NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Image in feature tile is of Stan Grant. Image source: The Monthly.

Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi journalist Stan Grant delivered an impassioned and eloquent keynote address reflecting on the scars of colonisatio at the recent Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists Congress in Sydney. Grant said that after years of “dragging my history around with me”, which took “an enormous toll”, he decided to leave Australia – a “foreign country, for other people” where he never felt he belonged. “I felt a great sense of liberation, freed from the history of this country and what it does to us, written on our bodies,” he said.

Overseas, reporting on the legacies of “colonisation, empire, dictators and despots, kings appointed by foreign powers”, he recognised in oppressed people, “positioned on the other side of history”, a familiar grief where “only the afflicted know the truth. I saw the eyes of my own family, people for whom all certainty had been removed, who cou;ldn’t believe in the promise of Western liberalism and all it purported to deliver,” he said. Grant reflected on the cumulative trauma of growing up Aboriginal in Australia, culminating for him in a breakdown whilst posted overseas with an “irrepressible surging wave” to end his life. Grant seeing a psychiatrist was very important in his recovery, but absolutely nothing was as important as “standing on my land.”

To view Croakey Health Media article Yindyamarra winhanganha – the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in click here.

You can also watch a video below of Stan Grant delivering a National Reconciliation Week 2022 Keynote Address.

NACCHO CEO welcomes end of cashless debit card

Labor will push ahead with plans to abolish the cashless debit card scheme with Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth saying last week that she was in discussions to terminate the program, which was a Labor election commitment. She pledged to work with communities to find “better local solutions”. The decision followed an Australian National Audit Office ­report released on Thursday last week which highlighted a lack of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the scheme. “The former Coalition government spent more than $170m on the privatised cashless debit card – money that could have been spent on services locals need,” Ms Rishworth said.

Implemented under the ­Abbott government in 2016, the scheme was designed to encourage socially responsible behaviour by quarantining 80% of a person’s welfare payments on a debit card to prevent it being spent on alcohol and gambling. It was initially introduced in Ceduna, SA, East Kimberley and the Goldfields in WA, and then ­expanded to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland. The cost of the program reached $36m in 2020–21, with nearly 17,000 people participating as of February this year.

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO, said the scheme had caused “unnecessary embarrassment” for Indigenous Australians. “I certainly welcome the scrapping of the cashless debit card,” she said. “The Auditor-General’s report confirms what we already knew and why we were so opposed to the scheme. It’s simply poor public policy to run trials as the former government did for five years.”

The above has been extracted from an article by Jess Malcolm’s Cashless welfare card to be folded article published in The Australian on Friday 3 June 2022.

Image source: Crikey, 3 June 2022.

Using culture to turn suicide tide

Rocked by a spate of suicides, Shepparton’s Aboriginal community is using culture to turn the tide It began in October 2021 when a group of Shepparton’s First Nations community members came together in a backyard to figure out how to change the situation on youth suicide rates in town. “We had a cuppa and said, ‘what are we going to do about this?’,” Yorta Yorta woman and founding member of Dunguludja Dana Jean Miller said. “Our kids have been exposed to way too much trauma here, and something needs to be done.” Shepparton is home to the largest Aboriginal community and one of the highest rates of suicide in regional Victoria. Jean Miller said last year the community experienced about seven suicides by youth in just two months. This is when Dunguludja Dana was formed with a purpose to change the numbers. “It’s a Yorta Yorta word for strong pathways or strengthening journeys, and that’s what we want to do, that’s our vision,” Jean Miller said. “It was just about trying to engage our youth and let them know that no matter what life path they’re currently on, there’s always someone that loves them and cares and wants to support them.“ It could be a friend, it could be a cousin, it could be someone they knew in their school, but the impact is a ripple effect.”

To read the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

Each Wednesday, the group run three sessions where First Nations students partake in painting, drawing, charcoal, and burning art – as well as creating possum skin cloaks. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Undrinkable water, casual racism the reality

Rebecca Davis, a Senior News & Features Writer for MamaMia, has written a lengthy article Undrinkable water and casual racism: The reality of Indigenous health in Australia. In the article Ms Davis includes several accounts from Indigenous women about:

  • undrinkable water contaminated with uranium in Laramba, NT
  • Betty Booth from Doomadgee who died after being given Panadol by the local hospital and told to go home
  • a Melbourne woman routinely soiling herself as her bathroom door is not wide enough for her walker

For her article Ms Davis spoke to Pat Turner, a revered figure; a Gudanji-Arrernte woman with a long history as an Indigenous and women’s rights activist. Aside from being CEO of NACCHO, she was the founding CEO of NITV, and is an advisor to the establishment of an Indigenous voice to government. NACCHO facilitates 144 ACCHOs across the country, bringing comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It’s not just for Indigenous people – it’s largely run by them too, with more than half of their 6,000-strong staff of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

Speaking with Mamamia from Darwin, Pat reflected on the impact of institutionalised racism that still plagues many state-run hospitals. “Many Indigenous people also discharge themselves against medical advice, which I think is a sign of being unhappy with how they are treated, and not having access to their families,” she says. “There is still a lot of unconscious bias and racism across the board, particularly where you have large numbers of Aboriginal clients, so it’s about getting staff that are more culturally competent. Some of the worst offenders are the nurses. They really have to smarten up their attitudes. They think they know everything, and they can be very direct and rude. A lot of Aboriginal people feel very confronted by that.”

To read the article in full click here.

Feature Image: Children from the remote Indigenous community of Laramba in the Northern Territory, a region affected by undrinkable tap water. Credit: Marianna Massey, Corbis via Getty Images, Mamamia.

Moves to save Coonamble’s Marrabinya program

Petitions are circulating in each of the western NSW communities served by the Marrabinya program as Aboriginal people react to a decision by the Western NSW Primary Health Network (Western PHN) to cease funding the service from the end of 2022. Marrabinya is a Wiradjuri word meaning “hand outstretched” and since 2016, the Aboriginal-run program has acted as brokerage service to assist Aboriginal people with a diagnosed chronic illness to access medical support services, even in the most isolated communities. The priority chronic diseases are heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney and liver disease and cancer.

The Western NSW PHN are yet to issue a statement regarding the end of funding for Marrabinya’s program however, Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service CEO Phil Naden told the Coonamble Times that the situation was not all doom and gloom. “A major review was conducted and feedback provided from right around the region,” he said. “Whilst Marrabinya might not continue in its current form the service will not be lost.”

To learn more about the Marrabinya program you can listen to a podcast “Marrabinya – Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” here. You can also read the May 2022 Marrabinya News, including details of the Save Marrabinya Campaign 2022 here.

To view the Coonamble Times article Moves afoot to save Marrabinya in full click here.

Alarming STD-caused throat cancer

The prevalence of throat cancer caused by a prominent sexually transmitted disease among Indigenous Australians has been laid bare by new global research. University of Adelaide (UOA) researchers human papilloma virus-led throat cancer was 15 times more prevalent in Indigenous Australians than young non-Indigenous Australians, and five times higher than rates found in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Finland.

UOA Indigenous oral health unit director and Yamatji woman Joanne Hedges said Indigenous communities had worked closely with the researchers on the project. “Participants wanted to be part of this HPV project because they wanted to be part of change,” she said. “The theme coming out was, ‘I had a family member pass away with this throat sickness, and I don’t want to happen to any other Nunga in my community or my family’. There was a real strength of participation.”

HPV is normally associated with cervical cancer, but can spread to the throat, head and neck via oral sexual activities, and is increasing at a rapid rate globally. UOA Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health director Lisa Jamieson said extending the study would allow a deep dive of the knowledge they had already learnt.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Alarming STD-caused Indigenous throat cancer statistic laid bare in new report in full click here.

Lisa Jamieson and Joanne Hedges (inset). Photo: University of Adelaide. Image source: University of Adelaide.

Home Stretch WA supports kids leaving OOHC

The WA State Government has committed $37.2 million to support the Department of Communities state-wide roll out of its Home Stretch WA program over the next three years. Home Stretch WA will support young people who exit the State’s child protection system at 18 years of age, until they turn 21, helping them successfully transition to independence. Research shows young people leaving care are at greater risk of unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues and interacting with criminal justice systems.

