ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
September 23, 1998

EXIT CENTRE STAGE: MINISTER KILLS OFF DRAMA CLUB. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Nearly 100 local amateur actors, including 70 aged under 16, will miss out on their weekly theatre activities with the closure, at least temporary, of Centre Stage.Director Bryn Williams says this is a direct result of the refusal by Arts Minister Daryl Manzie of a grant for the planned staging of the classical Greek drama, Medea, as well as for operational funding.Mr Williams says the group applied for $14,000 for rental assistance but would have been grateful even for a lesser amount.He says Mr Manzie's knock-back is clearly retribution for Centre Stage having gone public earlier this year about inequities in the NT Government's arts funding. The Alice News reported on April 29 that in 1996-97, the Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre (CIYT) in Darwin received $164,025 from Mr Manzie's department, while the Alice-based Centre Stage - with a far greater record of productions - got just $8700. Mr Williams says funding applications normally take three months to be processed, but Centre Stage got its "no" answer to the Medea request within just seven working days.Mr Williams, born in Alice Springs and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, directs, teaches and runs Centre Stage entirely as a volunteer, and is supported by several other non-paid workers. He says Mr Manzie's latest refusal is the last straw for him: "After five years of hard struggle I've had enough."I feel desperately sorry for the kids."There's no recognition of their commitment, talent and dedication from the people who make an electoral issue of supporting youth as being the future of the Territory."Mr Williams, who works as a part-time drama teacher at the Catholic High School, says he declined last December the offer of a $100 an hour job with the National Youth Theatre in London - for much the same work he's doing without pay at Centre Stage.He says he's now likely to take the UK job.During Mr Williams' directorship, all nine Centre Stage amateur actors who sought admission to national drama schools have been accepted.One of them, 22-year-old Lucy Slattery, currently plays the lead in Adelaide in the SA Theatre Company's production Dancing With Kafka. Mr Williams says Mr Manzie has failed to offer any acceptable reasons for his decision.A letter from Mr Manzie says Centre Stage "appears to be in a position of trading beyond its means, and that the staging of a production could be considered financially ambitious at this stage".Says Mr Williams: "I'd like to know how Mr Manzie came to this conclusion."No-one from his department has spoken to us about our current financial situation."The fact is that at present it is the healthiest since 1995."Mr Williams says when Mr Manzie's department last supported a Centre Stage production - a paltry $3500 for Hamlet last financial year - the group had debts totalling $16,000.Now - after the highly popular Full Monty shows at Lasseter's Casino, as well as other fund raising - the debt is reduced to $5000, all in rent owed to the Youth Centre.Monty packed out the casino two nights in a row, with many parents of young Centre Stage members attending.While the nude scene brought the house down, at no point was the applause more enthusiastic and sustained than when Mr Williams told the crowd the group was doing the show for the kids of the town.Mr Williams says the latest auditor's report, concluded on August 20, says there are "reasonable grounds to believe the association will be able to pay debts as and when they fall due."While the auditor also says there is "significant uncertainty regarding the ability of the association to continue as a going concern without significant government and grant funding in the future", Mr Williams says this is no different to most other theatre enterprises around the world.Meanwhile, Mr Manzie's department has paid $100,000 to Darwin's Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre for its rent, and provided them with ongoing funding for paid staff.Mr Williams describes as absurd Mr Manzie's statement that he will not provide money to "clear deficits": by refusing a rent subsidy, Mr Manzie puts Centre Stage in a position where it incurs a deficit; and the Minister then uses that as a reason for denying funding.Mr Williams says the great majority of Centre Stage productions proceed without government money: six have been staged since Hamlet, and three more are in production now - but it seems these will be the last.When Centre Stage closes its doors, the town will have no theatre group for young people: the Araluen Youth Theatre folded in January.Mr Williams rejects suggestions that Centre Stage focusses on mainstream productions at the expense of providing opportunities for creative writing and experimentation.He says every class writes and performs at least two plays a year."That's the part of our work people don't see," he says, "because we don't have the money to stage these plays before a big audience."But of course we're interested in the whole creative process, and the life and social skills it develops."Centre Stage has written plays for Living With Alcohol, Territory Anti Litter, road safety, about the threatened extinction of the bilby and for the restaurant, Pavarotti's.The group's nationally acclaimed "Requiem" - performed in Canberra - was written by Mr Williams and the cast, as was "Anthem", which was one of six national finalists in Australian Playwright of the Year in 1995.Mr Williams says: "Maybe our kids should have been born barramundis."The NT Government last week reportedly spent $25,000 airlifting a few barra from one side of a river to the other."That's more money than we ever got from Mr Manzie."Mr Williams says Elizabeth O'Shea, director of the Arts Department's Cultural Development Division, will be having talks this week with Centre Stage about "matters of interest to the Minister".Ms O'Shea did not respond to requests for comment from the Alice News.

