Why work for the dole works

SOME things never change.

Mention "Work for the Dole" and the naysayer's race to declare the program a failure, a waste of money or an ideological obsession of the Coalition.

One News Limited journalist's depiction of Work for the Dole as "picking up garbage or painting rocks in a public park" is ill-informed lazy journalism that doesn't remotely reflect the true nature of the program introduced by the Howard government.

As the federal employment services minister for three years, I had responsibility for the program.

As you would expect, I visited "work sites" not just on the Sunshine Coast but all over the country and witnessed the tremendous variety of real work participants were engaged in.

Just a few of these included: working in not-for-profit op shops gaining real-life experience in retail, store management and book-keeping; working with councils and national parks to construct tourism infrastructure such as elevated walkways at Maleny's Mary Cairncross Park; motor vehicle restoration including body work and spray painting while gaining practical experience in a functioning workshop environment; and even learning journalism skills including producing and presenting radio programs and producing training videos and newsletters.

This is hardly "picking up rubbish or painting rocks".

The scheme made every effort to link job-seekers with meaningful projects that complemented their employment prospects.

Much of the completed work left a positive and lasting legacy for both the participants and the community organisations that partnered with the Work for the Dole program.

Organisations across the Coast from the hinterland to Mooloolaba to Caloundra benefited.

For many long-term unemployed, the experience of working alongside committed community volunteers and participating in worthwhile activities created a sense of real purpose and achievement.

Being valued and adding value are essential ingredients to finding the motivation required to break the cycle for the long-term unemployed and Work for the Dole has proven to be a worthwhile vehicle to achieve these goals.

Mr Brough is the Federal Member for Fisher

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