The Home Stretch WA program will provide flexible one-to-one individualised support focused on coaching young people towards independence. This support can include to obtain stable accommodation, enrol in further education, progress to work opportunities, identify where to access assistance in the local community, access health services, build support networks and improve financial skills.

The WA Department of Communities is looking forward to working in partnership with Yorganop Association Incorporated (Yorganop) to deliver Home Stretch WA to young Aboriginal people preparing to leave the child protection system  in the metropolitan area. Yorganop’s readiness to deliver Home Stretch WA is built from direct involvement in development of the ‘Nitja Nop Yorga Ngulla Mia’ (our boys and girls are staying home) model that formed part of the Home Stretch WA Trial.

You can view the WA Government Department of Communities article Young people to benefit from the state-wide roll out of Home Stretch WA click here.

Image source:

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

feature tile Aboriginal fingers holding cashless debit card, words 'cashless debit card 'not worth the human cost''

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Welfare cards ‘not worth the human cost’

feature tile Aboriginal fingers holding cashless debit card, words 'cashless debit card 'not worth the human cost''

Welfare cards ‘not worth the human cost’

Cashless debit cards for welfare recipients are not worth the human cost, senators have been told. The Morrison government plans to make the cards permanent in existing trial sites and move welfare recipients in the NT and the Cape York onto the system. A Senate inquiry probing the enabling legislation has heard from academics, charities and Indigenous groups.

Anti-card campaigner Kathryn Wilkes said the system was cruel and demeaning. She told senators the scheme – which limits most welfare spending – had caused stress and mental anguish. “This program is not worth the human cost,” Ms Wilkes said. Fellow campaigner Amanda Smith said the government was legislating segregation. “Whatever the government wants to label what they’re doing, they’re creating and investing in a system of permanent social and economic apartheid,” she said.

Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory chief John Paterson said the public money earmarked for making the card permanent would be better spent on Indigenous housing, education and health. “We want to get people off the welfare treadmill, we want to create jobs,” he said.

Healthy eating – what works at the store

Supermarkets and food retail stores are the principal source of people’s food and beverage needs and are therefore a prime setting to implement changes designed to increase the purchase of healthy food and decrease the purchase of unhealthy food in order to improve population diet and health. There is growing awareness that where foods are placed in shelves is an important marketing strategy.

A recent study from NZ, involving a retailer/academic collaboration, explored the impact of more prominent shelf placement of healthier products. However, the study found that placing healthier breakfast cereals at adult eye level had no impact on sales. Failure to show any meaningful outcomes is not uncommon in this research area, so it is great to see some results from a study with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in remote Australia. The Lancet has just published a study led by Professor Anna Peeters at Monash University in conjunction with the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA)which owns and manages community stores in remote Australia and has looked at the implementation of the co-designed Healthy Stores 2020 strategy.

To read the full article click here.

9 infographic tiles representing store strategies to encourage healthy eating

Image source: croakey website.

Let’s work together towards Closing the Gap

The Coalition of Peaks (CoPs) is a representative body of around 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak organisations and members that have come together to change the way Australian governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Community-controlled organisations work for and are accountable to their communities, not governments. They believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have a meaningful say on policies and programs that impact on them through formal partnerships with Australian governments at all levels.

The CoPs and all Australian Governments signed a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap in July this year. This was an historic and exciting moment because it was the first time a national agreement about First Nations people had been made in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through their community-controlled organisations.

To find out more about the National Agreement on Closing the Gap go to the Coalitions of Peaks website here.CTG Historial Agreement COP tile - cartoon Aboriginal hand holding paper with title National Agreement

NACCHO CEO honoured for COVID-19 response

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has announced it is jointly awarding the 2020 Sidney Sax medal for outstanding contributions to the development and improvement of Australian healthcare. Patricia Turner AM, CEO NACCHO is one of the award recipients for the significant leadership and proactive response as the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact Australia’s health system and communities. Pat Turner ensured that the PM, state premiers and chief ministers took urgent action to protect communities, close down access and prioritise safety to prevent community transmission of COVID-19. Ensuring that governments worked in partnership with communities, and placing culture at the heart of preventative measures, were key to successfully keeping communities safe. In comparison to the devastating incidence of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities abroad, rates of COVID-19 in First Nations peoples in Australia remain proportionately lower than the rest of the population. This successful model of community leadership will have long-term positive impact for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities working in partnership with governments.

To read the full press release click here.

Pat Turner at meeting Aoriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in background

Patricia Turner AM Image source: Alice Springs News.

Palawa woman new AIDA President

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has announced a new Board of Directors, including the elections of Dr Tanya Schramm, a Palawa woman,  as the AIDA President. Tanya is a former AIDA Board member, a General Practitioner and also works for the University of Tasmania as a senior lecturer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. Vice President – Dr Simone Raye is a proud Bardi Jabbir Jabbir woman from the Kimberley. Simone was closely involved with the initial meetings that lead to the formation of AIDA. Simone hopes to strengthen relationships with specialty colleges to help First Nations students and trainees achieve Fellowship and be leaders within their chosen field.

To read the AIDA media release click here.

portrait image of Dr Tanya Schramm

Dr Tanya Schramm. Image source: Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association website.

Food security essential for remote communities

Dietitians Australia is calling for the Government to ensure all Australians have access to affordable, safe, and nutritious food, regardless of their location. This comes ahead of the final report from the Senate Inquiry into Food Pricing and Food Security in Remote Indigenous Communities. Submitting a written response earlier thisyear, Dietitians Australia proposed 16 key recommendations, including the need to develop and implement a national strategy on food security, as well as elevating the status of community stores to an essential service.

“A National Food and Nutrition Security Strategy which includes local voices from remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, is vital to creating practical solutions to support adequate food access,” said Robert Hunt, CEO of Dietitians Australia. “Local food stores often provide the only source of food available for purchase in the community.

GPs encouraged to take up mental health training

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is encouraging GPs in rural and remote Australia to undertake new mental health training to help children who’ve experienced disasters. It comes as GPs across the nation are dealing with increasing mental health presentations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and last summer’s devastating bushfires, and with the next fire season approaching. There are two e-learning courses from Emerging Minds, National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health available to RACGP members on the website: The first builds knowledge and skills in child mental health assessment and management in general practice, and the second focuses on supporting children and families after natural disaster or community trauma – including in the immediate aftermath, short and long term.

To view the RACGP’s press release click here.

vector image person sitting head on knees whole of back fragments flying off

Image source: UKRI Medical Research Council.

Reducing racism in healthcare organisations

The impact of institutional racism in healthcare, and the steps organisations can take to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, is just one of the topics being explored as part of Dietitians Australia’s inaugural webinar series for NAIDOC week (8–15 November 2020). Dr Chris Bourke, a Gamilaroi man and Strategic Programs Director at Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, will be calling on the healthcare sector to reflect on their governance and structure to improve the outcomes of their healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr Bourke, who is Australia’s first Indigenous dentist, highlights the importance of engaging both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people in organisational leadership positions, ensuring a strong foundation to provide equitable healthcare. “Statistics show that just under 50% of the factors that contribute to poor health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are related to racism, intergenerational trauma and lack of cultural safety. We all play a role in reducing this inequality, but to influence change within an organisation, First Australians must be included within the governing team,” said Dr Bourke. Without action, the ongoing impacts of institutional racism are alarming. 

To view the Dietitians Australia media release, including details of how to register for their NAIDOC Week events click here.

protesters holding signs No Room for Racism

Image source: SBS NITV website.

Music’s role as health determinant

A proud descendant of the Wiradjuri First People of Australia, Griffith University researcher Associate Professor Naomi Sunderland (Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre), has been awarded $820,000 Australian Research Council (ARC) funding (including a Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award) for the project titled The role of First Nations’ music as a determinant of health’.

This project aims to track how First Nations’ music and musicians are shaped by, and in turn may shape, powerful social determinants of health in Australia. The project responds to calls for health approaches that are strength based, First Nations-led, and culturally secure.

Aboriginal man from Bowraville Richie Jarrett singing into microphone, Aboriginal flag as backdrop

Richie Jarrett. Image source: Guardian News.

