Category Archives: Announcements



Labor has called for a Senate inquiry into the fraught Community Development Program, with the support of the Greens.

Communities across the Northern Territory and Western Australia have consistently told us that this system leaves people in more debt, without food to feed their families, in rental arrears and feeling hopeless, struggling with an infuriating bureaucratic reporting process.

In 2016 an ANU report labelled the CDP a policy disaster that widens gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, rather than closing them.

The Inquiry’s comprehensive terms of reference will give CDP participants and stakeholders the opportunity to make submissions that reflect the true nature of the fraught CDP.

The inquiry is an opportunity to hear directly from CDP participants and communities to provide authentic insight into the shambolic process of CDP.

Through community engagement and direct involvement in the submission making process, there is the real potential to make significant improvements in addressing employment across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The motion to establish the committee was tabled in the Senate on 22 March, 2017.

The Inquiry will review the appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of the Community Development Program (CDP), with specific reference to:

  1. the adequacy of the policy process that led to the design of the CDP;
  2. the nature and underlying causes of joblessness in remote communities;
  3. the ability of the CDP to provide long term solutions to joblessness, and to achieve social, economic and cultural outcomes that meet the needs and aspirations of remote Indigenous people;
  4. the impact of the CDP on the rights of participants and their communities, including the appropriateness of the payments and penalties systems;
  5. the funding of the CDP, including the use of unspent funds in the program;
  6. the extent of consultation and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the design and implementation of the CDP, and the role for local decision making within the program;
  7. alternatives approaches to addressing joblessness and community development in remote Indigenous communities; and
  8. any other related matters.
















Dignity Not Debt Leafleting Campaign Update

The AUWU has been informed by the Community Public Sector Union (CPSU) that for legal reasons it is pulling out of the Dignity Not Debt National Actions.

The CPSU received legal advice this morning informing it that its participation in this event could be seen as illegal industrial action and may expose the union to legal action by the government.

The AUWU will still hand out its material outside Centrelink offices as part of this action (see here for how to print this material) and encourages all members and supporters across the country to get involved over the next month.

If you need access to printed materials please email

For more information, please visit the facebook event page:

Fight4Facts Campaign Launch

THE AUSTRALIAN UNEMPLOYED WORKERS UNION (AUWU) is launching its Fight4Facts campaign highlighting what it claims is the deliberate underreporting of unemployment by the Coalition Government. 

“It is one of the worst kept secret in the industry that the Australian Bureau of Statistics deliberately underreports the number of unemployed Australians”, said AUWU President Owen Bennett.

According to the ABS, someone who works only one hour a week is considered employed. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this data collection of method would underestimate the amount of Australians looking for work”.

Given Australia’s increasingly casualised workforce, Bennett claims that the Coalition is cynically using this shortcoming of ABS data collection to hide Australia’s growing employment crisis.

In its latest release the ABS reported that there are 748,100 unemployed people in Australia. However, according to Bennett this figure is “not worth the paper it was written on as it ignores the underemployed and the hidden unemployed giving a profoundly distorted picture of the Australian labour market”.

“The Coalition has presided over the largest increase in part-time employment as a proportion of the labour force ever recorded. Of the 534,000 Australians employed since the Coalition took office in 2013, more than three quarters were employed on a part-time basis – defined by the ABS as working between 1-35 hours per week.

“If you combine the ABS data on unemployment with its data on underemployment and hidden unemployment there just under 2.8 million Australians looking for work.”

“Matched against the Government data on job vacancies, there are 17 job seekers competing for every job vacancy – compared to a ratio of 4 to 1 using current ABS data on unemployment.”


“As long as they are allowed to the Coalition will continue to hide behind this dodgy unemployment data, they will continue to sweep the suffering of unemployed and underemployed Australians under the rug.”

“The AUWU’s Fight4Facts Campaign is finally going to call the Turnbull government out on its lies and demand the government take responsibility for this employment crisis.”

As part of its Fight4Facts campaign, the AUWU has released new data provided by employment consultants that shows that 406 randomly selection job vacancies based in Melbourne received 26,977 applications – a ratio of 64 to one.

“The government has to stop covering up this employment crisis and start fixing this before it gets any worse”, said Bennett.


#JusticeForJosh – Release the Report Into Work For The Dole Death

In April last year, 18 year-old Josh Park-Fing tragically died at his Government-approved Work for the Dole site in Toowoomba.

Distraught family members and shocked members of the public demanded answers. Minister of Employment Michaelia Cash indicated that an investigation would be carried out into the tragedy and a report would be released within a month.

Eleven months on and the Park-Fing family, Josh’s friends, and the general public are still waiting for the report into this tragedy to be released.

