Plan to get black kids into training
Patricia Karvelas

INDIGENOUS children who drop out of school will be forced to do a TAFE course under a radical Howard Government plan to stop them languishing forever on Aboriginal work-for-the-dole programs.

Faced with a high-school drop-out rate of up to 67per cent - about 26,000 teenage Aborigines a year - the Government is even considering special boarding schools to fundamentally alter the prospects for indigenous Australians.

After an extensive consultation with local communities, the Government has decided to act on complaints that young Aborigines are being encouraged to drop out of school and join the special work-for-the-dole program Community Development Employment Projects.

Under the blueprint, to be revealed by Employment Minister Kevin Andrews today, CDEP organisations will be asked to ensure that 15- to 17-year-old participants complete accredited training, such as TAFE, to improve their job prospects.

Mr Andrews told The Australian last night that the Government was listening carefully to suggestions by Aboriginal leader and Howard Government welfare adviser Noel Pearson to increase education and training opportunities.

"We would not want to be paternalistic about it ... but even people like Noel Pearson have been encouraging boarding school," he said. "We haven't yet addressed how we will do that."

Under the plan, the Government will seek to merge two of its contentious welfare philosophies: mutual obligation, which requires all welfare recipients to give something back, and the new Aboriginal community contracts, the shared responsibility agreements.

So far, the new contracts approach has seen communities institute a range of projects in exchange for government funding - such as asking parents to ensure their children are washed and attend school.

Work-for-the-dole programs would be linked to the shared responsibility agreements under the plan, which will set targets for indigenous people to find "real" jobs.

Time limits will be placed on how long participants are on work-for-the-dole programs, although the Government has yet to reveal what happens to people who do not get a job within the time limit.

Limits will also be placed on the use of taxpayers' money to provide wage subsidies for non-CDEP jobs.

Mr Andrews said change would begin immediately.

"CDEP participants need to know that CDEP can provide a stepping stone to non-CDEP jobs even in more remote communities and lead to improved income and economic independence," he said.

Responding to complaints that too many non-indigenous people participate in the Aboriginal program, the Howard Government will also ask CDEP organisations to halve the number of non-black participants from the current 7per cent to a maximum of 3per cent.

More than 2100 people and groups were asked their opinion on the operation of the schemes.

CDEP groups must now identify whether their jobs are genuine or just benefit the community without fitting into the marketplace.

In places where there were good job opportunities, CDEP organisations would be asked to find non-CDEP jobs for participants, with benchmarks and tests introduced to ensure this happened.

In communities where Aboriginal people were not required to work for the dole, because they were too remote, they would have to participate in community activities to keep welfare payments.

The Government would also identify all the jobs Aboriginal people were doing that involved delivering government services, such as garbage collection, with the aim of contracting those tasks out to business.

"Through this process, potential business and contracting opportunities for CDEP organisations will be identified. This will be done with the objective of ensuring continuity of services to communities," the report says.

The CDEP program, which began in 1977, is the biggest employer of indigenous people. Under CDEP, a community creates a common fund out of combined unemployment benefits, which pays the unemployed to do community work and activities.