Sista Connections support college students

older Aboriginal man looking directly at camera with Aboriginal male youth in background - image from Diabetes Australia website

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: First Nations People should not pay price for Australia’s economic recovery

First Nations people should not pay price for economic recovery

The Edmund Rice Centre today expressed serious concern at the disregard for the needs of First Nations Peoples and Refugees in the 2020–21 Federal Budget. “It has been said that the Federal Budget is statement on the nation’s priorities. Clearly if that is the case, judging by this Budget, First Nations Peoples, refugees and people seeking asylum – some of the most vulnerable people to the pandemic – are very low priorities for this Government”, Phil Glendenning, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre and President of the Refugee Council of Australia said. Two months ago the Prime Minister signed a new Closing the Gap Agreement committing Federal and State Governments to a long-term program to finally reduce the huge disparities in life expectancy, health, incarceration, education and employment between First Nations peoples and other Australians. “Prime Minister Morrison’s signing of the new Closing the Gap Agreement just two months ago was a welcome step, but in last night’s Budget the Government provided no resources to make it happen”, Mr Glendenning said. 

To view the Edmund Rice Centre media release click here.

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) CEO, Jill Gallagher agreed, saying a lack of Federal Government support towards Closing the Gap targets was a major omission in a Budget that would provide some hip pocket relief and new jobs for young people but delivered “nothing of substance” for Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Ms Gallagher said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg mentioned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders just once in his speech. She described the lack of money for new Closing the Gap measures as “dispiriting”. “There are a number of targets which all levels of Government have committed too but where is the investment?”, she asked.

To view the article about the VACCHO comments click here.

Funding to improve health of First Nations families

A program that is already showing unprecedented success in improving the health and employment outcomes of First Nations families has been awarded $2.5 million in funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council. Led by the team at Charles Darwin University’s Molly Wardaguga Research Centre at the College of Nursing and Midwifery, the project is focused on providing the Best Start to Life for First Nations women, babies and families and has been awarded a Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) grant. Co-director of the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre Associate Professor Yvette Roe said the funding would allow the centre to expand and build on a current program that had resulted in a 50% reduction in preterm birth and 600% increase in First Nations employment.

To read the full article click here.

Women and researchers during the Caring for Mum on Country project, Galiwinku, Northern Territory. (L-R)-Yvette Roe, Dhurruurawuy, wurrpa Maypilama, Sarah Ireland, Wagarr and Sue Kildea

Women and researchers during the Caring for Mum on Country project, Galiwinku, Northern Territory. (L-R)-Yvette Roe, Dhurruurawuy, wurrpa Maypilama, Sarah Ireland, Wagarr and Sue Kildea. Image source: Katherine Times.

Palawa man heads mainstream health peak body

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has announced the appointment of Palawa man Scott Willis as its 22nd national president, the first Indigenous president of a mainstream health peak body in Australia. Scott, who commences his two year term on 1 January 2021, said “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health remains a priority area for our profession. We’re going to ensure not only that we are a culturally safe, engaged profession by listening to, learning from and working with First Nations peoples, but we’re going to make physio a known, viable and aspirational professional choice for young Aboriginals coming through the education system. I want them to know they can and should aspire to strong and respected leadership roles in the community.”

To view the APA media release click here.

portrait photo of APA President Scott Willis

APA president-elect Scott Willis. Image source: Australian Physiotherapy Association.

Cashless Debit Card expansion opposed

The Aboriginal Peak Organisation of the Northern Territory (APO NT) have called on all members of parliament to strongly oppose the legislation that would make the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) permanent in the current trial sites and expand it to the NT and Cape York, despite there being no proof that compulsory income management works. APO NT spokesperson John Paterson said, “Support for the bill would directly contradict the recent National Agreement on Closing the Gap that was supported by all levels of government including the Commonwealth. It is not in keeping with the spirit of the agreement and its emphasis on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination.” Mr Paterson added, ”We did not ask for the card, yet 22,000 of us will be affected if the card is imposed on NT income recipients.”

To view the APO NT’s media release click here.

Aboriginal man under tree holding Cashless Debit Card to camera

Image source: Gove Online.

Restricting high-sugar food promotion helps diet

Restricting the promotion and merchandising of unhealthy foods and beverages leads to a reduction in their sales, presenting an opportunity to improve people’s diets, according to a randomised controlled trial of 20 stores in remote regions of Australia. Julie Brimblecombe, of Monash University, Australia, co-joint first author of the study, said: “Price promotions and marketing tactics, such as where products are placed on shelves, are frequently used to stimulate sales. Our novel study is the first to show that limiting these activities can also have an effect on sales, in particular, of unhealthy food and drinks. This strategy has important health implications and is an opportunity to improve diets and reduce associated non-communicable diseases. It also offers a way for supermarkets to position themselves as responsible retailers, which could potentially strengthen customers loyalty without damaging business performance.” 

To read the full article published in The Lancet click here.

hands of Aboriginal person pushing trolley or health foods in outback store

Image source: Adult Learning Australia website.

New research supports self-care

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is set to launch a new policy blueprint that calls for policy reform to improve population health and reduce health service demand through effective self-care. Released by the Mitchell Institute, the document notes a range of environmental, economic and social factors drive self-care capability. It says governments can play a major role in creating environments that either inhibit or enable self-care. The importance of self-care to good health has also been highlighted by COVID-19, according to the Mitchell Institute’s Professor of Health Policy, Rosemary Calder. “Now is the time for a systematic approach, led by a national agenda to enable shared responsibility between government organisations and health care professionals to tackle health inequity and support self-care for all Australians,” she says.

To view the full article click here.

man's hand holding baby's hand both cradled in woman's hand against blurred grass background

Image source: Emerging Minds, Australia website.

Funding for healthy ageing research

Professor Dawn Bessarab from the University of WA’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health and her team will lead the Centre for Research Excellence on the Good Spirit Good Life: Better health and wellbeing for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The first Centre for Research Excellence in Australia to explore Indigenous ageing, Professor Bessarab and her team were awarded $2.5 million in NHMRC funding. They will develop their research with and from the perspective of Aboriginal people, to better understand healthy ageing in older Aboriginal people and inform culturally secure and effective service provision.

To view the full article click here.

elderly Aboriginal woman in hospital bed looking up to nurse

Indigenous elder Mildred Numamurdirdi. Image source: The Guardian.

Cost of hygienic products linked to high disease rates

A Senate committee investigating the over-pricing of items in remote Aboriginal communities has heard from Melbourne University Indigenous Eye Health Institute’s senior engagement officer Karl Hampton, who said the price-gouging of items like soap and towels is a key factor to Indigenous youth holding “the heavy burden” of serious trachoma infections.

To view the full Global Citizen article click here.

supermarket shelves showing high cost of soap

Image source: The Guardian Australian edition.

Keeping our sector strong discussion

Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) is hosting a virtual forum from 12.00–1.00 pm (AEDT) Monday 12 October 2020 with the Minister for Indigenous Australians, The Hon Ken Wyatt, AM, MP, to discuss the changes made by Indigenous businesses adapting to survive and thrive in the current climate.

To find out more and register your attendance click here.

Spaces are limited for this opportunity so be sure to register today!

Learning from each other webinar series

The Sydney Institute for Psychoanalysis invites you to join them as they bring together First Nations’ thinkers with psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in a series of six webinars in the spirit of Two Way – working together and learning from each other.

All profits will go to CASSE’s Shields for Living, Tools for Life, a dual cultural and therapeutic program, based in the Alice Springs region for ‘at-risk’ youth, providing an alternative to detention and reducing the likelihood of offending or reoffending.

The Two-Way: Learning from each other webinar series will stream 8.00–9.30 pm AEST each Tuesday from 13 October to 17 November 2020.

Click here for the webinar program and registration.

Queenie McKenzie Dreaming Place - Gija country 1995

Queenie McKenzie, Dreaming Place – Gija Country, 1995.
Image source: Australian Psychoanalytical Society,

Range of health scholarships available

The following scholarship programs, aimed at increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander participation in the health workforce and improving access to culturally appropriate health services, are seeking applications.

Indigenous Health Scholarships – Australian Rotary Health administer these scholarships on behalf of the Department of Health, providing a one off grant of $5,000 to assist students with their day to day expenses and provide mentoring support while they undertake a course in a wide range of health related professions. For further information click here.

