GUNBALNAYA , Jan 9 - In December Canberra scrapped a program that docks the welfare payments of parents whose kids skip class, stripping $30 million from the NT government over the next four years.
At the time Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion slammed the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM), which was part of the NT Intervention response, as a failure.
But now he's announced that work for the dole participants will be able to meet their employment requirements by getting their kids to school in an effort to curb dismal attendance rates in remote communities.
"There are elements of SEAM that will remain and they are the elements that work," Scullion said.
But the minister argues the long time lags between truancy offences and Centrelink sanctions will no longer apply.
The Coalition is revamping its Community Development Program (CDP), or work for the dole, which has had more than 350,000 participant compliance breaches in just two years.
The controversial initiative forces 35,000 unemployed people in the bush - most of whom are indigenous - to work up to three times longer than city-based jobseekers to receive welfare.
While visiting the Arnhem Land community of Gunbalanya, Scullion expressed dismay that jobseekers were delivering municipal services - which shire councils are already funded to do - for very low wages.
He said the program needs to employ people locally, instead of engaging fly-in fly-out workers who bring no long term benefit to the community.
"Frankly I get pretty sad when I drive past the bloke mowing the lawn in Gunbalanya, and it's a whitefella," Scullion said on Tuesday.
Local CDP provider Tracey Beesley says her numbers have risen from eight jobseekers per day two years ago to at least 26, and recommends rewarding and incentivising instead of sanctioning for not showing up.
"That's when our financial penalties started dropping and our attendance started going up," she said.