Closing the Gap - Community Development Employment Projects Program (CDEP) and the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) reform

Closing the Gap - Community Development Employment Projects Program (CDEP) and the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) reform

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; Centrelink; Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts; Department of Health and Ageing; Department of Finance and Regulation

Key Elements

The Australian Government will provide $202.4 million over five years to reform Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP). These reforms are key to making progress to meet the Government’s targets of halving the employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade. Funding will be provided to:

  • reform CDEP, with savings of $326.7 million over five years to be redirected to fund the employment and training initiatives for Indigenous people outlined below;
  • deliver a new Indigenous remote workforce strategy comprising 400 government services traineeships and 60 land and sea management positions, at a cost of $53.6 million over four years;
  • ensure the sustainability of more than 1,600 jobs already created in the Northern Territory, at a cost of $203.1 million over three years for this Jobs Package;
  • establish a new national network of 87 Indigenous Community Support Service providers across 139 communities to link Indigenous people with community services including health, housing, child care and drug and alcohol misuse, at a cost of $60.2 million over four years; and
  • reform and expand the IEP to make services more responsive to the specific needs of Indigenous job seekers, Indigenous businesses and employers, at a cost of $190.6 million over five years and with an additional $21.6 million over four years for the Workplace English Language Literacy program to support these reforms.

These reforms complement reforms to the universal employment services (Job Services Australia) which will provide Indigenous job seekers with more tailored assistance as well as training and work experience.

In addition, the reforms to CDEP will be supported through the Indigenous Economic Participation National Partnership Agreement, which will see the creation of around 2,000 jobs for the delivery of government services that were previously supported by CDEP.


Last year the Government consulted Indigenous people about the future of CDEP and the IEP. Reforms to both programs were announced on 19 December 2008 and will commence on 1 July 2009.  The reformed programs will provide greater linkages to the universal employment services for all Australians also commencing on 1 July under Job Services Australia.  Further information on these reforms can be found in the press release issued jointly by the Minister for Families, Housing and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Minister for Employment Participation on 19 December 2008.

Detail of CDEP/IEP reform elements

1. CDEP Reform

The CDEP program will be reformed and restructured in regions with limited and emerging economies to build individual skills, the capacity to take up work where opportunities arise and build capacity of communities.

The restructured CDEP program will focus on:

  • Work readiness skills including foundation and literacy/numeracy training, basic work and vocational skills, on-the-job work experience and job placements.
  • Community development to support priority projects, active engagement of local people and strengthening the capacity of communities and local organisations.

Under the reforms, incentives and participation requirements of CDEP participants and other Indigenous job seekers will be aligned – within and across communities.  From 1 July 2009, new participants will be paid income support, with existing participants continuing to access CDEP wages until 30 June 2011, subject to allowable breaks of two weeks, before transferring to income support.  This means young people and school leavers have the strongest incentive to get a job and existing CDEP participants are given time to transition.

Funding agreements for reformed CDEP will be offered for a three year period.

Under the reform model, CDEP will cease to be available in non-remote locations from 1 July 2009, with the universal employment services to be the primary provider of employment services for Indigenous job seekers in urban and regional areas.

Savings of $326.7 million over five years from the CDEP reforms will be redirected to fund more employment and training opportunities for Indigenous people, including CDEP participants.

2. Indigenous remote workforce strategy

A new remote workforce strategy will be introduced at a cost of $53.6 million which will:

  • establish 400 new traineeships in government funded service delivery which will provide new structured pathways for young local Indigenous people in remote communities to make the transition into the workforce in a supported way, complement the creation of jobs from CDEP activities and enable effective succession planning for those positions; and
  • create 60 additional ranger positions in remote communities to provide employment opportunities for mature community members with valuable knowledge of traditional land management techniques and practices; these positions will be able to be used on a part time basis to respond to cultural needs of some remote community members.

3. Jobs Package

More than 1,600 CDEP positions that previously supported the delivery of Australian Government services have been converted to properly paid jobs as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) and the Cape York welfare reform trials, with funding originally provided to 2009-10 and 2011-12 respectively.

An additional $203.1 million over three years will be provided to ensure the sustainability of these jobs which deliver tangible benefits for Indigenous people including access to superannuation, training and professional development in remote areas with limited opportunities.

To further support the reforms to CDEP, a further 2,000 jobs will be created for the delivery of government services that were previously supported by CDEP.   These positions are being funded through the Indigenous Economic Participation National Partnership Agreement.

4. Community Support Service

From July 2009, the new Community Support Service will be implemented at a cost of $60.2 million over four years.

The Community Support Service will support Indigenous community members and their families by providing links or referrals to a range of mainstream and Indigenous services. Such services might include welfare and social support, family violence, health including drug and alcohol services, housing, child care and legal aid.

It will be available in 87 priority locations/clusters (representing 139 communities), identified primarily on the basis of a significant Indigenous population and having been part of the CDEP reforms.  These are in selected urban and regional locations, including capital cities, major regional centres and some smaller regional communities.

The Community Support Service has been developed in response to concerns raised during consultations with Indigenous people in 2008 about the reform of the CDEP program.

Indigenous people said that their CDEP provider played a vital role in linking them to services and information.

By better linking Indigenous people to community services, the service will support social inclusion and community cohesion and will assist in closing the gap in access to services between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

5. IEP reform

The IEP is being changed and expanded to be more flexible and responsive to the needs of employers, Indigenous Australians and their communities, at a cost of $190.6 million over five years.

The new IEP will be easier to access and Government will work with Indigenous Australians and their communities, industry and employers on an ongoing basis to ensure the program remains accessible and relevant to their needs.

The new IEP will:

  • meet the needs of more employers including small and medium businesses;
  • support more communities in developing their economic direction; and
  • help more Indigenous people get jobs and start businesses.

It will do this by:

  • increasing the level of funding and support available;
  • encouraging, recognising and promoting achievements in Indigenous employment;
  • building aspirations; and
  • providing mentoring to individuals and businesses; and reducing red tape.

Communities, industries and employers will be able to access packages of assistance to suit their needs.

To support these reforms an additional $21.6 million over four years will also be provided to expand the Workplace English Language Literacy program.


The reforms will be implemented from 1 July 2009. Intensive change management support for current CDEP providers and participants commenced in early 2009.

Total Government Funding

$202.4 million over 5 years.

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