Nursing Scholarships – the Australian College of Nursing are currently offering nursing scholarship opportunities for study in 2021 with undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships of up to $15,000 per year of full time study being available for eligible courses. Further information is available here. Applications close from 25 October 2020.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme – provides financial assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate students for entry level studies that lead or are a direct pathway to registration or practice as a health professional.  Further information is available here. Applications close on 8 November 2020 for studies in 2021.

portrait of Indigenous Health Scholarship 2020 recipient Marlee Paterson, UNSW, Doctor of Medicine.

Indigenous Health Scholarship 2020 recipient Marlee Paterson, UNSW, Doctor of Medicine. Image source: Australian Rotary Health website.

NSW – Taree – Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre

Aboriginal Health Worker – Drug & Alcohol/Sexual Health – Identified x 2 (male and female)

Human Resources Officer x 1

Maintenance Officer x 1

Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre (Biripi ACMC), a community controlled health service providing a wide range of culturally appropriate health and well-being services covering communities across the Mid-Northern NSW Region, is looking to fill a number of vacant positions.

To view the job descriptions for each position click on the name of the position above.

Applications for all positions close 5.00 pm Sunday 18 October 2020.Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre logo silhouette of two black hand overlapping inside yellow circle inside border top half black, bottom half red with words Our Health In Our Hands

VIC – Shepparton – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd.

PT Case Manager (Re-advertised)

FT Cradle to Kinder Worker

FT Family Preservation Worker 

Kinship Care Case Management

FT Practice Manager

Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd. has a number of vacancies within its Health & Wellbeing, Engagement & Family and Positive Ageing & Disability services areas.

Applications for the Case Manager position close 4.00 pm Tuesday 13 October 2020.

Applications for the Cradle to Kinder Worker, Family Preservation Worker and Kinship Care Case Manager positions close 4.00 pm Wednesday 14 October 2020.

Applications for the Practice Manager position close 4.00 pm Friday 23 October 2020.

NSW – Sydney – The George Institute for Global Health

FT Research Associate (project Manager)

The George Institute for Global Health has a very exciting opportunity for a Research Associate (project Manager) to join its ‘Safe Pathways’ team that will work in partnership with families to focus on developing a discharge planning and delivery model of care that will: address institutionalised racism; facilitate access to ongoing specialist burn care; and enhance communication, coordination and care integration between families, local primary health services and the burns service at Westmead. 

The George Institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program cuts across content areas and is conducted within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing, with a focus on social determinants of health, health systems and healthcare delivery, and maintains an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander paradigm of health and healing (physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual) and a commitment to making impact through translation that influences policy.

For further details about the position click here. Applications close on 30 October 2020 or sooner if a suitable candidate is found.The George Institute for Global Health banner, words and purple tick with dot in shape of flame

World Evidence-Based Healthcare Day

World Evidence-Based Healthcare Day is a global initiative that raises awareness of the need for better evidence to inform healthcare policy, practice and decision making in order to improve health outcomes globally. It is an opportunity to participate in a debate about global trends and challenges, but also to celebrate the impact of individuals and organisations worldwide, recognising the work of dedicated researchers, policymakers and health professionals in improving health outcomes. World Evidence-Based Health Day is on Tuesday 20 October 2020 and has the 2020 theme is ‘Evidence to Impact’. For further information click here.logo with words World Evidinece-Based Healthcare Day 2020 ebhc 20 October 2020 light blue & navy

White Ribbon Day

Together, we really can end men’s violence against women in our communities and in our workplaces. But it starts with us turning awareness into sustained, collaborative action and it needs to start now. This year White Ribbon Day is on Friday 20 November. White Ribbon Australia are asking you to hold an event – online or as a group (following local COVID-safe guidelines) – to bring your community together as a catalyst for ongoing action. Download a Community Action Kit here to access ideas and resources to bring your community together on White Ribbon Day, get involved on social media, and to kick-start a Community Action Group that will continue to create impact long after the event is over.White Ribbon Australia banner - black bacground words White Ribbon Australia & white ribbon icon

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #BasicsCard : Download University of Queensland’s @UQ_News @MonashUni @Griffith_Uni Report of further evidence that the cashless debit card does not work

“Income management proponents say it can stabilise recipients’ lives and finances, and our study found some people have experienced these benefits.

However many more people have faced additional financial challenges because of the policies.

Many also found their expenses had increased as they were blocked from participating in the cash economy and burdened with new fees and charges.

There have been recent moves to extend the Cashless Debit Card across the Northern Territory, but our findings show that CIM has in fact weakened many participants’ financial capabilities and autonomy.

To manage their finances, many participants have become reliant on family members, service providers or automatic payment systems.”

The University of Queensland’s Professor Greg Marston said the majority of participants using the Basics Card or Cashless Debit Card reported practical difficulties making purchases and paying bills, which introduced new instability into their lives

Download full report Here

Hidden+Costs+Report+-+FINAL (1)

Read all previous NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Cashless Card 

“Our research illustrates that the empirical case for continuing with the current policy settings on [compulsory income management] is weak,” the study said. “Our research is certainly not the first to suggest these set of policy measures require a fundamental rethink.”

The Morrison government wants to impose the cashless debit card on 23,000 Territorians with no evidence it works.

We’ve had compulsory income management with the Basics Card in the NT for 13 years. “

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy – Northern Territory : See Guardian article 


“It is untenable for the Government to continue the so-called cashless debit card trial sites in Ceduna, the East Kimberley, Goldfields and Hinkler region and to extend it to the NT.

 Income management has been a racist discriminatory tool imposed on First Nations peoples for over a decade, since the NT Intervention.

 The Government is trying to entrench this card by stealth through legislation that extends the card, year by year without proper evaluation.

 It is appalling that the Government is hinting at a national rollout as people are suffering right now on this card.

This study reflects what was found by the final evaluation of the NT intervention, that income management met none of its objectives, as well as the ANAO report which found that there was no evidence that there had been a reduction in social harm in the so-called trial sites. “

Senator Rachel Siewert

Download full Press Release

Senator Rachel Siewert

Restricting where and on what social security payments can be spent does more harm than good, according to the first large, independent study into Compulsory Income Management (CIM) policies in Australia.

The study team said CIM had often been framed as an intervention to strengthen benefit recipients’ independence, build responsibility and help transition people away from “welfare dependency” and into work.

Professor Marston said previous evaluations had raised significant concerns about the capacity of income management policies to meet their stated objectives, yet income management continued to be expanded.

Researcher Dr Michelle Peterie said the study was unique for its focus on individuals’ and communities’ experiences with the Cashless Debit Card and BasicsCard.

“These voices have frequently been lost or ignored in the policy debate,” she said.

Dr Peterie said the research showed a voluntary, opt-in form of income management could have a place, however the social, emotional and economic costs of continuing with a compulsory, widespread system outweighed the benefits.

“The overwhelming finding is that compulsory income management is having a disabling rather than enabling affect on the lives of many social security recipients,” Dr Peterie said.

“This was true across all of our research sites.”

Professor Marston said a policy approach that focused on providing employment and training opportunities and ensuring accessible social services and affordable housing would be a better starting point for creating healthy, economically secure and socially inclusive communities.

The research involved 114 in-depth interviews, conducted at four trial sites (Playford, Shepparton, Ceduna and Hinkler), and a mixed-methods survey of 199 people at income management sites across Australia.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Remote Communities : #WA Minister @benwyatt It is time we have a genuine dialogue about securing the ­future of remote communities and work towards establishing a long-term partnership between Aboriginal communities and state and commonwealth governments

“ The commonwealth has shown it has no interest in sustaining remote communities in Western Australia. In recent years the commonwealth has transferred its long-held responsibilities for housing and essential and municipal services to the state. And its legal responsibility to administer social security payments for people living in remote communities is operated punitively through the CDP and cashless debit card scheme.

Promoters of this approach say it is the most effective way to address passive welfare and to protect children and women in communities — and, to a certain extent, I am attracted to this rationale. Removing the never-ending humbugging between generations is a worthy aim, but removing cash from a vast landmass with no supporting technology is not working.

