The Coalition’s Green Army program was launched by Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday, who said young people involved in the environmental scheme will “come back and look at in the years ahead and say, ‘I did that for my country’”.
Around 2500 unemployed young people, aged between 17 to 24-years-old, are being enlisted to work on around 250 environmental conservation projects as part of the $525 million program. The Government hopes to see 15,000 people working on 1500 projects annually by 2018.
The Green Army expands the Green Corps program Abbott introduced in 1997 under the Howard government, which by March last year, had dwindled to just 166 job seekers in 18 projects across the eastern states.
The Prime Minister described the program, which pays participants between $10.14 and $16.45 an hour for work up to 30 hours a week for between 20 and 26 weeks as a “traineeship”, rather than a work-for-the-dole program. The minimum wage is $16.35, but under legislation introduced by environment minister Greg Hunt, participants are not classed as workers or employees under employment law, including the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. They are ineligible to receive social security and income-testing arrangements apply to the partner of anyone taking part in the green army.
“It’s six months of good work, of good comradeship,” the Prime Minister said, of the program in bushland in southern Sydney. We are calling on “motivated youngsters… who would like our environmental commitment to be enshrined in practical good works, not just in gestures and words.”
While participants will mostly perform manual labour in this enhanced landcare program, the environment minister said the participants will gain new skills.
“Hopefully they’ll come out of it with certificates and occupational health and safety training, first aid training, and having achieved something,” he said.