The Election of the Howard Coalition Government marked a watershed for Aborigines. The Aboriginal Affairs minister has asserted that Aboriginal self-empowerment must come through economic independence. The new ATSIC Chairperson is, amongst other significant achievements, a highly successful businessman. These and other factors point in one direction – towards Aboriginal organisations needing to become increasingly self-funded through the setting up of enterprises. There now promises to be the most radical re-orientation of Aboriginal economic programs since their inception. Funding is bound to become more results driven, and will require more specifically defined outcomes, yielding increasingly significant economic dividends.
Flying in the face of this new economic imperative, are significant restrictions that have been placed upon CDEPs. Participant numbers have been capped, and plans to begin new CDEPs have been scrapped. Programs that had been used to fund the coordination of CDEPs, and the training of Aboriginal administration staff have been abolished. Business related programs have had funding reductions. There are no plans to fund the Coordination of CDEPs or the training of administration staff in 1997/8 or thereafter. This will make the journey towards economic self-sufficiency of Aboriginal people a far more difficult and, for some, an impossible proposition.
The rise of the One Nation party, with its policies of no Aboriginal land rights and no specific economic programs for Aborigines beyond that available to the general population can only put more pressure on the Govt to move even further in this general direction.
All of this suggests that whatever can be done to improve the design, administration and execution of the program should be done, and without delay.
This paper has been written to assist CDEPs raise their performance levels, become more professionally managed, and become more business orientated in the face of such difficulties. It explores actual reasons for the more serious problems that act to lower the performance of CDEP organisations, and it makes recommendations to address those difficulties. Wherever possible, anecdotal examples have been included for purposes of illustration and clarity.