Employment services

Work for the Dole

From 1 July 2014, the department phased in a new Work for the Dole programme in 18 selected areas across Australia. Job seekers aged 18 to 29 years who were registered with a Job Services Australia provider in the selected areas and who had a work experience activity requirement were required to participate.

The Work for the Dole programme is designed to help job seekers gain the skills and experience they need to move from welfare to work, while at the same time making a positive contribution to their local community.

From 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015, more than 26,700 Work for the Dole places were created in the department’s database. This corresponds to around 4200 Work for the Dole activities, and more than 25,500 commencements in those activities. The Work for the Dole programme has achieved 92 per cent of its expected number of commencements (27,709) and 135 per cent of its expected number of places sourced (19,792).

The department is in the process of evaluating the 2014–15 programme to identify learnings, drawing on feedback from the state network and Job Services Australia providers. The department also conducted work health and safety audits and surveyed participants, providers and host organisations.

Work for the Dole Coordinators under jobactive commenced in each of the 51 employment regions on 1 May 2015, following a competitive tender process. They started early so that they could work with local not-for-profit organisations to source Work for the Dole places for the commencement of jobactive on 1 July 2015.

Work for the Dole participants restore RSL hall

After hearing about Work for the Dole, members of the Bangalow RSL Branch in northern New South Wales sought assistance from the programme to refurbish the Bangalow RSL Hall. The local community used the hall for a range of activities—such as the local darts club, performances by the local public school, dance and yoga classes, social and fundraising events, and community group meetings—but it was in urgent need of an upgrade.

The project started with a group of 10 Work for the Dole participants, expanding at its peak to 15. The local community was quick to embrace the project and its participants, and local RSL members were soon daily visitors to the site. A number of the members were retired tradespeople and took on a mentoring role, sharing their significant technical knowledge and skills with participants.

The work included internal and external painting, sanding and polishing timber floors, installing a new ceiling in the kitchen, creating an outdoor memorial area and cleaning up the garden, building a covered outdoor eating area and refurbishing the toilet block. Participants learned about the use of power tools, painting techniques, working in a team, workplace health and safety, and basic construction.

The refurbishment was completed in time for Anzac Day 2015 celebrations. The hall is now regularly booked for functions and events and is a valued facility in the local community. Six of the Work for the Dole participants have since gained employment or moved into further study, and the others have moved on to other activities.

Work for the Dole participants restore local waterways in Bundaberg, Queensland

Saltwater Creek in Bundaberg is an integral waterway for the surrounding ecosystem. Native animals and the water quality of Baldwin Swamp, and ultimately the Burnett River, all rely on the creek’s ability to function. The creek runs through residential and industrial areas of Bundaberg, and in recent years had become clogged with noxious vegetation and rubbish transported by floodwater in 2013, as well as illegal dumping.

Recognition of the need for regeneration of this important tributary and expansion of the Baldwin Swamp Environmental Park resulted in the creation of a Work for the Dole activity—the Saltwater Creek Rehabilitation Project. Initiated by Work for the Dole Coordinator Mission Australia, the project started in early 2015.

Bundaberg Landcare teamed up with a Job Services Australia provider to work on removing weeds and rubbish, expanding the environmental park to strengthen the local ecosystem, and enhancing the community space. Eight job seekers participated in the activity and achieved a range of outcomes, including acquiring skills in nursery and pest management and bush regeneration, experience working alongside others and employment.

The project succeeded in its goals of regenerating the region and providing job seekers with meaningful agricultural and horticultural foundation skills. The creek and its banks were cleared of environmental and health hazards, and more than 300 trees were planted to expand the riparian buffer zone. This work will improve connectivity of the creek ecosystems, provide more habitat for native wildlife, and contribute to improved water quality in the region.

The project is an example of how collaboration between local organisations, employment services providers and a Work for the Dole Coordinator can achieve long-term results for individuals and communities.

New Enterprise Incentive Scheme

In 2014–15 the department’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme supported the establishment of 5946 small businesses. The scheme provides accredited small business training, business advice and mentoring to eligible job seekers who are interested in starting and running a small business. Once their business has started, the job seekers are eligible for an allowance (equivalent to Newstart) to support them into sustainable self-employment. In 2015, the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Since its establishment in 1985, the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme has helped around 150,000 people establish their own small businesses. In the process they have developed new business opportunities and created jobs for themselves and other job seekers.

