NACCHO NEWS ALERT: Healthy welfare’ card gets go-ahead to stem “rivers of grog”

Card

The welfare card has a single goal, and that is to reduce that welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse, I’m confident that it will, but we are obviously trialling it to properly assess it before proceeding further. This is absolutely being done in co-operation with the community leadership,They’re involved in the design of the trial, the design of the card, how it will operate on the ground, what its parameters will be.

“And I think by doing it this way, engaging very deeply with the indigenous and non-indigenous leadership, we’ve got a much better chance of it succeeding on the ground.”

The Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge told The Australians Natasha Robinson  yesterday that the trial was firmly aimed at stemming the rivers of grog.

A radical near-cashless welfare trial aimed at stemming the rivers of grog that entrench social catastrophe in remote towns will be implemented in three locations in close co-operation with the communities’ leaders.

Kununurra and Halls Creek in Western Australia’s East Kimberley region, and Ceduna on South Australia’s remote west coast are poised to introduce the healthy welfare card that mining magnate Andrew Forrest proposed a year ago, following a wide-scale review of indigenous training and employment.

And a Cape York-style panel of leaders will be empowered in the towns to recommend greater access to cash for those who can prove they send their children to school and otherwise behave responsibly.

The federal government has not yet formally announced the trial sites, but has been in intensive discussions with community leaders in Ceduna and the East Kimberley. The northern NSW town of Moree, which was being discussed as another potential trial site, is not expected to join the initial trial after significant division emerged in that community over the proposal.

A host of East Kimberley leaders met at the Argyle diamond mine in remote Western Australia this week and ­discussed the introduction of the healthy welfare card, with negotiations ongoing between the leaders and the federal government. One of the strongest proponents of the introduction of the card, Wunan Foundation chairman Ian Trust, told The Australian the community was desperate to stem the tide of alcohol in Kununurra.

Assault rates in Kununurra at the gateway to the Kimberley are 68 times the national average. The town of Halls Creek has endemic social strife and chronic low school attendance. Many of the town’s children are affected by fetal alcohol disorder.

The Wunan Foundation has long been proposing a welfare reform model similar to that introduced via the Families Responsibilities Commission in Cape York. Mr Trust said the problems of alcohol abuse, violence, and educational failure needed immediate radical action.

“We have almost tried everything we can think of,” Mr Trust said. “Up until now the model has been based on incentive — housing, school lunch programs, you name it — to try to get people to do the right thing.

“But if people are not doing the right thing with something as basic as not looking after their children, I think you do need some disincentives.”

The Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge told The Australian yesterday that the trial was firmly aimed at stemming the rivers of grog.

“The welfare card has a single goal, and that is to reduce that welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse,” Mr Tudge said. “I’m confident that it will, but we are obviously trialling it to properly assess it before proceeding further.”

The towns that will trial the welfare card have significant non-indigenous populations and the measure is aimed at all welfare recipients in the towns. The card will operate on a mainstream platform such as Visa or EFTPOS. Welfare recipients would be able to spend their money on any items they chose, excluding alcohol and gambling products.

“We’ll be switching off liquor stores across the country from the operation of this card,” Mr Tudge said. “So people can travel with the card outside of their area and the card will work at every shop. But it won’t work at liquor stores, it won’t work at the gambling counters, and because cash is limited, people won’t be able to purchase illicit substances.”

Though the Forrest Review recommended the healthy welfare card be 100 per cent cashless, it is understood that the amount of welfare money to be quarantined for all purchases except alcohol in the trial sites would be about 80 to 90 per cent.

The government is expected to introduce an amendment to the Social Security Act to empower a panel of leaders to make determinations that some individuals could access more cash in the towns.

“This is absolutely being done in co-operation with the community leadership,” Mr Tudge said. “They’re involved in the design of the trial, the design of the card, how it will operate on the ground, what its parameters will be.

“And I think by doing it this way, engaging very deeply with the indigenous and non-indigenous leadership, we’ve got a much better chance of it succeeding on the ground.”

East Kimberley leaders were in discussions yesterday on the details of the preferred model of welfare reform for Kununurra and Halls Creek, with some community representatives pushing for greater levels of support services to be made available as part of the measure.

Three figures that hold senior positions in Aboriginal organisations in the Kimberley — Gelganyem Trust chief executive Lawford Benning, Kimberley Land Council chief executive Anthony Watson, and KLC board director Keith Andrews — toured Cape York this week and met commissioners who hold statutory positions on the Cape York welfare reform model in Hope Vale. Mr Benning said there was an urgent need to address endemic alcohol abuse in his home town of Kununurra.

The welfare reform trial is due to begin early next year.

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One comment on “NACCHO NEWS ALERT: Healthy welfare’ card gets go-ahead to stem “rivers of grog”

  1. great that it applies to everyone in the towns. I work with all sectors of the community and alcohol abuse is a major issue for most welfare recipients and I stand by MOST. For the few that manage there own lives well congratulations and you should be able to have less quarantine of your money

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