It is time we have a genuine dialogue about securing the ­future of remote communities and work towards establishing a long-term partnership between Aboriginal communities and state and commonwealth governments.

That partnership should incorporate strategies that break the institutionalised ghetto status of these communities and also understand how communities interact with each other. It should also involve best-practice governance models and vastly improved service delivery.

 To me Ngaanyatjarra would be an ideal trial site for such an approach.”

Opinion article in The Australian from Ben Wyatt the West Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

Last week I drove from Perth to Warburton and Warakurna, two of the most remote communities on Earth.

Arriving at Warburton, population about 500 people, I visited the community’s administration office and became instantly immersed in the madness people there were dealing with.

A single mother was desperately contacting a distant call centre hoping to have her bank account reactivated after keying the wrong pass code given to her.

Unable to produce the required evidence to identify herself she was told to travel a thousand kilometres to Alice Springs to front in person.

She was desperate and broken.

Another woman with children to feed sought emergency relief after her income was suspended by Centrelink for breaching her work-for-the-dole conditions un­der the Community Development Program. At the counter a range of community people queued, demanding that overwhelmed staff help them navigate a social security ­income and banking system that to anyone appears impossibly complex.

This happens regularly, I was told repeatedly, where people have their income cancelled if they fail to report to Centrelink fortnightly on any changes to their living circumstances, miss a monthly report to Jobactive, which runs the CDP scheme, or do not comply with the requirement to work 20 hours a week for the dole all year round.

Given that English is generally not Ngaanyatjarra people’s first language, lack of phone access and the real­ity that people move between communities for all sorts of cultural and social reasons, the numbers of people denied social security payments is, of course, growing.

Other people complained they could not access funds from their bank because they had been conscripted on to the commonwealth’s income management debit card scheme — usually while spending time in Kalgoorlie — without fully understanding the consequences.

The scheme, which quarantines 80 per cent of social security payments to a special bank card that can be used only at certain vendors and cannot be used to buy alcohol and gamble, is being rolled out in Kalgoorlie and the Goldfields as part of a national trial.

The grog-free Ngaanyatjarra lands are not part of the trial and Ngaanyatjarra people who have been ensnared in the scheme through their visits to Kalgoorlie and other Goldfields towns are joining the increasing number of destitute people who rely on their already impoverished families to survive.

A line of these cards is kept behind the office reception in an attempt by the community’s administration to, somehow, turn these cards, inoperable in the lands, into cash.

Clearly there has been significant problems in implementing the scheme, with its Canberra-based designers having no idea how the Goldfields and Ngaanyatjarra Lands operate as an integrated region.

  • Large red dot: 500 people or more
  • Medium red dot: 200 to 499
  • Small red dot: 50 to 199
  • Smaller back dot: less than 50 people

Visiting these communities I was struck by an overwhelming sense that people are disempowered and punished by a digital world of faceless and distant ­bureaucratic controllers.

Centrelink no longer posts cheques, and financial transfers to personalised bank accounts assume people have access to computers and banks. There are no banks in ­remote communities.

This, combined with declining finances coming into the lands through increased payment cancellations as punishment and the increasing conscriptions on to the cashless card scheme has meant the Warburton community council has had to establish its own quasi banking system through recirculating money from the community store.

This situation is unsustainable. There is already a crisis of ­financial security in Warburton and other Ngaanyatjarra communities.

I sense the next phase of this crisis is community implosion resulting in a major population relocation to towns such as Kalgoorlie and Laverton if policies aimed at supporting remote communities don’t change; a ­dynamic that would be replicated throughout remote Australia.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #CashlessWelfareCard : @TheBigSmokeAU The complete timeline of Indigenous welfare mistakes up to the cashless welfare card Plus Video comment @Malarndirri19

The management of Australians through welfare is nothing new.

Today’s cashless card is merely the result of what was already tested on our Indigenous population.

To summarise, this is about neo-liberal paternalism, and human rights being exploited for financial gain under the guise of philanthropy.

The Intervention, and other recent punitive measures (including robo-debt) imposed on us wouldn’t fly if we had a charter of human rights.

We need one desperately. Indigenous Australians need a treaty, the right to self-determine, and a proper voice in politics, similar to what New Zealand has.

Because if we don’t fight for our human rights, we won’t recognise this country in a few years’ time “

Originally published HERE 

See all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Card articles HERE

Income management isn’t new in Australia. What is new is the current government’s ideological push to enforce neoliberal policies on an unsuspecting populace. In 2007, Professor Helen Hughes wrote Lands of Shame: Aboriginal and Torres Strait “homelands” in transition.

A few months before it was published, Hughes gave it to the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC). The Minister for Indigenous Affairs was Mal Brough.

The book was published by the conservative think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, and its final chapter reads like a blueprint for what occurred in the Northern Territory in June 2007

. It calls for the closure of Indigenous communities in the NT, a health audit of all children, the appointment of administrators, private homeownership and the abolition of communal title customary law, the permit system and Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).

The book was also highly critical of policies relating to self-determination and land rights, branding them failed socialist experiments.

The use of a book, research or reports produced by a think tank or foundation for government policies isn’t a new tactic. The Ronald Reagan policies from the 1980s were mostly from the Heritage Foundation, which has been heavily financed for years by the conservative elite and the likes of the Koch brothers.

Before we go any further, I need to provide some background and a timeline of events. The Howard government received many detailed reports about the escalating violence in Indigenous communities, but they were never actioned.

With thanks to Chris Graham, Crikey and Michael Brull, for their succinct research over the last decade relating to the Intervention.

Video and Quote added by NACCHO Media 

In the Senate this week :

John Paterson, @AMSANTaus CEO quoted

“This feels like the Howard era Intervention all over again,” he told NITV News.

“The last time the government intervened in the NT, and did things to us instead of with us, it failed at great cost to families and communities.”

“Aboriginal people in the NT will be most affected by this new form of top-down control and deserve the chance to give evidence. Without due consideration, this proposal makes a mockery of government rhetoric around Aboriginal-controlled decision making.”

So many reports, not enough action

Indigenous academic, Boni Robertson, completed many detailed reports throughout the 1990s. In 1999, a shocking report about Indigenous violence was released by Doctor Paul Memmott. The report was suppressed by the media and the public by the Justice Minister, Amanda Vanstone, for 18 months. By the time that the media got wind of it, it was old news and nobody really cared.

All of these reports and inquiries warned of the numerous problems in Indigenous communities. The causes of family violence stem from a failure of government to provide adequate services, education and housing infrastructure. It is also a failure from both sides of the political spectrum to acknowledge Indigenous culture and the relationship our Indigenous peoples have with the land. Neo-colonialism is still a problem in Australia, despite the fact that Indigenous Australians are the oldest known civilisation on earth. They’ve hundreds of languages and their map of Australia is made up of many nations, not a handful of states. Wanting them to assimilate into a monolingual, mono-cultural society is one thing; the reality is another.

The Intervention relied heavily on shock tactics. The NTER was a $587 million package of measures, and laws regarding human rights had to be changed or suspended to get the new legislation through.

In 2002, the Central Aboriginal Congress prepared a paper showing how the number of Indigenous women being treated for domestic assault had more than doubled since 1999. A year later Howard staged a “roundtable summit” of Indigenous leaders to address family violence. This achieved nothing.

An election was approaching in 2006, and for the government and the media, Indigenous violence was a popular topic. At one point, ABC Lateline had filed 17 stories about it in just eight nights. Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers was on the show in May that year and spoke of her experience with violence against children, including sexual violence in remote communities. What Rogers spoke about was exactly what Dr Memmott had detailed in his suppressed report, seven years earlier.

The media heats up

Minister Brough appeared on Lateline the next day and told the host, Tony Jones: “Everybody in those communities knows who runs the paedophile rings.”

Jones’ response: “You just said something that astonishes me. You said paedophile rings. What evidence is there of that?”

Brough said that there was “considerable evidence” but provided none. Claire Martin, the NT’s Labor Chief Minister, called on him to provide evidence of the allegation; still, he said nothing. Five weeks later on June the 21st 2006, Lateline had an anonymous male, former youth worker on their program. He backed up what Brough said: “It’s true. I’ve been told by a number of people of men getting young girls and keeping them as sex slaves.”

