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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2852

Senator MACKLIN(11.35) —The point I wish to raise relates to the community development employment projects scheme. As the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) will be aware, this scheme involves some of the best community development projects operating in Australia. Its benefit to Aboriginal communities has been immense. However, my concern is not with the operation of those projects in the various Aboriginal communities, which as I have said are operating exceptionally well, but rather with the operations of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs with regard to that scheme. My difficulty arises from the fact that, while it is a community development scheme, the funding, as the Minister will be aware, is based on the number of people in the community who are unemployed, plus in general terms 20 per cent. My problem is that nobody seems to know how many people are involved in these projects and I find it very difficult to work out how we manage to pay certain amounts of money. To give an example, in the Report of Committee of Review of Aboriginal Employment and Training Programs for the years 1983-84 and 1984-85, the figures given do not correspond with the estimates for those years supplied by the Department. I take as an example the Wiluna community. It was allocated $1.742m in 1983-87 under the CDEP scheme. The estimates show 347 eligible participants.

Senator Crichton-Browne —What program was this?

Senator MACKLIN —This is the community development employment projects scheme.

Senator Crichton-Browne —What are they doing?

Senator MACKLIN —I am looking at one example at Wiluna.

Senator Crichton-Browne —But what is the project?

Senator MACKLIN —It is the community development employment project at Wiluna. The scheme operates in a quite large number of communities throughout Australia. It is an excellent endeavour for the communities to develop themselves. They have done enormous work with the money. First of all, there is an estimate of 347 eligible participants. But, if one looks at the 1981 census, it shows only 221 people in total at Wiluna. The 1986 estimate of population varies between 300 and 350. So I imagine that that figure does not represent eligible participants, but all adults, their spouses and their children. One figure given by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to the Review was 187 people; that is on page 41. The figure cited by the Review is 173. So there are at least three separate estimates of the number of participants at Wiluna.

That worries me somewhat because somebody ought to know the correct figure. The people who do know must be the regional officers. Somebody has to know the number in order to do the calculations. What worries me is that, if the regional officers do know, and I cannot see how they would not know, why does the Department and everyone else seem to land on figures that seem to be plucked out of the air? When one thinks of the implications of this for financial outlays, it is very important because of the connection between unemployment benefits and the number of people eligible. That is probably able to be cleared up relatively simply, but the discrepancy in the figures worries me.