This article examines the importance of basic income in supporting development and economic security in remote Australian Indigenous communities. Specifically we draw on the case of the Community Development Employment Programme (CDEP) and examine its significant basic income features: it provided economic security, flexible definitions of work, community control and a means to establish community development initiatives. We find that CDEP suited the economic and cultural circumstances of remote-living Aboriginal people whose livelihoods depend on a hybrid form of economy inclusive of customary (non-market) practices rather than market capitalism. We then trace shifts in Indigenous policy in recent times which saw the dismantling of CDEP in the name of 'real' employment, and we examine the consequences of this for Aboriginal people. We end by proposing the reinstatement of a more complete basic income scheme, initially for people in remote Indigenous communities in Australia who are in deepest poverty.