The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme will be streamlined and continue under jobactive with 21 providers delivering services nationwide. Organisations contracted directly by the department will arrange small business training for job seekers interested in starting a new small business and provide business mentoring and coaching to participants accepted into the scheme.

New Enterprise Incentive Scheme delivers winning results in South Australia

Photo of Dave Court at his store, Created RangeDave Court at his store, Created Range

Dave Court, a 23-year-old job seeker from South Australia, established his Adelaide-based street-wear clothing label ‘foolsandtrolls’ after completing a Certificate IV in Small Business Management. He received mentoring and assistance through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme while he was studying, and successfully completed his programme in April 2015.

Dave’s products are manufactured in Adelaide, using Australian woven fabric, and the business has received certification from Ethical Clothing Australia for its ethically and environmentally responsible products.

Dave has since consolidated his award-winning business by supporting others to realise their dreams in clothing design. Passionate about promoting South Australian clothing designers, Dave now showcases young artists and designers in his independent boutique fashion store, Created Range. He was the 2014 winner of the Career Kick Start Award in the South Australia Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards.

With his strong emphasis on art and design, Dave has also received commissions to paint murals and has exhibited at art shows, festivals and galleries. In 2014 Dave received the Best Social Innovation and Cultural Initiative Award in the Renew Adelaide Awards and was selected to exhibit in the Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition.

Harvest Labour Services

The department contracts providers of Harvest Labour Services to help growers supplement local labour with out-of-area workers. Harvest Labour Services providers filled approximately 18,600 harvest labour positions in 15 harvest areas throughout Australia in 2014−15.

As part of jobactive, five Harvest Labour Services providers will serve 11 harvest areas—Kununurra, Top End, Tablelands, North Burnett, Southern Queensland, Riverina, Goulburn Valley, Mid Murray, Sunraysia, Riverland and Adelaide Hills.

Indigenous mentoring pilot

The department designed and implemented the Indigenous mentoring pilot to test whether culturally appropriate mentoring support improves employment sustainability for Indigenous job seekers. Between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2015, 2784 Indigenous job seekers participated in the pilot. The department is developing a fact sheet for jobactive providers to build on the lessons learned from the pilot in order to increase employment outcomes for Indigenous job seekers.

Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job

The department administers the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job programme, which started on 1 July 2014. The programme replaced the previous labour mobility programme, Move 2 Work, which ceased on 30 June 2014.

The programme provides practical and financial assistance to long-term unemployed job seekers who relocate to take up ongoing employment. Eligible job seekers who are registered with employment services providers can receive assistance of up to $6000 when they move to a regional area or up to $3000 if they move to a capital city for a new job. Families with dependent children can receive up to an extra $3000 of assistance. A total of 477 job seekers (401 from Job Services Australia and 76 from Disability Employment Services) were assisted under the programme during 2014–15.

Tasmanian Jobs Programme

The department implemented changes to the Tasmanian Jobs Programme to provide a stronger incentive for employers to hire eligible job seekers into sustainable, ongoing employment. Placements for the programme are delivered through employment services providers.

Any Tasmanian business that employs eligible job seekers on a full-time basis for at least six months is now eligible to receive $6500 (previously $3250). In addition, any Tasmanian business that employs eligible job seekers in part-time work (with a minimum of 25 hours per week) for at least six months is eligible to receive $3250. To be eligible, a job seeker must have been resident in Tasmania for the preceding six months, received an eligible income support payment for the same period and had participation requirements.

Since the changes came into effect on 13 May 2015, there has been an 8.2 per cent increase in job seekers gaining employment through the programme.

Tasmanian Jobs Programme helps job seekers and small businesses

Photo of Don Pears and Eamonn Regan from Clifton Fine FurnitureEamonn Regan (left) and Don Pears from Clifton Fine Furniture

The Tasmanian Jobs Programme has helped businesses and job seekers in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Cask Company makes casks for the distillery industry. The company took on a job seeker who was registered with Workskills Incorporated, a longstanding employment services provider in Tasmania. The company was pleased to be one of the first employers to benefit from the enhanced Tasmanian Jobs Programme and receive a wage subsidy of $6500.