ART ONE OF OUR GREATEST ASSETS. COMMENT by JUNE TUZEWSKI.

Hard work, creativity and the courage to take risks: life in the Territory's harsh environment would not have been easy for the original inhabitants any more than it was for the first white settlers and others who followed. The day to day aspects of living aside, our need for enjoyment and a better understanding of ourselves is reflected in what we have come to call "the arts". The arts, of course, covers many areas. In the Alice, we are well served with organisations fostering a particular field of interest. Through schools young people often discover their talent or ability for the first time. Service Clubs provide support with scholarships, and Centralian College provides Diploma and Degree courses in various aspects of the arts. Attending the 30th NT Art Award currently on show at Araluen reminded me that our creative spirit is alive and well, and very much a part of our colourful history. Central Australia has been "put on the map" in a variety of ways. I am sure that the late Rex Battarbee did not envisage the impact his artistic talent would have in Central Australia when he was appointed a Resident Inspector here during the Second World war. Security was a major concern because of the presence of the army and, as in other parts of Australia, "foreigners" had to be kept under surveillance. This included the German missionaries at Hermannsburg. The story of Rex Battarbee and Albert Namatjira is well known and Namatjira's style of painting with water-colours continues to be developed, exhibited and sold. Similarly, when a young art adviser by the name of Geoffrey Bardon introduced acrylic paints to the Aboriginal people of Papunya in 1971, he gave the Western Desert people a new-found means to paint their designs in a permanent form and show them to a wider audience. No one dreamed of the impact this would have in the arts world. One of the earliest films to be made here was in the mid-40s. The Overlanders told the story of one of the last great cattle-drives. The leading female role was played by a young woman from Sydney, Daphne Campbell. Daphne fell in love with a young pilot by the name of Sam Calder and gave up her new career to stay in the Territory. Jedda, another film made in the Centre about that time, was one of the earliest films to feature Aboriginal people and starred a young Aboriginal woman known today as Rosie Kunoth-Monks. Since those times, Central Australia has become a desirable location for film-makers. Today, another well-known figure, Ted Egan, is adding film-making to his seemingly endless list of creative achievements. Ted's production of The Drover's Boy tells some of the history of Aboriginal women's contribution to the pastoral industry. Ningali, who will play the lead role already has an impressive background in the performing arts. She is also the grand-daughter of an Aboriginal woman who was a drover's boy. Old Timers would remember the days of the Alice Springs Dramatic Society and later the Film Society. In the 60s the opening of the Totem Theatre with shows by the Alice Springs Theatre Group provided much enjoyment, as did the Alice Springs Music Society. The opening of the Araluen Arts Centre in the 1980 heralded a new era. Controversy is always a companion to the arts. In this instance there was great debate over costs and whether local groups could afford to make use of its facilities. Whatever the difficulties over the years, we are most fortunate to have a facility which far surpasses those in many other Australian communities. The NT Art Award, which I mentioned, is sponsored by the Central Australian Art Society who see their brief as fostering the arts in the NT. They hold self help life/figure drawing sessions every Saturday afternoon and occasionally go bush for landscape drawing. The soon-to-be-held Alice Prize had its first showing in Rumball Hall at Traeger Park in 1970 and is sponsored by the Alice Springs Art Foundation. The Alice Prize is a national competition and attracts work from all over Australia. Building on the vision of those such as Mona Byrnes who formed the Art Foundation, the hard work of the continuing membership has resulted in an impressive collection of art work. This not only now belongs to the people of Alice Springs but has national significance. Funding for the arts and artistic endeavour is always scarce. Sponsorship and support is a constant concern. However, it is said that a community's value is reflected in its art - in that case we are extremely wealthy. Contacts for enquiries: Centralian College Art Courses: Bob Nixon, 8959 5201; Central Australian Art Society: Homer Coderre, 8955 5255; Alice Springs Art Foundation: Trish Van Dijk, 8955 0252.

