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300,000 welfare fines imposed

Community Development Program (CDP) participants must do 25 hours of tasks each week, which is up to three-times longer than other welfare recipients, ABC News reports.

For a person on Newstart, which is generally under $300 a week, penalties are about $50 per breach.

Kathrine O’Donoghue works for a Central Australian CDP service provider and says people are too often “waiting on the phone for sometimes three or four hours”.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion admits there is a problem.

“I have heard of those reports and I understand that they’re valid. That has been for some time,” he said.

“While the numbers are low, Centrelink is doing their best to deal with that matter.”

Santa Teresa is a former Catholic mission, and its religious history lives on.

After one hour’s drive from Alice Springs, a huge cross on the ridge above the community comes into view.

At the end of the town’s main street is a diminutive church glowing white under a cloudless sky.

Inside, the building’s walls are adorned with paintings of Aboriginal biblical figures.

Last year’s Census says the town’s population of about 600 people is 84 per cent Catholic, making it possibly the most Catholic place in Australia.

Divine intervention or prrayer time, however, should not be needed to deal with Centrelink.

That’s because Santa Teresa has a Centrelink office.

The grandly-named Australian Government Business Complex is a small, beige demountable with a tin roof.

There is a misplaced shopping trolley sitting in the dead grass out the front.

It is one minute’s walk (including sidestepping a local dog) from the local CDP provider, CatholicCareNT.

But Centrelink’s shopfronts do not deal with CDP penalties.

Between about 15,000 and 20,000 people nationally are required to work for welfare payments under CDP.

In two years, at least 300,000 fines have been imposed, mostly on Aboriginal people.


Controversial work-for-the-dole scheme taking a toll on young Indigenous people (ABC News)


Mel Inkamala spent more than 50 minutes waiting to speak to Centrelink after being fined a day’s allowance.¬†/ ABC News / Dan Conifer