• Several Cape York Traditional Owner groups have called for more time to examine the Pama Futures welfare reform plan. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The Cape York Partnership has rejected claims that its Pama Futures welfare reform plan lacks transparency.
Ella Archibald-Binge

19 Dec 2018 - 12:20 PM  UPDATED 19 Dec 2018 - 2:55 PM

A new welfare reform agenda to "close the gap on Indigenous disparity" in Cape York is being rushed through, according to some of the region's Traditional Owners.

The Pama Futures proposal is a blueprint to move beyond Noel Pearson's multi-million dollar Cape York welfare reform trials, which have been operating in five communities since 2008. 

The plan purports to be "for the people of Cape York, by the people of Cape York". 

But the CEO of the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation (OAC), Debbie Symonds, said the design process had been rushed. 

"There’s actually no policy or detail behind the roll out, the implementation, the pros and cons or anything that has any substance behind it," she told NITV News. 

"We want the process slowed down... we just don’t think that you can make good decisions being pushed.

"We want an independent summit where we can actually go through this Pama document page by page and work out what it means to individual clan groups – because you can’t bunch us altogether and think we have all the same aspirations, because we don’t."

Cape York Partnerships CEO, Fiona Jose, rejected the claims. 

She said more than 800 Cape York people had participated in a "comprehensive co-design process" through three summits, community engagement and design labs over 18 months.

"I’ve never actually myself, as a Cape York person, been involved in something so comprehensive from a participation process," Ms Jose told NITV News. 

She acknowledged that around 26 people - including Ms Symonds - made a request at a Cairns summit last week for more time to examine the plan. 

"We can’t hold back on a process where other people want to move forward and to do this... but if anyone wants more information, wants to sit down and to do that, I completely say come and see me," said Ms Jose. 

The Olkola Aboriginal Corporation also expressed concerns that a 300-page submission to the state and federal governments earlier this year had not been made available to Traditional Owners. 

Ms Symonds said the OAC was provided with only 90 pages after submitting a Freedom of Information Request to the Queensland government - with no details of the proposed implementation plan. 

Ms Jose said the implementation plan wasn't provided because it was "ever-evolving", based on feedback from Traditional Owners. 

The federal government has backed the Pama Futures proposal, but the Palaszczuk Government is yet to sign off on the plan. 

Last month, the Queensland government announced a key component of Pama Futures - the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) - would be absorbed into a new initiative called Thriving Communities.

The FRC is a statutory authority with the power to place welfare recipients on the BasicsCard if they don't send their children to school, fail to uphold their tenancy responsibilities or break the law.

The initiative was poised to be "switched on" in more communities "on the request of local leaders" under Pama Futures. 

The Pama Futures proposal would also see a 75 per cent community weighting to federal funding decisions in Cape York. 

Other key initiatives of the plan include: 

  • Cape York Land Council to become the Prescribed Body Corporate for One Claim - one of Australia's biggest native title claims
  • A deal to commit all parties to Pama Futures for at least a decade
  • A 2000-kilometre Dreaming Track tourist attraction
  • Tribal wealth funds to ensure mining royalties bring long-term economic development
  • An opt-in welfare management mobile phone app 
  • Cape York governance areas to be divided into 12 sub-regions based around existing communities


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