DEMOCRATS: STATEHOOD A GOOD TIME FOR THE HARD QUESTIONS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Do we need Chief Minister Shane Stone to protect us from Canberra, or Canberra to protect us from Shane Stone?Those who don't trust him say we have just two years to fix what is wrong with the political system of the Northern Territory: after that we're likely to be a state, and no longer protected by the overriding powers the Commonwealth has at present.The question of why Canberra is hugely reluctant to exercise these powers, no matter who resides in The Lodge, is also gaining urgency with the approaching October 3 Federal poll and statehood referendum.The answer lies in the powerful yet fuzzy notion of "state rights" which can frighten off even the Territory's most articulate and passionate critics from taking action still available to them.This works well for Mr Stone whose vigorous claims that no-one should stick their nose into Territory affairs serve to deflect effective Federal scrutiny.That few politicians of the major parties will stick their necks out and exercise that scrutiny has been a fact of life.Yet it is surprising that neither will a passionate and articulate critic of the Territory government such as Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats, the party which may well have the balance of power in the new Parliament: it is a bit like engaging in energetic foreplay, but then not going all the way.During a visit to Alice Springs last week Senator Stott Despoja lashed out at the NT Government over a range of issues, but made it clear she would not be party to overturning any NT legislation.She said she voted against the Kevin Andrews Bill, which knocked on the head the NT's voluntary euthanasia law. It was the only such Bill in more than 20 years of self government, and dealt with a matter affecting a tiny portion of the population.Senator Stott Despoja lists a range of contentious issues, affecting a great number of Territorians: the recent statehood convention from which unions and Aborigines "walked out in disgust"; Mr Stone's "unilateral" arrangements for statehood, a process she believes 70 to 80 per cent of Territorians are not comfortable with; and the "extraordinary" mandatory sentencing provisions - "some of the most punitive legislation for young people in the world".However, while Senator Stott Despoja urges a "no" vote in the statehood referendum, she says: "I'm not going to make the mistake Kevin Andrews made, and that is assuming that because I'm from the Federal Government or from a state, that I somehow have this superior knowledge, or the right to make moral and legal judgments."However, you could argue that there is a constitutional responsibility to review the governments of the Territories."You've seen Federal Governments, perhaps in conjunction with a Territory Government, as being particularly slack in meeting those constitutional objectives and responsibilities."I think it's probably appropriate, in the 20th anniversary year of self government, that you actually embark on that process of review."But these brave words have a hollow ring while the Democrats, when it comes to the crunch, will shy away from disallowing NT laws: "I will stick with my principles, for the same reason I voted against the Bill to overturn the voluntary euthanasia laws."I am not prepared to stampede on the rights of Northern Territorians, even when you pass legislation we find offensive and contemptible."This may not be an adequate response as Territorians are beginning to ask themselves whether protection from Canberra is the last resort against shoring up what comes closest to a totalitarian regime in Australia.With all the statehood razzamatazz, the rest of Australia is rediscovering the NT with a mixture of bemusement and horror.Dr Christopher Sheil, the Evatt Foundation's project leader, in the Sydney Morning Herald of August 24 argued against giving the Territory statehood: "The Country Liberal Party is either the best political party in the world or there is a systematic barrier to NT democracy," he writes.The CLP has commanded a majority for 24 years, ruling longer by far than the Thatcher regime in Britain; during that time three Republican and two Democrat presidents in the USA have come and gone.Dr Sheil attributes the CLP's entrenched rule to a "straightforward scam".He writes: "Not only is this ‘democracy' minuscule compared with everywhere else in Australia, the CLP Government has gigantic financial clout within it."One-third of the Territory's $5 billion economy comes from public spending."Where does the money come from?"About 75 per cent of the Territory's revenue is supplied by Canberra."In turn, about 75 per cent of this amount is handed over as unconditional grants."This gives the CLP a discretionary per capita allocation seven times larger than the Federal grants provided to NSW."Under these conditions, the CLP can easily purchase its longevity by giving most of its (sorry, our) money to the 30,000 voters in the 13 seats required to retain power."Dr Sheil says the NT's indigenous population is being ignored with impunity: "If Australia grants statehood to the Territory, the nation will not just be sanctioning systematic, barbaric racism."The additional authority of being a state will allow the CLP to further entrench it."Think of the infants and weep."There's likely to be much more of this type of comment as the nation becomes aware that our homicide rate is roughly 10 times the national average, that a whole black generation is growing up largely uneducated, without job prospects, and drowning in grog and petrol; that we have no Freedom of Information laws; that we have a town planning regime that would make a banana republic blush (whatever happened to the Earl James report?); that we have a public service either "bought" (for example, by six figure salary packages, and promotions) or frightened into submission; that for every white Australian aged between 35 and 49, seven Aborigines die; that the Territory has by far the highest number of prisoners per 100,000 adult population (452.9; Queensland is a distant second with 183.1); all that despite "disability" funding to the NT, for the past two decades, nearly five times greater than the national average.Says Senator Stott Despoja: "I find it quite an extraordinary situation that there hasn't been closer attention [to NT government spending], not simply as a means of checking up on how tax dollars are being used, but also to see if this is symbolic of a larger problem or a crisis - or even to look in on some of the positive developments."We all know how the Feds had to be dragged kicking and screaming to investigate issues such as indigenous health."There's this constant argument about jurisdiction - are these Territory or Commonwealth issues - but if you've got the Commonwealth paying funding you'd expect them to check up. "You've had a government here for 25 years. "Things in the past haven't looked like they were going to be shaken up greatly."The two [big] parties seem to like the status quo, unlike the Democrats; we're into shaking things up."We'd like to see this stranglehold on Northern Territory politics changed, we'd like to see the diversity in the population - not just indigenous and non-indigenous - involved in the processes of government."The degree of accountability and honesty the Democrats have provided in the Upper House on a Federal level, I'd like to see us provide in state and territory governments across the nation."Peter Clements, the Democrats' number two Senate candidate in the NT and an Alice Springs resident, says the Federal Government must not turn its back on the shaping of the Territory's future.He says Section 121 of the Australian Constitution allows Federal Parliament to admit or establish new states, and in doing so, may "make or impose such terms and conditions ... as it thinks fit".Senator Stott Despoja is highly critical of the NT's recent process for formulating its own constitution: "Any constitution should involve active citizenship and excite the population."The Territory's present draft constitution "seems to be dividing the population in a way that's not particularly helpful for statehood."Perhaps when we're moving into a new millennium, and as the centenary of Federation draws near, and we're approaching these big notions of statehood and Territory rights, and people's rights generally, it's a good time to assess not just in the NT, but across the nation the status of people."Such a review "should definitely happen before statehood, absolutely."People would argue that there is little point in having a so-called prize of statehood if you haven't done these necessary reviews and valuations."You'd want to look at constitutional and legal issues, at the rights of the people."This is one of the biggest dilemmas in Australia. "Without a Bill of Rights it's very difficult to determine what rights people are entitled to."In the NT particularly, you'd look at the comfort and status of people, their legal rights, and you investigate people's lifestyles as well."Mr Clements says that Territorians for Democratic Statehood and the NT branch of the Australian Democrats are interested in developing a Bill of Rights as part of the NT Constitution "because most contemporary governments around the world are adopting a Bill of Rights, including South Africa".

NATURE, ART IN ONE STOP CULTURE SHOP. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

By April year Alice Springs should have a fully-fledged cultural precinct on the current adjoining sites of the Strehlow Centre, the Araluen Centre, the Crafts Council and the Aviation Museum, in close relationship to the town council-owned Memorial Cemetery and Frank McEllister Park.The cultural context of the precinct is also enriched by the proximity of two Aboriginal sacred sites, the hill immediately behind Araluen and the small hill on the western side of the park.The development of the precinct concept began two years ago with the town council's handover of Araluen to the Northern Territory Government.There was a pressing need to put money into the bricks and mortar of the arts centre: the roof was leaking, the public areas needed a facelift, the art collections' storage facilities were full to overflowing, the lighting in the galleries was inadequate.At the same time, the Museum of Central Australia's lease at the Alice Plaza was nearing expiry, and the 10 year old display at the Strehlow Centre needed renovation.The Government has made $1m available to relocate the museum to the Strehlow building; to significantly upgrade the Araluen Centre, and expand its storage facilities; to carry out minor upgrades at the Aviation Museum and the Crafts Council, including the relocation into there of the regional arts' office; and to pull the extensive site together, with integrated landscaping and signage. But, is having all of that cultural interest on the one site necessarily a good thing? David Whitney, Director of the Araluen Centre, and now Director of the precinct, thinks it is.He recalls his childhood visits to what was effectively the cultural precinct of Adelaide, with the Museum of South Australia, the Art Gallery and the State Library all adjacent to one another.Around the corner was the Museum of Migration and Settlement, and down the road, Parliament House and the Constitutional Museum. The whole area is now officially the North Terrace Cultural Precinct. "There's an advantage in