CDP Evaluation

The long-overdue evaluation of the Community Development Programme (CDP) has finally been released. The evaluation has been released in two reports.  One draws upon community views while the other looks at administrative data on participation and employment outcomes. 

The key findings include:


Community Views of CDP

More community members surveyed felt that the community was worse off (36%) since CDP was introduced than those who thought it was better off (21%). 

Perceptions of the success of CDP were influenced by the extent to which it provides a pathway to a job, training opportunities and the quality of activities.  Interestingly, the evaluation found that the extent to which CDP can deliver pathways to jobs depends on the quality of the services they receive, the characteristics and circumstances of participants and local labour market conditions. 



About a third of participants are penalised, and one in ten of these lost 20% or more of their quarterly payments. 

Younger participants (under 35 years old), men and some sub-groups with participation and employment barriers, were more likely to be penalised for not meeting their mutual obligation requirements.

Relatively high rates of penalties may in part be due to difficulties in navigating the CDP and compliance systems.

Health issues may play a role in explaining why Indigenous participants are more likely to be penalised by non-attendance. Rates of medical exemptions from mutual obligation requirements by DHS are lower in CDP regions than in non-CDP regions, despite remote people more likely to have poor health.  This means better access to medical assessments are needed to identify barriers to participation. 

Despite the very high rate of penalties, the research found no evidence that penalties are an effective way to generate engagement in Work for the Dole activities or other services aimed at developing job readiness.  The research found that for some job seekers, penalties have the opposite effect, demotivating and disempowering them and reducing engagement. 

Some communities members considered that penalising job seekers for non-compliance does not lead to increased engagement.  The identified other factors that have more impact on attendance than the use of penalties, such as cultural obligations, social norms, self-identity, share economies, disadvantage and shame. 

Factors identified as motivating engagement were social influences, social norms, role models, non-judgemental individualised case management, interesting activities that suit individuals, opportunities for on-the-job training, optimism for a real job and community-endorsed activities. 


Employment Outcomes

Again, despite the very high rates of penalties, CDP has not significantly improved the rate of job outcomes.  The share of participants achieving a 26-week job outcome has only increased by around one percentage point, up from 5.7% in the previous RJCP program.  Those with low barriers to employment had the highest estimated increase in 26-week outcomes, up 3.4 percentage points.  It’s worth noting though that 26-week outcomes under RJCP could be achieved over a 52 week period, making direct comparisons difficult.  The report found that the CDP payment model provides less incentive to place people in casual, seasonal or intermittent work or short terms jobs which may not last for 13 weeks.   

The evaluation found that close to three in four CDP participants have moderate to extreme barriers to employment based on the Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI). This reflects, in part, the:

  • high share of participants living in very remote areas with more limited labour market opportunities
  • limited experience many CDP participants have in the labour market – of those participating on 1 January 2016, one in five had spent at least 70 per cent of their adult life on income support (over the past 20 years).

Achieving employment outcomes for CDP participants with extreme employment barriers is likely to require an investment over time.


Good Quality Activities

Participants are less motivated to engage with activities that don’t meet their needs.  The evaluation found that ‘good quality’ activities:

  • are community led or endorsed;
  • make a meaningful improvement in the community;
  • are culturally appropriate;
  • provide opportunities for social engagement and inclusion; and
  • provide a clear pathway to a job or skills development. 

A range of activities is needed to engage participants with different needs and capabilities.  This also includes providing activities that take account of clan group, gender and age. 

Providers need to have a good relationship with participants, provide ongoing case management and follow up with people who don’t attend. 


The summary report of community and stakeholder perspectives makes a number of recommendations:

  1. Design training to be on-the-job, to help job seekers to gain real skills and qualifications.
  2. Set up more hosted placements through community development initiatives that make CDP feel like a real job.
  3. Work towards a strengths-based model that rewards engagement, effort and achievement of individual job seeker goals.
  4. Decrease the application of financial penalties to job seekers with the greatest barriers to employment, as they also have the greatest barriers to participation in CDP. Decrease the administration burden of compliance on the job seeker, employers, Centrelink service centres and CDP Providers.
  5. Improve the customer servicing response times, empathy and cultural competence of Centrelink staff who work with disadvantaged remote job seekers.
  6. Empower communities to participate in the economic decisions made in their communities through community development.

To see the reports, visit