The youth worker claimed that he was once based in Mutitjulu, working in a joint community project for the NT and federal governments.

The Mutitjulu community are the legal custodians of Uluru.

His identity was hidden with his face shadowed and his voice digitised, and he cried as he detailed how he’d made repeated statements and reports to police about sexual violence in Mutitjulu. He said that he’d withdrawn the reports after being threatened by men in the community, and that he feared for his life. He also said that young Indigenous children were being held against their will and that other kids were being given petrol to sniff in exchange for sex with senior indigenous men.

The next day, Martin announced that her NT government would hold a major inquiry into violence against children in Indigenous communities. Also on that day, Brough finally responded to calls for evidence of his accusations. He released a press statement, saying that information had been passed onto NT police, and that he’d been advised that “for legal and confidentiality reasons, I am unable to disclose detail.”

Questions asked too late, the damage is done

A few weeks later, the National Indigenous Times reported that the youth worker crying about his experience in Mutitjulu on Lateline wasn’t a youth worker at all. He was actually Gregory Andrews, an assistant secretary at the OIPC, and an adviser to Brough. He advised Brough about violence and sexual abuse in remote communities. Later it was revealed in parliament that Andrews had never made a single report to the police about women or children. He also misled a federal senate inquiry into petrol sniffing in 2006 and lied about living in Mutitjulu – he had never even set foot there.

All of Andrews’ allegations were thoroughly investigated and dismissed by the NT police, and the Australian Crime Commission spent 18 months and millions of dollars and also concluded that there was no organised paedophilia in Indigenous communities.

Martin’s inquiry reported back to her in August 2006. The inquiry’s final reportLittle Children are Sacred, was handed to the NT government, in April 2007. It was impressive and was more than 300-pages-long, with 91 recommendations. The authors, Pat Anderson and Rex Wild, didn’t have an easy job, but they said that they were: “…impressed with the willingness of people to discuss the issue of child sexual abuse, even though it was acknowledged as a difficult subject to talk about. At many meetings, both men and women expressed a desire to continue discussions about this issue and what they could do in their community about it. It was a frequent comment that up until now, nobody had come to sit down and talk to them about these types of issues. It would seem both timely and appropriate to build on this goodwill, enthusiasm and energy by a continued engagement in dialogue and assisting communities to develop their own child safety and protection plans.”

But before the Martin government could respond to the report and without any consultation with her, or even his own cabinet, Howard, along with Brough, used the report as a catalyst to launch the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), or the Intervention.

The Intervention

The Intervention relied heavily on shock tactics. Naomi Klein has covered these extensively in her book about disaster capitalism. A multi-pronged, speedy attack is favoured as this helps to create a cover to introduce unsavoury or neoliberal policies. The Intervention ticks all of the boxes.

The NT and the Australian Federal Police were sent into remote Indigenous communities, and the army and business managers were installed into Indigenous communities. Signs were put up declaring bans on pornography and alcohol in towns. It was framed as a “national emergency” and while everyone was distracted, and with a Senate majority, the federal government was free to pursue its agenda. The NTER was a $587 million package of measures, and laws regarding human rights had to be changed or suspended to get the new legislation through. These included the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, Native Title Act 1993(Cth), Northern Territory Self-Government Act and related legislation, Social Security Act 1991 and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1993.

As a result of the new legislation, regulations were introduced to ban access to alcohol, tobacco, pornographic material and gambling services. The land was compulsorily acquired by the government in 70 Indigenous communities to ensure that there were no interruptions by traditional owners, and an income management scheme was introduced – the BasicsCard, which was actually born out of an Indigenous innovation.

The FOODCard was introduced by the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) in 2004, the idea came about after community consultations. The main differences between the two cards are that one had community consultations, while the other did not. The terms and conditions for the FOODCard are available in Yolngu Matha and English, for example, while the BasicsCard is in English only.

The other key difference is that the ALPA one is voluntary and you can set for yourself how much money to quarantine, whereas the government one is compulsory, and quarantines 50%-80% of income. The FOODCard was rolled out in 2007, but by then the BasicsCard had taken over.

Neoliberal ideology

The government waited a month until it introduced its last measure, abolishing the CDEP (Community Development Employment Projects) program, one of the programs that were working. It allowed communities to pool all of their unemployment benefits together; this was then paid out as a direct wage for local jobs within the community, or within the CDEP organisations.

Participants were counted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as employed, even though the funds originated from unemployment benefits. A form of self-government, and a good solution for unemployment that empowered many communities, especially remote ones.

Communities were also sent pamphlets from Centrelink, explaining that they now had to do something in return for their Centrelink money. The pamphlet also said that they had to call them with their contact details, or their payments might be stopped.

The BasicsCard can also make life harder for those already living in poverty, in that you’re restricted from buying second-hand items with cash… It also means that things like how you pay your electricity bills are decided by Centrelink, so no more payment plans. That’s what income management is, it’s not about just being put on a card as such.

Dr David Scrimgeour told the Public Health Association of Australia conference in September of that year: “Most of the recommendations (…) have been implemented by the Commonwealth Government in the NT under the guise of protecting children, despite the fact that the recommendations are not based on evidence, but on neo-liberal ideology.”

He also said that the Centre for Independent Studies, the think tank that published Helen Hughes’ book, received “significant support from large corporations, particularly mining companies, and has close links with the Government and the media, particularly the Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian.”

Reports ignored or used as political tools

So what does income management look like in the NT ten years after the Intervention? The authors of the Little Children are Sacred report have both said that the report’s recommendations were ignored and that it was used as a political tool to push for an Intervention. Wild said this year that:

“One of the threshold items of the report is that community consultation is needed to be able to best implement the report and that clearly didn’t happen.”

Since the Intervention, report after report gets written about socio-economic disadvantage and the negative aspects felt by those on income management, only to be ignored. They all have a common theme, that there is no evidence of value behind income management programs, and that they didn’t change behaviours. Is it the government’s place to modify human behaviour with financial measures?

There is one report though that has been listened to; commissioned by the Abbott government and reviewed by mining billionaire, Andrew Forrest, it was released in 2014: Creating Parity – The Forrest Review. Forrest and his Minderoo Foundation want a new card called the “Healthy Welfare Card” to replace the BasicsCard. It would apply to all working-age Australians – around 2.5 million Australians, if you exempt pensioners and veterans. This is consistent with Abbott’s view in his book, Battlelines.

Following the BasicsCard money

The BasicsCard started out as store cards from merchants such as Coles and Woolworths, by direct deduction of funds set up by a merchant, or by Centrelink making a credit card or cheque payment. This was too cumbersome, so in 2008 the federal government started the process of procurement for an open tender of the card. Five tender applications were received and the winner was Indue Ltd.

Indue started out as Creditlink; it changed its name in 2006 a year after former Liberal National Party MP, Larry Anthony, became chairman of its board. Anthony was the chairman of Indue until 2013, and he’s been the Federal President of the National Party since 2015. Indue’s win was publicly announced in December 2009. The original contract was worth just over $11 million for three years. It ballooned out to over $25 million.

I’ve gone through the tenders and contracts relating to the card. There are 13 in total to date. Out of those, seven of the contracts are limited, so none of the finer details are available for the public.

Open Tender, Contract Total: $31,138,574.50 million

Limited Tender, Contract Total: $29,064,436.16 million

Total: $60,203,010.66

Cashless welfare card cost blow-out

The “cashless welfare card” trials were originally slated to cost taxpayers $18.9 million.

According to the government tender, the original contract for Indue was worth $7,859,509 (media reports round it up to $8 million). It’s now at $13,035,581.16 million.

That’s just the Indue part. If we add the remaining $10.9 million for the other contracts involved in the income management program, we get a total of $23,935,581.16.

There are 1,850 participants in the trial which began last year, so the cost of the card works out to be $12,938.15 per person.

Using the maximum Newstart allowance of a single person as an example, which is $535.60 per fortnight, they would receive $13,925.60 for the year. Add the Indue layer and the total is $26,863.75 per person.

A lot of money provided by taxpayers for behaviour change, and of course a nice profit for Indue, especially if it rolls out to millions of Australians. The millions of dollars flying about without any oversight, and the political connections, are a grave cause for concern.