Clifton Fine Furniture is an award-winning furniture manufacturer in the Launceston area. Don Pears from Clifton Fine Furniture recognised the value of mature-age and experienced workers, and was able to use subsidies from both the Tasmanian Jobs Programme and the Restart programme (available to mature-age job seekers) to take on an additional employee. The new employee was the one-thousandth Restart sign-up.

Job Commitment Bonus

The department worked closely with the Department of Human Services to implement the Job Commitment Bonus on time and to the parameters agreed by government. The Job Commitment Bonus provides an incentive for young Australians aged 18 to 30 years to find a job, keep it and stay off welfare. An eligible young Australian who has been on Newstart or Youth Allowance as a job seeker for 12 months or more will receive a Job Commitment Bonus payment of $2500 if they find a job and stay off welfare for 12 months. They will receive a further payment of $4000 if they remain in work and off welfare for another 12 months (24 months altogether). The initiative started on 1 July 2014 and the first payments will be available from July 2015.

Youth Employment Strategy—Transition to Work

A key feature of the Growing Jobs and Small Business package, announced as part of the 2015–16 Budget, is the Youth Employment Strategy—Transition to Work programme. The programme will provide intensive pre-employment assistance to young job seekers aged 15 to 21 years who have completely disengaged from work or education and are at high risk of becoming long-term unemployed and require more intensive assistance. Intensive pre-employment assistance will improve the work-readiness of participants so they can gain employment, move into education or participate effectively in jobactive.

The department consulted with employers and the welfare sector in 2014–2015. Transition to Work services will commence progressively across employment regions from January 2016.

Intensive support for vulnerable job seekers

During 2014–15, the department worked closely with a range of government agencies, including the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Social Services, to develop policy underpinning the employment measures announced in the 2015–16 Budget that focus on making job seekers more employable, reducing the costs to businesses of taking on new staff, and ensuring job seekers are meeting their obligations and actively looking for work.

The 2015–16 Budget also included two new programmes targeted at assisting young people who are at greatest risk of long-term welfare dependency to become job-ready and find employment.

The Innovative Youth Trials will provide grants to community and non-government organisations to trial innovative and localised programmes to help around 10,000 young people at high risk of welfare dependency to find a job. The programme, worth $55 million, is due to begin in January 2016.

The Supporting Parents to Plan and Prepare for Employment programme, worth $90.6 million, will continue the most successful elements of the Helping Young Parents and Supporting Jobless Families measures, which are in the trial phase. It will provide early intervention for parents with a focus on getting them job-ready earlier and, in particular, by the time their youngest child goes to school. The department has extended the existing trials to 31 March 2016 (they were due to end on 30 June 2015), at which point they will transition to the new programme.

The Helping Young Parents measure works on a compulsory model of activity participation, while Supporting Jobless Families involves voluntary activity participation. Results from the Helping Young Parents interim evaluation have demonstrated that parents are completing Year 12 or equivalent qualifications and children are participating in early childhood development activities at a higher proportion than a comparison group.

  • The Helping Young Parents trial participants’ attainment rate of Year 12 or equivalent is 11.9 per cent compared with 4.2 attainment for the comparison group.
  • A significantly larger proportion of the Helping Young Parents trial participants were using a childcare service compared with the comparison group (8.3 percentage point difference).

The voluntary nature of the Supporting Jobless Families measure makes it more difficult to determine specific outcomes achieved as parents are under no obligation to report their level of participation in activities to the Department of Human Services. The Supporting Parents to Plan and Prepare for Employment programme will continue and from 1 April 2016 will place a compulsory activity requirement on the parents in the programme.

Seasonal Worker Programme

The department led the whole-of-government implementation of the Seasonal Worker Programme, a low-skilled seasonal migration programme with an aid objective involving Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste. The department manages agreements with participating employers, engages with industry, and manages relationships with officials in partner country governments.

During 2014–15 the department worked with industry stakeholders to extend the programme’s reach. Fifty-nine employers are now approved to participate in the programme. In 2014–15, there were 3177 seasonal worker placements and 1346 seasonal workers undertaking Australian Government-funded skills training. The department also negotiated and entered into an agreement with the Republic of Fiji for its participation in the programme.

