Economic development is central to the viability of remote communities. Without a secure economic base, there is no future for these towns. An economy not only drags people out of poverty, it opens up their choices.
But significant challenges exist in growing the real economy in Cape York. Many communities are small, remote and built on communal land. The scale, lack of infrastructure, and restricted property rights mean there is little opportunity for capital accumulation.
Given the difficulties in maintaining a real economy in Cape York, individuals must be supported to take available jobs, wherever they may be. ‘Orbiting’ enables Indigenous people to retain strong and ongoing connections to their ancestral lands while being employed elsewhere. Orbiting brings additional resources back to the community and opens up more jobs for locals.
With economic development comes empowerment. Until the Indigenous people of Cape York can largely generate their own incomes they will be dependent on income transfers, where someone else takes all of the rights and responsibilities to make decisions and take actions on behalf of a relatively powerless people. Economic development is therefore closely linked to self-determination.
Without economic advancement, Indigenous Australians are more likely to lose their heritage and identity. The Cape York Agenda seeks to re-establish a society that is both economically and culturally productive.
Current policy work includes changes to the current land tenure system to enable local enterprise to develop more fully and the development of employment-related mobility programs to assist individuals to engage more widely. Policy work is also being undertaken around the potential for enterprise creation within the carbon farming and feral pig control industries.
The Cape York Welfare Reform trial included the transition of forty CDEP jobs throughout Cape York to Government jobs which expanded the real opportunities available locally. The trial has also increased local job creation through the support provided by Balkanu Development Corporation. Current projects include the Mossman Gorge Gateway, Hope Vale Horticulture project, Aurukun Sewing Group and Cape York Arts project.
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