Furthermore, immediately following the tragedy the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) made an FOI request for the Government’s Work for the Dole risk assessment conducted for the Toowoomba site.

This request has also been rejected by Minister Cash because it contained information that could “harm” NEATO – Josh Park-Fing’s job agency.

By withholding this crucial information relating to the Work for the Dole tragedy, the Coalition is shamelessly trying to cover up Josh Park-Fing’s death to protect the already damaged reputation of the Work for the Dole program.

This is a national disgrace.

Work for the Dole is dangerous – last year injuries sustained at Work for the Dole sites increased 5 times. The government cannot guarantee the safety of unemployed workers forced to attend Work for the Dole programs.

Work for the Dole must be shut down.

In response to the Government’s disgraceful failure to provide answers over Josh Park-Fing’s death, the AUWU has launched its #Justiceforjosh campaign and is calling on Australians to call Minister Cash’s office to demand the release of the report and the risk assessment. Please share the facebook event throughout your networks.
Minister Cash’s contact details are below:

Parliamentary office: (02) 6277 7320
Electoral Office: (08) 9226 2000

The AUWU has also released a petition to demand the release of the report into Josh Park-Fing’s death and the Work for the Dole risk assessment.

The Turnbull government must take the necessary steps to investigate this program and ensure the safety of all Work for the Dole participants before another serious injury or death occurs at Work for the Dole.

If you are one of the 90,000 Australians currently participating in a Work for the Dole activity, the AUWU encourages you to assert your right to participate in a non-Work for the Dole activity – such as Voluntary Work or approved study – until your safety can be guaranteed. See here for more info or call the AUWU hotline on (03) 8394 5266.

Stay tuned for further actions demanding #JusticeforJosh

Dignity Not Debt Movement Announce National Action

On 20 March, the Dignity Not Debt Movement will launch a campaign of rolling actions at Centrelink offices across the country demanding that the Turnbull Government abolish the robo-debt system.

The Turnbull government desperately wants the robo-debt crisis to go away.

Recently, the Government warned social security recipients that their public information would be publicly released if they criticised Centrelink’s new automated-debt recovery system, while Centrelink workers have been told that they risk losing their jobs if they commented publicly.

Turnbull’s shameless campaign to cover up the robo-debt issue is a disgrace.

However, Turnbull cannot prevent the Community and Public Service Union (CPSU) and the Dignity Not Debt movement from speaking out.

As part of its National Week of Action, the Dignity Not Debt movement – with support from the CPSU – will distribute important information at Centrelink offices across the country detailing what is really going on at the Department of Human Services.

Information on how to fight a debt and make a submission to the recently announced Senate inquiry will also be provided.

This is where we need your help.

To join the Dignity Not Debt’s Week of Action, simply email and we will help you coordinate a stall outside your local Centrelink office. You will also be put in touch with the local CPSU representative in order to receive printed materials.

Over the last five years, DHS workers in Centrelink have seen 5000 permanent jobs disappear. These workers also bear witness to the impact of service delivery failures like the robo-debt crisis that are direct result of federal government job cuts.

By donating even just one hour of your time to hand out materials at your local Centrelink, you can help build a better social security system and support the hundreds of thousands of Australians currently being bullied by the Turnbull government.
Please help us promote this important action by sharing the facebook event throughout your networks.

Call For Volunteers

The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union is currently looking for a number of volunteers to occupy pivotal roles within the national union structure. Applicants will be required to attend interviews, either in person if in Melbourne or on the phone.

Please send through all expressions of interest to

The briefs for the vacant positions are as follows:

  • Secretary (Melbourne Branch)

Summary: The Secretary is the beating heart of the Melbourne branch. In addition to occupying a position on the Melbourne branch executive (the highest decision making body of the branch), the Secretary is responsible for organising and structuring union administration.

Job Description: The Secretary is responsible for

(i) Keeping minutes for meetings
(ii) Creating agendas
(iii) Overseeing union correspondence
(iv) Contributing to union’s community Organising and engagement
(iv) Liaising with members and community groups
(v)  Help develop campaigns and strategies through exectutive

Required Skills: Friendly, methodical, moderate IT skills (Gmail, Google Drive, Action Network), eexcellent organisational skills, administration experience, team player

Required Commitment: Two days per week voluntary activity

  • Branch Coordinator

Summary: The Branch Coordinator is responsible for overseeing the establishment and organisation of AUWU branches across Australia. Consequently, the Branch Coordinator is a central figure in building union power and empowering unemployed workers across Australia.