Income management rolls out nationally

In 2012, the Gillard government extended income management nationally, and for another 10 years. In the House of Representatives during the debate about the “Stronger Futures Legislation”, Senator Nigel Scullion, Country Liberal Party member, said this:

“There is a fundamental thread through most of the feedback we get when we talk about consultation. When we get to most communities any observer would say that Aboriginal people more generally hate the Intervention. They do not like it, it invades their rights and they feel discriminated against.”

He still voted with the Gillard government. NTER was renamed Stronger Futures. He went on to become the leader of the Nationals in the Senate and Minister for Indigenous Affairs in 2013, and he still holds these positions.

Since the Intervention, the model has expanded from remote communities in the NT to the Kimberley region and Perth in WA, Cape York, all of the NT and selected areas of “disadvantage”. The areas that are deemed as disadvantaged are Logan in Queensland, Bankstown in New South Wales, Shepparton in Victoria and Playford in South Australia.

Trial sites, and another report

The three-part Orima Report is being used by the government, to not only extend draconian, income management measures but also to quantify its success. Social and political researcher, Eva Cox, sums up the report perfectly in a Facebook post on The Say NO Seven page:

“The whole data set of interviews, quantitative and qualitative, are very poorly designed and not likely to be valid data collection instruments. I’d fail any of my research students that produced such dubious instruments.”

The reports include a lot of spin, asking respondents for their “perceptions” at times, and includes retrospective responses for questionnaires. The Say No Seven page has been following all three of the reports closely, and crunched the numbers at the start of this month, when the final Orima report was released. An example can be found on page 46:

“At Wave 2, as was the case in Wave 1, around four-in-ten non-participants (on average across the two Trial sites) perceived that there had been a reduction in drinking in their community since the CDCT commenced.”

This approach means that the reader focuses on the minority of responses, rather than the majority of responses. Six-in-ten not perceiving any reduction in drinking around town. It reads a lot differently than the latter.

Other places rumoured to be put on the card trial are Hervey Bay and Bundaberg in Queensland. One peaceful rally against the card in Hervey Bay involved armed police, with protest organiser Kathryn Wilkes saying: “There were eight of us women aged between 40 and 60 … We were very peaceful. They’re afraid of a bunch of sick women on the (disability support pension). If you pushed me over I’d end up in the hospital. Most of us couldn’t fight our way out of a paper bag.”

This heavy-handed approach is all too familiar.

Star chambers and regrets

Which leads me to the anonymous, paid community panels that determine whether those put on income management should be able to access more cash from their bank accounts. Meddling in communities like this isn’t new, it’s been happening in Indigenous ones for years. Turning communities against one another is surely not the role of the government. It also allows them to neatly deflect any accountability for the program.

The BasicsCard can also make life harder for those already living in poverty, in that you’re restricted from buying second-hand items with cash, or something cheap online. It also means that things like how you pay your electricity bills, for example, are decided by Centrelink, so no more payment plans. That’s what income management is, it’s not about just being put on a card as such.

Two sites were chosen to trial the BasicsCard card for one year in 2016: one in Ceduna South Australia, and one in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. The trials were extended indefinitely this year, before the trials had even finished, and before the final Orima report was released just this month.

Punishing those looking for work as though they’re criminals, with drug-testing, isn’t Australian. Work-for-the-dole is pointless when there aren’t any jobs to be found in the first place. All these measures are creating is a subclass of stigmatised Australians. At a time when many countries are talking about universal-basic-income or UBI, we’re still caught up in “dole-bludger” discussions.

One of four Indigenous leaders from WA that originally supported the scheme has since withdrawn his support for the card. Lawford Benning, chair of the MG Corporation, says he feels “used” by the Human Services minister, Alan Tudge. He met regularly with Tudge ahead of the introduction of the card, and helped drum up support for it. He said that services that were promised in return were not provided until seven months later and that what was finally offered was no good.

“I’m not running away from the fact that I was supporting this. But now I’m disappointed and I owe it to my people to speak up,” Benning said. “Every person I’ve spoken with said they don’t want this thing here.”

When Benning heard that the card was going to be permanent and about the rollout of the card at other sites:

“I said ‘hang on, it sounds like you’re trying to get a rubber stamp on something already underway, in an attempt to legitimise something the community doesn’t support.’”

“I said to him ‘your minister isn’t showing respect to us’. Prior to introducing the card, Tudge was flying here every second weekend to meet with us. As soon as we signed up, we’ve never seen him again.”

Take a drug-test or no welfare for new recipients

The latest legislation currently before the parliament involves a two-year drug-testing trial for 5,000 people in Bankstown (NSW), Logan (Queensland) and Mandurah (Western Australia). If it passes, new recipients of the Newstart and Youth Allowance have to agree to be tested in order to receive their allowances. If they refuse a random drug test, their payments will be cancelled. If they test positive they will be placed on the BasicsCard program, with 20% of their allowance made available in cash. 25 days later they get tested again and if they test positively again, they will be referred to a privately-contracted medical professional.

There is no evidence that mandatory drug-testing will work on civilians despite what Social Services minister, Christian Porter says. This ABC fact-check puts that to rest.

“Experts say that, rather than lots of evidence, there is no evidence, here or overseas, to show that mandatory testing will help unemployed drug addicts receive treatment and find jobs.”

The City of Mandurah has accused the Turnbull government of using dodgy data to justify being chosen for the drug-testing trial. City chief executive, Mark Newman wrote:

“One statistic used is that there has been an increase in people having temporary incapacity exemptions due to a drug dependency diagnosis rose by 300% from June 2015 to 2016… The number of people concerned was a rise from 5 to 20 out of a total number of 4,199 people in Mandurah on either Newstart or Youth Allowance benefits as at March 2017.”

The standard that you walk past is the standard that you accept

To summarise, this is about neo-liberal paternalism, and human rights being exploited for financial gain under the guise of philanthropy.

The Intervention, and other recent punitive measures (including robo-debt) imposed on us wouldn’t fly if we had a charter of human rights.

We need one desperately. Indigenous Australians need a treaty, the right to self-determine, and a proper voice in politics, similar to what New Zealand has.

Because if we don’t fight for our human rights, we won’t recognise this country in a few years’ time.

Statistics-wise, Indigenous incarceration is sky-high, Indigenous youth suicide rates have risen by 500% since 2007-2011.

All that these measures are creating is a subclass of stigmatised Australians. At a time when many countries are talking about universal-basic-income or UBI, we’re still caught up in “dole-bludger” discussions. The reality is there is less paid work out there, and that this trend will continue.

Punishing our most vulnerable and those looking for work as though they’re criminals, with drug-testing, just isn’t Australian. We don’t need to follow America with a welfare system that’s littered with “food stamp” programs, and other neo-liberal ideologies. I believe the abolished CDEP is also a model worth looking at again, and not just for Indigenous employment. Work-for-the-dole is just labour exploitation, and most of it is pointless when there aren’t any jobs to be found in the first place.

And on a final note, remember the fake youth worker? He’s still been around as a public servant, and even landed a cushy job with the Abbott government in 2014 as the country’s first “Threatened Species Commissioner”.



NACCHO Press Release : Increasing #Newstart is crucial: @NACCHOChair

Wednesday 31 July 2019

Increasing Newstart is crucial: NACCHO Chair

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) calls for the Government to increase Newstart payments, welcoming the recent support for the same from Labor, the Greens, most Nationals and the majority of Crossbenchers.

Download Press Release Here

“A very high number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia struggle to make ends meet and urgently require the additional assistance,” Acting NACCHO Chair, Ms Donnella Mills said.

“Many of our people face a daily decision of whether to pay their bills or feed their family, as they are unable to afford both.”

According to a 2018 report produced by Deloitte and commissioned by ACOSS, after paying their household expenses and bills many Newstart recipients survive on as little as $17 a day.

“Missing meals, sleeping rough, struggling through winter without electricity and suffering financial stress all has a deep impact on physical and mental health,” Ms Mills said.

It is people living in rural and remote communities that are most affected by high living expenses and low employment opportunities. The report by Deloitte found that a $75 per week increase to Newstart would assist families and boost wellbeing in regional communities doing it the toughest — including by delivering 12,000 new jobs.

