation and capacity as well as permanent staff in communities to help people into jobs (presumably with some forcefulness, if necessary). He said while government has poured a huge amount of money into job networks, they are not based in communities and don't have local knowledge. Centrelink is in a good position to take over job network functions, he said. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Photo: Youth worker George Peckham on the microphone at Tuesday night's public meeting.