Following an announcement by Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment, the department worked to provide the horticulture sector with additional programme places in response to increasing demand.

The department convened the second Seasonal Worker Programme conference in August 2014, which attracted strong participation by industry and international officials. The biennial conference provides an opportunity for participants and stakeholders from partner countries, employers, registered training organisations and other Australian government agencies to share knowledge and discuss challenges. Before the conference, the department hosted nine partner country delegates on a visit to Queensland farms, where they viewed work demonstrations.

The department provided policy advice to the government on changes to the programme resulting from the white paper on developing northern Australia, and prepared to implement the changes in 2015–16. This includes uncapping the number of programme participants; concluding the trial of arrangements in the accommodation, aquaculture, cane and cotton sectors and rolling them into the ongoing programme; expanding the programme to include other occupations in the agriculture industry; and increasing flexibility for employers. The department also started preparing for the rollout of a trial of other seasonal labour mobility arrangements in the northern Australian tourism industry in 2015–16.

Mature-age employment

As the Australian population ages, it is now more important than ever to foster workforce participation by encouraging experienced workers to remain in the workforce and pass their skills and knowledge on to others. The department, through the Restart and Corporate Champions programmes, provides support for mature-age job seekers, and their employers, aimed at keeping mature-age Australians engaged in the workforce.


The Restart programme, which began on 1 July 2014, provides a wage subsidy of up to $10,000 to employers that employ mature-age job seekers who have been unemployed and on income support for at least six months.

Restart is delivered through employment services providers, who play an important role in promoting the wage subsidy to employers and mature-age job seekers. They refer suitable candidates to employers, enter into Restart agreements and manage the payments.

As at 30 June 2015, a total of 1735 mature-age job seekers had been placed into jobs through Restart.

The department consulted with stakeholders about ways to improve the programme and increase take-up of the wage subsidy. Feedback from the consultations contributed to the development of changes to Restart announced in the 2015–16 Budget. The changes include payment of the subsidy over 12 instead of 24 months from 1 November 2015. Large employers that take on 10 or more mature-age job seekers will also be able to negotiate the timing of payments to help meet the up-front costs associated with hiring multiple employees, such as group training and induction.

Restarting a career

The Restart programme has provided an opportunity for a mature-age job seeker who lacked confidence in returning to the workforce, had low job search computing skills and was unsure about what he wanted to do. His employment consultant booked him into Job Services Australia provider Direct Recruitment’s training programme, ‘Marketing Me’, which is designed to increase job seeker confidence and develop skills in looking for and applying for jobs. The programme gave the job seeker skills in interview preparation, which increased his confidence in the interview process.

The job seeker, keen to get back into the workforce and happy to be referred to any suitable position, interviewed for and was successful in gaining a role with a camper manufacturing company in his local area. With duties such as general assembly and refitting of motor homes, the position enabled him to use his prior experience and skills. Direct Recruitment negotiated the Restart agreement and provided the company and the job seeker with post-placement support.

Before gaining the job, the job seeker had been unemployed for more than two years. After an initial struggle with some elements of returning to work, he overcame these challenges and now loves the work he is doing and is recognised as a great employee who is committed to his role.

Corporate Champions

The Corporate Champions programme supports employers to move towards best practice in their recruitment and retention of mature-age staff (aged 45 years and over). The programme assists employers with assessing their workplace strategies and developing action plans to improve their workplace practices. It also provides wage subsidy assistance and information on topics such as positive age management and career planning.

During 2014–15, the department facilitated and participated in 20 seminars for employers and employment services providers across Australia to increase awareness of the benefits to business of employing mature-age people and the government assistance that is available.

Corporate Champions are employers that have agreed to demonstrate leadership in the recruitment and retention of mature-age workers. Endorsed Corporate Champions employers receive up to $20,000 worth of tailored support and assistance from an industry expert. As at 31 May 2015, 486 Corporate Champions employers had been endorsed under the programme.

The department ran a national advertising campaign to complement the Restart and Corporate Champions programmes and to raise awareness of the positive contributions mature-age workers make to the workforce.