centralising those activities," says Mr Whitney."The scale of activities of the Department of Arts and Museums in Central Australia is modest. By pulling them together we can make the most of marketing and access opportunities."But as well, the displays can gain from the site context and from cross referencing to one another."For example, the museum's display of pre-contact Aboriginal culture might refer to plants used for weapons, medicinal purposes, or food.It is hoped that the plants themselves will then feature in the landscaping planned for the area between the Strehlow building and the Crafts Council.The post-contact display will be housed in what is now the boardroom of the Strehlow Centre, which has a large window looking across to Mount Gillen and, at closer quarters, to the sacred hill behind Araluen. "There are huge interpretive possibilities there for talking about connection of Aboriginal people with the land, and about the interactions between the cultures over the last 200 years," says Mr Whitney.Museum Director Peter Murray is also excited about a new context for the museum."It should have been an ideal situation to have a museum in the middle of town, but it never worked for a variety of complex reasons," says Dr Murray."Had a different chain of events surrounded its initial installation, it could have been highly successful."Shifts in the way the CBD was used occurred quite early on. Yeperenye opened up, which changed the flow of people through the commercial centre. We also never developed a promotional approach. We had a very low profile."The grounds surrounding the new site are an advantage that the Alice Plaza site could never have offered.Apart from plants, Dr Murray is hoping to include some big geological specimens in the grounds. "Some of the big rocks that Transport & Works dislodge when they're doing roadworks are chock-a-block full of fossils. "We will interpret them from a paleontological viewpoint, but they will also act like sculptural elements."So the grounds will be both educational and recreational."Museum design consultants will be engaged to assist in adapting the museum's displays to the Strehlow building and to help make a "seamless" transition between the museum's exhibits and the Strehlow display itself.The interest of the latter will be increased by the inclusion of some objects from the Strehlow Collection, until now not on public view.NEXT: Bold plan for natural history display.

CHECKS NEEDED ON WORK FOR THE DOLE PROJECT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Territory boasts the nation's lowest unemployment rate, 4.2 per cent. However, without the Federally funded Community Development Employment Scheme (CDEP), managed by ATSIC, the Territory would be Australia's basket case with a jobless figure of around 15 per cent.As we reported last week, CDEP removes some eight per cent of our work force from the dole queue - twice the number of our officially unemployed. In the Alice Springs region, 1616 people participate in the scheme.The CDEP participation rate in the NT is 26 times greater than the national average. Despite anecdotal evidence of some spectacular successes, there are no hard facts about any achievements of the scheme in terms of channelling participants into the mainstream work force, or helping them into private business in their own right.Neither is there any formal assessment of the impact this "work for the dole" program may be having on problems such as alcohol abuse and petrol sniffing, domestic violence on communities, and the massive crime and vehicle accident rate in The Centre. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.CDEP - in existence for 22 years and costing $20m a year in Central Australia alone - still has no clear objectives, and its "outcomes" are not subjected to systematic monitoring.This is among conclusions of a report published in December last year by Ian Spicer, past chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of the Confederation of Australian Industry.Meanwhile Labor candidate for the Territory's seat in the House of Representatives, Warren Snowdon, says an ALP government would leave the responsibility for CDEP with ATSIC while the Coalition, he says, is proposing to transfer it to Centrelink.Mr Spicer was appointed by ATSIC at the behest of the Federal Expenditure Review Committee, and in the wake of Pauline Hanson claims of waste in Aboriginal spending.An ATSIC spokesman in Alice Springs says the report's recommendations are starting to be implemented, but no details are yet available.Mr Spicer says the scheme should have predetermined "outcomes" and ATSIC should "develop strategic plans".It should set out "the way in which ATSIC and Regional Councils propose to achieve outcomes from the CDEP scheme in their respective areas of responsibility, including the linkages that should be established with governments and relevant agencies."Mr Spicer recommends the scheme should produce "unsubsidised employment outcomes" including the setting up of businesses, as well as providing training for a "transition to full-time employment".In a recommendation on training, Mr Spicer says ATSIC should ensure "that the state training authorities assume responsibility for better co-ordination of training analyses and service delivery" and should remove "the inherent rigidities of the current TAFE system to better deliver accredited training".CDEP managers and board members should be trained in collaboration with major industry bodies, such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors and chambers of commerce, and there should be an information exchange between managers from different projects."ATSIC, regional councils and CDEP organisations [should] continue the investigation