Our struggle for rights is not over and must continue — but we must also struggle to restore our traditional values of responsibility. We have to be as forthright and unequivocal about our responsibilities as we are about our rights — otherwise our society will fall apart...
We do not have a right to passive welfare — indeed we can no longer accept it. We have a right to a real economy, we have a right to build a real economy.
Noel Pearson, Executive Chairman, Cape York Partnerships
Cape York Partnerships enables reform by building innovative partnerships between Indigenous individuals and families, government and the philanthropic and corporate sectors.
The organisation was formed in 1999 through an agreement between the Australian and Queensland Governments and regional Indigenous organisations in Cape York Peninsula. In the first five years, the small Cape York Partnerships team focussed on educating communities and informing governments and others on the problems of passive welfare and the need for welfare reform.
Initiatives and Projects
Cape York Partnerships recognised that the way it could best show how reform could be implemented was to design and implement a range of showcase initiatives and projects.
Results of These Initiatives and Projects
All of the projects created and implemented by Cape York Partnerships have had success in Cape York communities, and today:
- Family Income Management has more than 1000 clients across five Cape York communities
- Family Income Management has influenced federal government policy on voluntary and conditional income management
- Attendance Case Managers are based in schools in each community and as a result, term on term, schools are seeing a reduction in unexplained absence of around 15%
- 100% of students in the Mossman Gorge community and 100% of students under 18 years of age in the Coen community have a Student Education Trust
- The Work Placement Scheme currently has 20 young Indigenous participants working in abattoirs in the Victorian towns of Wonthaggi and Poowong and continues to work with Mission Australia to achieve the initial goal of 50 participants
Cape York Welfare Reform
Cape York Partnerships believes that:
- Alcohol abuse and other addiction problems such as gambling need to be addressed as problems in their own right, not as symptoms
- The other main cause of social disintegration in Cape York is the introduction of a passive welfare economy
These two contentions represented a significant break with conventional wisdom in Indigenous affairs in Australia when they were first presented by Cape York Partnerships. Today this thinking informs the Cape York Welfare Reform agenda which is a comprehensive agenda with funding, legislative and political support from the Australian and Queensland governments. This comprehensive agenda will determine the social and economic future of Cape York communities.
Cape York Partnerships carries a major responsibility for the implementation of Welfare Reform. In late 2008 the Welfare Reform Program Office joined with Cape York Partnerships.
I don't want my people to remain recipients of government handouts. I want them to get out of passive welfare dependency and be proud and have self-respect for themselves, to have their own industries, grow our own doctors and lawyers, and have more educated Aboriginal people from Cape York.
Tania Major, Board Member