National News

Work for dole scheme to get revamp

Former jobseeker Danny Marawili says having the freedom to travel from his remote Northern Territory home for ceremony obligations while working is a big priority.

That's why he's backing proposed changes to the federal government's work for the dole scheme allowing participants 10 days cultural leave to mark occasions like deaths.

"It's important for us. But after the funeral we'll go straight back to work," he said.

Mr Marawili worked for the dole at CDP provider Miwatj Employment and Participation in Arnhem Land, and has since moved into proper employment there.

The Coalition is revamping its controversial Community Development Programme, which covers about 35,000 people, mostly from Aboriginal communities.

Participants must do 25 hours of "work-like activities" per week to receive welfare payments, which is up to three times longer than other unemployed people.

The Turnbull government has come under fire for issuing more than 200,000 fines to CDP workers who breach their requirements since it began in July 2015, and a report found the policy was forcing some indigenous families to go hungry.

Under the proposed reforms, participants will be paid by the hour, not by the day, and all communication over payment and appeals will be done directly with the provider, not with Centrelink.

That'll help people with English as a second language such as Mr Marawili, who will no longer have to spend hours on the phone on hold with Centrelink's call centre.

The 61-year-old has been working at MEP for three months making bed frames, sprinklers, spears and coffins.

"It's a really good place to work. Hopefully I'll get a real job, that's what I'm looking forward to," he said.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion on Thursday said 90 per cent of sanctions are waived instantly, but stressed Aboriginal people don't want "sit down money".

"They've said there is an inequity about paying the same amount to the men who turn up here today and work hard and make a contribution to themselves and their community, and if someone isn't here and gets paid the same."

He says the program has put remote job seekers into more than 15,000 gigs since inception with about a third reaching the six-month mark.

But Senator Scullion concedes more work can be done to break the cycle of welfare dependency and has flagged a consultation process for a new model to begin in the coming months.

The reforms will be developed in partnership with local stakeholders and indigenous groups are lobbying to codesign the system.

"The new model will need to not only provide jobs, but also support school attendance and build safer, healthier communities," Senator Scullion said.

In March, Labor and the Greens joined with crossbenchers in parliament to force a Senate inquiry into the CDP.

Senator Scullion says he'll seek advice from all sides of the political spectrum and hopes the changes will come into force by the end of the year.

© AAP 2017

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