Abstract: The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme is an unusual program for Indigenous people primarily underwritten by welfare entitlements. Currently there are 39,000 CDEP places and around 60,000 Indigenous people participate in the scheme each year. This paper discusses the roles that the scheme plays. First, the scheme provides flexible employment opportunities, often in remote contexts where there are no, or minute, labour markets. Second, it provides income security and the opportunity to earn additional income from employment and enterprise. Third, it provides opportunity for education and training. Fourth, and most innovatively, it acts as an instrument for economic and community development. This is especially so in remote and very remote Australia where people reside on the Indigenous estate and operate within an unorthodox ‘hybrid economy’ where customary (non market) activity looms relatively large. The customary sector has considerable economic value, both for Indigenous people directly and in spillover benefits to other Australians. The links between the CDEP scheme and the operations of the hybrid economy are explored.