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Coombs’ Bastard Child: The Troubled Life of CDEP



In the mid 1970s HC Coombs was a major promoter of the idea behind the CDEP scheme: that rather than pay lots of Aboriginal people in remote areas unemployment benefits it would be more constructive for them to be employed part-time by local Indigenous organisations to undertake socially useful tasks. From this simple idea was born one of the most significant and, in time, one of the largest Indigenous-specific programs Australia has seen, the Community Development Employment Projects scheme. The birth was not easy and neither has been the subsequent life of what I have called, with great licence, Coombs’ bastard child.