Three Years On: Indigenous families and the welfare system, the Kuranda community case study

Three Years On: Indigenous families and the welfare system, the Kuranda community case study Report

CAEPR Discussion Paper

  • Author(s): Henry, R., Smith, D.E.
  • Published: 2002
  • Publisher: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences, Australian National University

Abstract: This discussion paper presents the results from the third and final year of the Kuranda community case study for the project on the delivery of appropriate welfare services and policies to Indigenous families. Core recommendations and conclusions from the project as a whole are also discussed. Three years of survey data now allow a comparison of sources of household income. Indigenous families and households in the community remain highly dependent on income support from welfare benefits and pensions, and from the CDEP scheme. The research also points to Abstudy payments as playing an important part in family domestic economies. One of the key issues highlighted for service delivery and policy consideration is the complexity of patterns of residential mobility of Indigenous adults and children in Kuranda. Taking into consideration all the people surveyed in 2000 and 2001, one out of every two persons had moved into or out of the house- hold sample. Over half of those people were children, or young adults aged 17-25 years. Importantly, the existence of a non-mobile core of household members-usually older people on secure pensions-is identified as a point of domestic stability for children and youth. Child-care is an extended family, rather than a household-centred activity, and the mobility of children and youth is an expression of extended family networks. The key role played by older women in the care of children is emphasised once again. The results raise several important issues for policy and service delivery. The fact that child-care is family-based rather than household-based needs to be recognised in the delivery of welfare services to children and in policy frameworks. Many children have multiple carers who are in need of financial support for the period in which they are responsible for a child. There needs to be flexibility in the service arrangements so that the relevant family payments are going to the person actually caring for a child. The three survey waves have identified an important characteristic of young adults: there appears to be no transition for this group from school into mainstream local employment. The main transition is, in fact, into early dependence on welfare or CDEP payments. If inter-generational welfare dependence is to be short-circuited, there needs to be immediate targeted policy and program support for this age group, preferably before they enter the welfare system. It is proposed that a Youth Work Preparation and Employment Program be piloted, focusing on young CDEP participants and school leavers. The program would be delivered by local CDEP organisations with the objective of creating a detour around early dependence on welfare and CDEP incomes, by mentoring the transition of young adults into local work experience and main-stream employment. The paper emphasises the need for a holistic and realistic approach to delivering assistance to families with children. Taking into account feedback from respondents, the paper reinforces some of the core recommendations made in Smith (2000) and Henry and Daly (2001), including the need to: pilot a mechanism for the development of a 'Kid's Care Card'; provide additional assistance to people who care for children on a daily basis, via adjustments to the Child Care Benefit scheme; reform the role of Centrelink Indigenous agents; establish decentralised welfare transaction centres and updated Centrelink information technology in key remote Indigenous communities; adapt the JET scheme for greater effectiveness with Indigenous welfare recipients; and formulate a relevant mutual obligation strategy for Indigenous welfare recipients.

Notes: ISSN: 1036 1774 ISBN: 0 7315 5604 6

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Suggested Citation
Henry, R., Smith, D.E., 2002, Three Years On: Indigenous families and the welfare system, the Kuranda community case study, Report, viewed 13 July 2024,

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