Radical reform: Ms Vanstone is keen to enshrine the principle of mutual obligation. [File photo]

Radical reform: Ms Vanstone is keen to enshrine the principle of mutual obligation.
photo (Reuters)

Indigenous payments may be linked to behaviour

The Federal Government is moving to improve the living standards in Aboriginal communities with a shake up of welfare that would see payments and services tied to community outcomes in health, education and employment.

The Government is considering taking a more hardline approach to welfare payments for Indigenous Australians, linking them to modified behaviour.

The plan could see parents sanctioned for failing to keep children clean or clothed, or send them to school.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone says she also wants remote area exemptions for mutual obligation to end in favour of shared responsibility agreements.

But Senator Vanstone denies it is a form of "behavioural contract" or a "one size fits all approach".

"Certainly you can imagine the problems in a remote area in the Kimberley would be vastly different from a coastal region in Arnhem Land or Cape York, but what we will be doing with communities is saying, 'where do you want to be in 20-years?'," she said.

Senator Vanstone says the "pool for school" idea came from the Aboriginal community and is already being implemented in the Northern Territory.

"There are a range of communities across the Territory where we're putting in a pool with the Northern Territory Government, but the deal is the community has to say to the kids, no school no pool," she said.

"We will look on a flexible basis community-by-community to see what arrangements we can come up with."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister says the proposal, to end what he calls "passive" welfare payments for Aboriginal communities, is not paternalistic.

Mr Howard told Southern Cross radio mutual obligation is a good idea for all communities.

"I think what the Minister was outlining was a rejection which many Aboriginal leaders have rejected of the concept of sit down money, I think the idea of passive welfare is an idea whose time has past," he said.

He says there is no time line for change.

"We don't have any particular timetable for that, we believe very strongly that the new approach to Aboriginal affairs is the right approach," he said.

There is also a proposal for a electronic card designed to limit what Indigenous Australians can buy with Government welfare payments.

Source: ABC Radio