Job Description: The Branch Coordinator is responsible for

(i) Responding to emails from prospective and established AUWU branches
(ii) Building networks across AUWU branches
(iii) Community organising and engagement
(iv) Liaising with members and community groups
(v) Helping to develop campaigns and strategies
(vi) Activist development
(vii) Event management
Required Skills: Excellent communication skills, excellent organisational and logistics skills, excellent relationship building skills, administration experience.
Required Commitment:  Two days per week voluntary activity

  • Communications Working Group Volunteers

Summary: The AUWU is currently organising a Communications Working Group. This group will be responsible for creating artwork, leaflets, posters, and any other printed material, as well as managing our online content, and social media accounts. Ideally, Comms members will be in regular communication.

We’d love to hear from anyone who can help us with:

  • graphic design (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop etc.)
  • drawing and illustration (traditional or digital media)
  • web design and development (html, CSS, JS, PHP etc.)
  • filming, video editing
  • TV, radio and public relations experience,
  • social media management (facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.)
  • research, writing (media releases, news articles, blogs), copy-editing




Dignity NOT Debt: RALLY to End Centrelink Debt Debacle Press Release


Dignity NOT Debt

RALLY to End Centrelink Debt Debacle

Abolition of the Centrelink Debt Recovery Scheme” is the central demand of a rally being organised by the Australian Unemployed Workers Union on Tuesday 31 January, 12.30pm at the State Library in Melbourne.

President of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, Owen Bennett, said that “The Turnbull Government’s automated debt recovery system has sent around one-quarter of a million debt notices to social security recipients. Up to 90% of these notices are are estimated to be incorrect.

Centrelink staff have been instructed that they are not allowed to fix obvious errors in the debt notices, unless the recipient of the debt notice makes a formal complaint.

Some people who are now working full-time have just paid back the debts even though they are incorrect because of the difficulties of getting through to Centrelink to make a formal complaint. Others feel intimidated or bullied into accepting the debt notices, even though they are incorrect.

Up to 90% of the debt notices which have been reviewed randomly have been found to be incorrect. The consequences of these notices is horrific and could result in an increase in attempted suicides and people losing their housing because they can’t afford the rent or mortgage,

Up to 90% of the debt notices which have been reviewed randomly have been found to be incorrect. The consequences of these notices is horrific and could result in an increase in attempted suicides and people losing their housing because they can’t afford the rent or mortgage. Some of our members are facing jail time for debts they may not even owe.

“This system is a shameless continuation of the Coalition’s mission to criminalise social security recipients and dismantle the social security system as a whole. The Dignity Not Debt movement is committed to fighting Turnbull’s punitive approach every step of the way” said Bennett.

The ‘Dignity Not Debt: End Centrelink Debt Debacle’ rally has received broad endorsement, including from organisations like the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Fair Go for Pensioners, Council of Single Mothers and their Children and the Homeless Persons Union. The endorsement list indicates that the Centrelink debt notices are hitting a broad range of groups in the community.

Details of the rally are:

Tuesday 31 January, 12.30

State Library, corner Swanston St and La Trobe St, Melbourne CBD
The rally will then march to the Liberal Party headquarters in Exhibition Street.

Speakers will include: Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale, Freedom from Poverty founder Duncan Storrar and NUS Education Officer Anneke Demanuele. Others include First Nations community leader Meriki Onus, Australian Unemployed Workers Union President Owen Bennett, Zach Brady from Centrelink Class Action and Sue Bolton from Socialist Alliance and Moreland councillor.

For Media comment:

Owen Bennett /


The first of a series of AUWU articles on government graft and corruption as it relates to welfare and work in Australia

By Brenton Thomas, AUWU Member

While the government is defending its latest debacle in the name of budget repair its worth remembering the billions of dollars of graft that friends and families from both sides of politics have pocketed over the last twenty years courtesy of the government’s privatisation of employment services and education.

Graft is the adding on to the cost for something not needed.  It is payment for unnecessary items.  In the construction industry, it is paying for Soprano style labourers who sit around doing nothing.   It is payment for ten tons of concrete on a job that only needs one.   In the governments employment services industry it is paying from the public purse for companies that do nothing.

The rort is fairly simple and has changed little over a series of contracts over the years. When you become unemployed the government will require you to register with a private Job Services Agency that will be paid when you find work or enter training – regardless of whether they found the job for you or not.

They will use the lowest paid staff they can get away with who will diligently tick boxes, generate evidence of activity and invoice the government.  It’s a simple license to print money that feeds off the normal background churn of people moving in and out of jobs.

The beneficiaries of this rort look like a who’s who of Australia’s elite.  Sarina Russo the ‘Successful Business Woman’ that Sussan Ley was caught out visiting on the taxpayers dime.  Teresa Rein wife of former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd and founder and managing director of the employment services and training company Ingeus.  David Gonski author of the Gonski report also with Ingeus as chairman.