The industry with the largest number of Corporate Champions is health care and social assistance; it is also the industry with the largest mature-age workforce and is expected to be a growth industry in coming years.

State network

The department’s state network has a presence in all capital cities and in eight regional centres across Australia and employed 382 staff as at 30 June 2015. The network is responsible for the frontline delivery of the department’s employment programmes, and network employees maintain strong relationships with employment services providers and employers. The network’s functions include contract management, policy development and implementation, stakeholder engagement and local labour market research. The network also has strategic relationships with other stakeholders, including the Department of Social Services, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other Commonwealth, state, territory and local government organisations.

In 2014–15 a major part of the state network’s work was managing the transition from Job Services Australia to jobactive. The tender assessment process represented a significant additional body of work—134 network staff were directly involved in the process. The network also continued to deliver its core contact management business during this period. After the successful tenderers were announced, the network worked with the department’s policy and programme areas and employment services providers to ensure a smooth transition for employers, job seekers and other stakeholders to jobactive. The network also contributed to the planning of jobactive policy by being actively involved in targeted policy working groups throughout the year.

Employment support officers from the state network supported the introduction of Work for the Dole in 18 selected areas across the country in July 2014. The officers were responsible for the initial implementation of the programme. They worked closely with the programme area in the department’s national office on ongoing programme design, and worked with employment services providers to ensure commencements and successful collaboration between providers and host organisations.

Following a competitive tender process, Work for the Dole Coordinators were appointed to the lead role in developing and delivering places; they began delivering services in August 2014. The programme is proving highly successful in providing young job seekers with work-like places, targeted at building their work experience and capabilities.

In preparation for the start of jobactive and the national rollout of Work for the Dole, the state network held Work for the Dole forums for host organisations across the country during May and June 2015. More than 2200 individual registrations were received from 960 organisations for 53 separate locations. The forums were highly successful in engaging with local stakeholders to build community awareness of jobactive, the national implementation of Work for the Dole from 1 July 2015 and the benefits of the programmes.

The state network is also responsible for managing the National Customer Service Line. The service line receives and responds to job seeker enquiries related to government-funded employment services, including jobactive, Disability Employment Services, the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme and Job Services Australia. In 2014–15 the service line received more than 94,000 calls, up from 45,500 calls in 2013–14. The increased call volume was a result of the transition from Job Services Australia to jobactive and the new job seeker compliance arrangements. Further information about the department’s customer service line is on page 39.

‘Changing it up’ for reconciliation

Robert Willmett, Queensland State Manager and Indigenous Leader; Lennett Sandy, Australia Post; Melinda Shekle, Western Australia state office; and Ian Richards, Western Australia State Manager, at the Western Australia state office forum, June 2015.
Robert Willmett, Queensland State Manager and Indigenous Leader; Lennett Sandy, Australia Post; Melinda Shekle, Western Australia state office; and Ian Richards, Western Australia State Manager, at the Western Australia state office forum, June 2015

A Western Australia state office forum held during Reconciliation Week was a great way to promote the achievement of higher employment outcomes for Indigenous job seekers. Held in June 2015 and facilitated by the department’s Indigenous Leader, Robert Willmett, the forum demonstrated the 2015 Reconciliation Week theme of ‘Change It Up’. The state office co-hosted the forum with Crown Perth.

The forum brought together significant employers, such as Woolworths and Australia Post, with employment services providers, all of whom have a common interest in Indigenous employment. Employers took the opportunity to share what they have done to engage, retain and develop Indigenous staff, as well as what both they and employment services providers could improve in the future. The employment services providers shared information on their service offers and plans for Indigenous employment. Ivan Neville from the department’s Labour Market Research and Analysis Branch gave a presentation on challenges and opportunities for Indigenous job seekers in the labour market.

Forum participants heard an inspirational address from Rosemary May, a young Indigenous Australian who is building a career with the Crown Group. Her success came after being referred by, and receiving assistance from, an employment services provider.

Crown’s Group Manager of Indigenous Employment, Sean Armistead, reflected that, ‘Although everyone should be proud of what had been achieved to date, we all need to do more to ensure that we make progress in closing the gap’.

Share this page on