The Federal Government is considering tying welfare payments to school attendance and nourishment at home as part of its response to the social crisis in Aboriginal communities. The idea has been endorsed by Treasurer Peter Costello ahead of tomorrow's summit of state and federal indigenous affairs ministers, called to find ways of combating violence and child sexual assault blighting many remote settlements. The summit is also expected to consider garnishing welfare payments for parents who are substance abusers. Under the proposal, part of their payments would be held by the Government and directed towards their children's welfare.
Mr Costello said there had been "no shortage of money spent on Aboriginal affairs". "Like any other people, they get family tax benefits and CDEP (Community Development Employment Projects). In addition to that, they get much higher per-capita spending on health and education, yet they're still suffering from great hardships. "What we've proven is that simply shovelling money at these problems is not necessarily the answer. "One option is to tie that money to health and education outcomes much more carefully. For example, making family benefits payments payable only if the parents' kids are going to school. "You could also make family benefits payments conditional on the kids being properly nourished. It's no good if the money is being spent on grog and gambling."
Mr Costello said he'd been convinced to try the scheme by Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson. He said the Government had set aside money for pilot schemes tying welfare to health and education in the Cape. But in the wake of a controversial call by Health Minister Tony Abbott for a "new paternalism" in Aboriginal affairs, Mr Costello said his plan would apply to all welfare recipients. He said it would probably work better in Aboriginal communities, where leaders were able to identify families in need.
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