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The Work-for-the-Dole scheme has come to Russell Island. Federal Member for Bowman, Andrew Laming, announced the program in his Friendly Bay Islander column last month. He expands his comments in our May Q and A.

Q: Is the Russell Island Work-for-the-Dole project the first in your electorate of Bowman?

A: This is the first time WFTD has been expanded from non-profit work placements to include Local Government. One day, I hope to see the program expanded to include opportunities in the private sector.

Q: Why was the Russell Island Conservation Inc group's bush regeneration project selected?

A: It is hard to beat bushland regeneration as a top priority.

Q: How is the Work-for-the-Dole scheme meant to work?

A: If you are getting a public subsidy and able to work, it’s fair enough that you show up somewhere, gain skills, confidence and make a contribution. It also puts you in the box seat for future employment.

Q: Did Russell Island's isolation play a role in its selection?

A: For sure, it solves the big logistical challenge of daily expensive water taxis.

Q: How long is the Russell Island program for - Is there a time or monetary limit?

A: The approval is determined by the number of places, and the six-monthly programs can run as long as there is demand.

Q: Is the funding only for the placement of workers? What if materials and equipment are required?

A: That is covered separately; typically by the organisation running the program, who receive additional funding.

Q: It has been said that many unemployed use our islands to 'escape' a commitment to work. Do you believe that might be the case in some instances?

A: Unlikely. The islands are an incredible place to live; whether you have a job or not. I don’t blame people for living there.

Q: Do you know what is the unemployment rate on our islands, compared to the mainland?

A: Yes, it is higher; which makes it even more important to increase the supply of opportunities via programs such as work-for-the-dole.

Q: Is there any chance the program can be extended to other projects and to more of our islands?

A: It’s up to the provider to find new projects. Supervisor positions are funded, so I suggest the community should consider applying for those as well.

Q: Is there is a chance the Cashless Welfare Card may be introduced to ensure the appropriate spending of welfare?

A: Unlikely in the short term. There are both resource and technological limitations. If we did proceed, you would need all major mainland vendors to adopt technology to read the cards.



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