Not to be outdone by the A-list elites we can add in former public servants who presumably weren’t hired because of their knowledge of the private sector. Darren Hooper from US based Max Employment, formerly of the Department of Employment and the Department of the Prime Minister whose contacts with government awards Max employment the dubious honour of managing to get the Department of Employment to overlook significant allegations of fraud and be granted the lions’ share of the new deed.

Not content with money for nothing, the use of punitive employment policies together with VET-FEE Help take milking the public purse to levels of a fine art.  The longer you are unemployed the more onerous the demands on you will become until you are in their offices every day of the week applying for Jobs that aren’t there on pain of losing your benefit if you don’t comply.  You will be bullied, harassed and lied to systemically.

To escape punishment of course you can do a training course – which will be paid for by the VET-FEE budget and if your agency is affiliated with a training company they will now start earning big dollars.

This is against both the letter and the principal of the Law and Deed and occurs with full knowledge of the Department of Employment.  You though are signed on with a private company and as such are outside the protection of both the Ombudsman’s Office and Administrative Affairs Tribunal.  To seek remedy, you need to sue – but you are unemployed so can’t afford that and the government has cut the funding to the Community Legal services just in case you thought you had any rights at all.

Feeling powerless, disenfranchised, cheated, abused and sick and tired of greedy politicians and self-appointed elites?  The first thing you can do is make noise. Take some lessons from the Greens and the Indigenous groups.  Get involved. Join groups such as the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, various facebook groups. Every time someone in Canberra does anything you don’t like make sure a hundred other people hear you.

You have a legal right to complain.  So lodge complaints. When they don’t respond to your complaint lodge a complaint about the lack of response to the complaint you just lodged.  Make life as miserable for the bastards as they make yours.

Demand a full time independent Federal ICAC.

Above all the most powerful thing you can do is use your vote – with a twist.

If you are happy with the political system then vote for your local representative no matter what party they belong to.  If you are dissatisfied, then vote against the sitting representative. Ignore the political party even if that means you vote against your traditional vote. The objective is to disrupt the process. To send a great big Trumpian middle finger in the direction of Canberra.

Out of the house!
Vote the Bastards Out!

AUWU Announces Centrelink Debt Officer

Are you having trouble with a Centrelink debt?

With Centrelink sending out 20,000 debt notices per week – some completely erroneously – it is important to get information about your rights before you respond to Centrelink.

The AUWU is now offering the services of our specialised Centrelink Debt Officer, who will be happy to give you advice, via email, about how to respond to your debt letter.

Please send the details of your debt to and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Advice is open to members only. Membership is free and open to everyone. (Click the “Get Involved” button to become a member of the AUWU.)

Please remember, this is not legal advice and you should use your own discretion when deciding what to do about your debt.

Read more about how to fight back, and online campaigns here.

If you require legal advice, please contact your local welfare rights centre.

AUWU Blog – We want facts not fabrication, Mr Turnbull

by Valerie Farfalla, Vice president AUWU

‘Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.’
Aldous Huxley

Yet the Coalition government continues to ignore facts by fabricating stories about hundreds of thousands of dole bludgers skipping job interviews and failing to accept jobs. But where is the evidence? Facts are that in 2015, only 589 unemployed workers were financially penalised for refusing work. The tabloid press laps up the lies about ‘welfare cheats’ who are ‘rorting the system’and ‘becoming fat and lazy on the public purse’ – on $250 a week. This type of demonisation of unemployed workers has appeared in Australian tabloid newspapers around Christmas time for the past few years. Why? A slow news day? Or Government propaganda? To quote Huxley again: ‘The propagandists’ purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human’.

According to a recent article in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail, ‘every week, some 20,000 ‘compliance interventions’ are coming to light, a startling increase from 20,000 a year before the introduction of the new automated Centrelink debt collection system which links personal data to Australian Taxation Office data. The Government hopes to recoup $4 billion from the debt recovery program.

So let’s get this straight with some factual information.

Centrelink’s automated system is in gross disrepair, generating debt notices in error. Over Christmas the AUWU heard of dozens of complaints from welfare recipients sent debt notices from six years ago and asked to produce payslips to contest ‘online’ the alleged debt, which in one case was more than $10,000. Centrelink has no evidence or written record of the alleged debts but its Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transportation (WPIT) system has delivered a large batch of incorrect data matches with the ATO and the recipients are apparently guilty until proven innocent.
Some outraged politicians and welfare groups have called on Centrelink to suspend the compliance system.

I was in a Centrelink office this morning but there were few staff to attend the queues. ‘Sorry, just drop in your papers. There’s no Medicare officer or Financial officer today. We’re going on strike for two days starting tomorrow,’ we were told.

After Christmas, many families have lean pickings. Let’s hope they have enough food and rent money to last into January 2017.