The leaders of Mowanjum, a remote Kimberley Aboriginal community, say the federal government must share the blame for a spate of youth suicides being investigated by WA's coroner because of changes in its work-for-the-dole scheme.
Mowanjum CEO Steve Austin and chairman Steve Peumorra have also called for greater restrictions on buying alcohol, including a "drinker's card" ID similar to a driver's licence that a person could lose if they commit alcohol-related offences.
Mr Austin said there was less work for Aboriginal people since control over managing the community's finances was taken away and given to Centrelink bureaucrats, including allocating payments and penalties based on whether people were meeting work-for-the-dole requirements.
The previous system should return, in which an Aboriginal community's CEO had discretion to pay a worker top-up money in addition to a dole cheque if they worked extra hours, using money for those who did not work and meet their obligations, Mr Austin told AAP.
That can no longer be done and people that mostly meet their obligations are receiving penalties when they don't, such as to attend a funeral, because they have not informed Centrelink, partly due to poor English and computer skills.
"People lost hope after that ... people used to take it seriously as employment and it worked well for communities," Mr Austin said, referring to the past five to six years, when Mowanjum was hit by a crisis including a large spike in suicides often involving youths.
"That was because they could not earn extra," he said.
"That's when the drinking really increased ... families started to become dysfunctional and people went underground, didn't want anything to do with the government and a lot said 'we're not working for the dole'."
The comments come as a coronial inquest - one of the biggest in Australia in recent years - into a cluster of suicides by 13 young Indigenous people in the Kimberley continued in Broome on Thursday.
WA Labor Senator Pat Dodson recently dubbed the Community Development Program a "national shame" that was driving up poverty and crime in Indigenous communities and other MPs have criticised it.
A Senate report is due in September but Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has defended the scheme as having a positive impact on delivering jobs while acknowledging it might be improved.
Mr Peumorra, a 39-year-old who grew up in Mowanjum but says he has not drunk alcohol for 10 years, would like the ID card and restrictions that only allow people to buy mid-strength beer from bottle shops, as already occurs in Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek.
"They should drink in a sociable way ... but stop the heavy stuff, Jim Beam, rum, Jack Daniels ... that would stop the violence, the deaths," he told AAP.
Indigenous woman Tonii Skeen, a 21-year-old youth development project officer in Broome, told Coroner Ros Fogliani at the inquest that Aboriginal people might travel more massive distances to find "sly grog" if restrictions were placed on more towns.
She said a far more complex approach was needed to "inter-generational trauma" and that human rights such as access to education, training and health were being denied to youths in Aboriginal communities.