Desert Australia has a sparse and mobile population (~0.5m people in 5.5m km2) that is concentrated in a few larger service centres such as Alice Springs and Kalgoorlie. These are intimately interdependent on around 1000 surrounding remote settlements, whether Indigenous (860), pastoral, mining or tourism-based. The non-Indigenous population is not increasing, while the Indigenous population is growing rapidly (22% in 15 years), particularly those of working age (34% in 15 years). The non-Indigenous population migrates in and out of desert Australia extensively; Indigenous people are also highly mobile, but mainly within desert Australia. The non-Indigenous population has relatively low unemployment while the Indigenous population has very high unemployment. The CDEP (Community Development Employment Programme) scheme has provided substantial paid activity, ranging from contributing major public benefits to some dubious make-work cases. The conventional labour market fails remote communities, even though there is both a great need and much opportunity for managing public assets, such as biodiversity and tourism values.