Cashless Welfare Card Unfairly Targeting Indigenous Australians
7 December 2015 at 10:32 am
A cashless welfare card that would restrict people’s access to cash in a bid to prevent income support recipients buying alcohol, gambling and spending money on drugs, could unfairly target Indigenous Australians, according to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
In releasing his 2015 Social Justice and Native Title Report, Commissioner Mick Gooda said the Healthy Welfare Card represented a “worrying” trend towards income management for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Our communities have seen this kind of reform before. The Healthy Welfare Card resembles the BasicsCard, one of the most controversial elements of the NT Intervention,” Gooda said.
“While there’s no doubt that many disadvantaged people would like support, the evidence whether income management provides this support is mixed to say the least.
“Any possible benefits must be weighed against the sense of disempowerment people report, the stigma they feel and punitive perceptions this plants into the Australian psyche about our people.
“The Healthy Welfare Card is not exactly identical to income management, but it imposes restrictions on the ways people can spend their money and will almost certainly impact disproportionately on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“The hardest part of this proposal to accept is that yet again the treatment of our people will be different to mainstream Australia, and when told of the likely passage of this legislation I rhetorically questioned why are all the nasty policies around welfare always imposed on us first, why are our mob the subject of experiments dressed up in the benign language of trials and pilot projects.”
In September welfare organisations slammed the cashless welfare card, telling a Senate Inquiry into the initiative that the government had not tested ethical grey areas.
Gooda also used his report to call on the Federal Government to respectfully engage with Indigenous people when it came to the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
“As the NDIS offers a completely new way of doing business, I implore you to build a respectful relationship with our people with disability,” he said.
“You now have an opportunity in front of you to engage with our communities’ right from the beginning of the Scheme and ensure the rights and aspirations of our people with disability are recognised, and they receive the services to which they are so entitled.”
The Government announced in August that the cashless welfare card would be trialled in the South Australian town of Ceduna.
The town has a total Indigenous population of 1,226, and 47 per cent would be subject to the proposed debit card controls.