into the rationalisation and amalgamation of CDEP organisations with the objectives of improving administrative efficiency and improving outcomes for individual CDEP participants."Mr Spicer also has a shot at governments palming off their responsibilities to CDEP. He says "the extent to which CDEP is used by governments to abrogate responsibility for the provision of municipal services" should be examined.Mr Spicer recommends "where appropriate, negotiate with governments to secure contracts for CDEPs to deliver municipal services [and] consider the extent and influence of municipal services funding when determining funding allocations to CDEP organisations".He says ATSIC should "develop a framework for the future evaluation of the outcomes of the CDEP scheme which informs the Government policy and not simply describes processes and activities".Consideration should be "given to the merits of ongoing regional, rather than national, evaluations of the scheme".ATSIC puts a more positive spin on Mr Spicer's report.The organisation's Office of Public Affairs quotes the report as saying that "CDEP is a highly successful program run by and for indigenous communities."CDEP has unqualified audits for the past four financial years."The special audit ordered by the Minister ... in 1996 classified 94 per cent of CDEP organisations as ‘fit and proper' to expend public moneys."The ATSIC release says the Spicer report "found CDEP has been critical to developing in improved sense of pride in community and culture and has provided the basis for acquiring greater skills, employment and enterprise development resulting in ongoing social and economic growth".Says ATSIC: "The review believes it is important that ATSIC and the Government promote CDEP as a separate and unique program." Mr Snowdon, who had responsibility for labour market programs and the CES when he was a Parliamentary Secretary and the Member for the Territory prior to the last election, says "the outcomes of CDEP" under Federal Labor governments were "quite good".He says: "In many Aboriginal communities there is no labour market."What you have to do is construct a labour market, using CDEP."In many of these communities people don't have the foundation for employment. "They don't have a basic education. They can't read and write."However, says Mr Snowdon, there are a range of functions which CDEP can fill in communities "so you can give people the capacity for starting small businesses, for example."Tangentyere did that very successfully for a while."If there's a building program, for example, you made sure that there are people who are training with that program, so that they can do the maintenance as required and ultimately build houses."Mr Snowdon concedes that he has no hard facts about the degree to which such programs have led to these "outcomes", but he says in many communities CDEP provides an important supplement to "core" employment, in jobs such as health workers and teachers' assistants.Mr Snowdon says: "We recognised the need to improve the skill levels and outcomes for CDEP participants, and to provide them with the capacity to compete in the broader labour market."We did this by providing them with access to training and labour market programs which were abolished by the Howard Government."The present government sees CDEP as a dead end, and they've withdrawn all the support processes."He says the Coalition has taken away from Centrelink resources for CDEP follow-up initiatives, yet "they're blaming ATSIC for their own policy failures."ATSIC is the most accountable organisation within the Commonwealth. It is audited more often than any other organisation."[The Alice News will be talking to the sitting Member for the NT, Nick Dondas, for next week's edition.]Meanwhile Labor's employment spokesman Martin Ferguson, speaking to the Alice News during a visit to The Centre last week, backed the scheme.He said: "I am a supporter of CDEP. It is especially important to the communities."They see it as a means by which they can build a sense of work ethic and discipline back into their communities. But it's not enough."The real loss has been the failure of the Jobs Network to look after remote localities, and also that the Government has cut $1.7b out of employment programs, much of which was used for employment and training in the remote localities, such as new work opportunities."In the end it comes down to creating additional jobs."Asked what CDEP had achieved in the two decades it's been around, including during the Labor Government, Mr Ferguson said: "I think CDEP has given a lot of the communities the opportunity to do infrastructure work, such as maintenance of bores."That, in turn, means you can try and skill people."But as good as CDEP is, you've got to do more than CDEP. That's where you bring in the other employment and training programs, that have been cut to ribbons since May, 1996."Asked about evidence of transition to mainstream employment and social advantages, Mr Ferguson said: "Success of CDEP has varied from community to community."In Central Australia, in some communities, it's been regarded by elders - and they are the important judges in the end - as being exceptionally important."There are bigger demands for CDEP in communities than are currently being met by government."However, there needs to be real job growth."People want regular employment, either full or part time. And that's where we are failing as a nation at the moment."Mr Ferguson says when he was in the union movement, Aboriginal leaders campaigned to make sure that the union movement continues to support CDEP. The Central Land Council has "always spoken to me about the need to maintain CDEP," he says.

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