Abstract: This paper focuses on Indigenous communities in remote Australia who participate in the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme, a form of work-for-the-dole that was first established in 1977 and is now administered by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. At the time of the 1996 census there were 265 CDEPs Australia-wide and about 31,000 participants. The analysis here focuses on the 70 per cent of these CDEPs that are located in remote regions. Initially a census-based assessment is provided of the economic impacts of the scheme. This indicates that the scheme has discernible economic and employment benefits. Next, an attempt is made to reconcile the mutual obligation nature of the scheme with the emerging reform of social policy (also based on principles of mutual obligation) currently being implemented that is based on recommendations made by the McClure Committee and endorsed in the writings of influential Indigenous spokesperson Noel Pearson. The article ends by outlining how, in this reformist policy context, the CDEP scheme could itself be modified to provide a more effective framework for Indigenous economic development in remote regions and makes brief comment on lessons from the CDEP scheme for the wider Australian community.