Hundreds of Aboriginal people will get $1.4 million (£1.1 million) in compensation from the Australian government as part of a settlement of a class action lawsuit alleging that the Scott Morrison government’s “work for the dole” programme was racist.
The Community Development Programme (CDP), which was introduced in 2015, has been dubbed “modern slavery” due to its stricter regulations and welfare penalties than other welfare schemes.
At least 80% of the program’s participants are Aboriginal Australians.
According to media, some 30,000 job applicants from distant communities were had to travel vast distances and work for 25 hours per week under the scheme.
As part of the initiative, they were paid only $10 (£5.39) per day, half the national minimum wage.
The government was sued by a group representing 680 people from ten communities in western Australia’s Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku and the Ngaanyatjarra council, who claimed the scheme violated anti-discrimination legislation.
According to media, they said the CDP violated sections 9, 10, and 13 of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The supporters said that the system harmed Aboriginal people living in Australia’s most distant and impoverished regions, who had limited access to networks, transportation, and internet connectivity.
The settlement was officially granted by Justice Richard White of the Federal Court of Australia, who stated that the government will pay the Ngaanyatjarra council $1.4 million.
The court determined that participants had lost an average of $1,800 (£970) due to the program’s terms.
Even as it promised to restructure the CDP programme for the ten towns encompassed by the class action, the government made no admission of legal liability.
The action’s leader, Damien McLean, president of the shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, praised the verdict and said the CDP required offenders to be “punished.”
“It was very challenging, highly stressful for places with high living costs and high levels of poverty,” Mr McLean said.
“That’s why we’re delighted the Commonwealth took a close look at it and recognised the issues it’s generating.”