“It is unacceptable that while over the last 25 years there has been a drastic increase in living costs there has been no increase to Newstart,” Ms Mills said.

“Increasing Newstart by at least $75 per week would assist in breaking the cycle of poverty, reduce income disparity and provide better opportunities for all Australians doing it tough. Government should not need to wait for a Parliamentary Inquiry to confirm the urgency of an increase,” Ms Mills said.

NACCHO is the national peak body representing 145 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations across the country on Aboriginal health and wellbeing issues. NACCHO represents over 6,000 ACCHO staff – of which 3,500 are Indigenous – and is the largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

Many NACCHO members have almost 50 years of experience in the delivery of comprehensive primary health care. Services are delivered through fixed, outreach and mobile clinics operating in urban, rural and remote settings across Australia.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Cards : NACCHO strongly supports the @ACOSS position as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately and negatively impacted by the Newstart rate and the cashless welfare card

 “NACCHO strongly supports the ACOSS position as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately and negatively impacted by the Newstart rate and the cashless welfare card

Acting NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills was commenting on the ACOSS Press Release 28 July in full below

See all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Card articles HERE

Pictured above elder Ted Carlton with card

Acoss Press Release 28 July : Unnecessary, demeaning cashless debit card unfairly targets people just because they can’t find paid work

Following reports that Nationals are considering an expansion of the cashless debit card as part of a Newstart increase, the Australian Council of Social Service is reiterating its strong position against the cashless debit card.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “The cashless debit card is designed to control people on low incomes just because they haven’t been able to find a job. It is grossly unfair, impractical, demeaning, unproven and expensive.

“Are we now saying that, in addition to having to wait 25 years for an increase in incomes for people doing it the toughest, the trade-off would be control over their lives? Life is hard enough already for people on Newstart who trying to get through tough times and into paid work.

“Half of people on Newstart are 45 or older, one quarter have an illness or disability and more than 100,000 people on Newstart are single parents.

“Having to pay with the card cuts off some of the cheaper ways for people to get by such as buying second hand furniture or buying food from markets.

“People feel humiliated when they have to pay with the cashless debit card, especially in small communities.

“The government has shown no willingness to do a proper evaluation on cashless debit. The evaluations conducted so far do not demonstrate that cashless debit helps people.

“Cashless debit is also hugely expensive, costing thousands per person to administer.

“Instead of considering forcing people onto cashless debit cards, we need our political leaders to act to increase Newstart and better fund employment services to help people get paid work.

“Newstart must be urgently increased. 25 years with no real increase has left people in a spiral of debt and deprivation that makes it much harder to get paid work.”


 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Food security #IndigenousNCDs : Welfare reform is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people impoverishing them and resulting in the consumption of unhealthy foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases

What national and average Closing the Gap figures do not tell us is just how badly the estimated 170,000 Indigenous people in remote and very remote Australia are faring. This region where I focus my work covers 86 per cent of the Australian continent.

In the last decade new race-based instruments have been devised to regulate Indigenous people including their forms of expenditure (via income management), forms of working via the Community Development Programme (CDP) and their places of habitation, where they might access basic citizenship services.

All these measures have implications for consumption of market commodities, including food from shops, and of customary non-market goods, including food from the bush.

Owing to deep poverty, many people can only purchase relatively cheap and unhealthy takeaway foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases, like acute heart and kidney disorders, followed by lung cancer from smoking.

With income management Aboriginal people are being coerced to shop at stores according to the government’s rhetoric for their ‘food security’. Before the introduction of this regime many more people were exercising their ‘food sovereignty’ right to harvest far healthier foods from the bush.

Extracts from Jon Altman a research professor in anthropology at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University, Melbourne.

From New Matilda Read and subscribe HERE

A version of this article was first published in the Land Rights News

READ over 5 Articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Nutrition 

READ Articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Card 

” NACCHO is strongly opposed to the current cashless debit card trials as well as any proposal to expand. We also note that Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by the trials and that they are in and proposed for locations where the majority participants are Aboriginal. Whilst it is not the stated intent of the trials, its impact is discriminatory.

NACCHO knows that some Aboriginal people and communities need additional support to better manage their lives and ensure that income support funds are used more effectively.

However, NACCHO is firmly of the view that there are significantly better, more cost efficient, alternative approaches that support improvements in Aboriginal wellbeing and positive decision making.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services would be well placed to develop and implement alternative programs. We firmly believe that addressing the ill health of Aboriginal people, including the impacts of alcohol, drug and gambling related harm, can only be achieved by local Aboriginal people controlling health care delivery.

We know that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say over our lives, the issues that impact on us and can develop our own responses, there is a corresponding improvement in wellbeing. This point is particularly relevant given that the majority of trial participants are Aboriginal. “

Selected extracts from Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 

Download HERE 

NACCHO submission on cashless debit card final

As is the case in many countries, Indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand, United States of America and Canada are disproportionately affected by NCDs.

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer,  smoking related lung disease and mental health conditions are the five main NCDs identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and these are almost uniformly experienced by Indigenous peoples at higher rates than other people.

Indigenous people globally are disproportionately affected by diabetes. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are 6 times more likely than the non-Indigenous population to die from diabetes. In Canada, Indigenous peoples are 3-5 times more likely to have diabetes than other citizens.

Indigenous people are also more likely to have Cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease accounts for almost a quarter of the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Maori people are 3-4.2 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than other people in New Zealand.

These numbers are not improving, despite national rates of smoking decreasing, and increased social marketing aimed at reducing sugar consumption and increasing physical activity.

Mainstream solutions do little to reduce the burden of NCDs for Indigenous populations. The broader social determinants of health have a huge role to play, and until these are addressed in a meaningful way, Indigenous peoples will continue to experience an inequitable burden.

With colonisation having had a devastating impact on Indigenous peoples, and mainstream solutions unable to significantly reduce the rates of NCDs experienced by Indigenous peoples, a new paradigm is urgently required.

What is required is not more state based solutions but Indigenous led solutions.

Summer May Finlay Croakey 

Welfare reform is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people impoverishing them and resulting in the consumption of unhealthy foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases

Rome (Canberra) continues to fiddle while Black Australia burns. Professor Jon Altman weighs in on the ongoing disasters of government policy that have a tight grip on remote living Indigenous people.

In the last month I participated in two workshops. I used what I observed on my latest visit to Arnhem Land and what people were telling me to inform what I presented at the workshops.

The first workshop explored issues around excessive consumption by industrialised societies globally and how this is harming human health and destroying the planet. Workshop participants asked how such ‘consumptogenic’ systems might be regulated for the global good? My job was to provide a case study from my research on consumption by Indigenous people in remote Australia.

The second workshop looked at welfare reform in the last decade in remote Indigenous Australia. In this workshop I looked at how welfare reform by the Australian state after the NT Intervention was creatively destroying the economy and lifeways of groups in Arnhem Land who are looking to live on their lands and off its natural resources.

Here I want to share some of what I said.

BROADLY speaking Indigenous policy in remote Australia is looking to do two things.

The first is to Close the Gaps so that Indigenous Australians can one future day have the same socio-economic status as other Australians. In remote Australia this goal is linked to the project to ‘Develop the North’ via a combination of opening Aboriginal communities and lands to more market capitalism and extraction, purportedly for the improvement of disadvantaged Indigenous peoples and land owners.

While remote-living Indigenous people have economic and social justice rights to vastly improved wellbeing, in such scenarios of future economic equality based on market capitalism, the downsides of what I think of as ‘consumptomania’ are never mentioned.

The second aim of policy is the extreme regulation of Indigenous people and their behaviour, when deemed unacceptable. In a punitive manifestation of neoliberal governmentality, the Australian state, and its nominated agents, are looking to morally restructure Indigenous people to transform them into model citizens: hard-working, individualistic, highly educated, nationally mobile at least in pursuit of work (not alcohol), and materially acquisitive.

This paternalistic project of improvement makes no concessions whatsoever to cultural difference, colonial history of neglect, connection to country, discrimination, and so on.

In the last decade new race-based instruments have been devised to regulate Indigenous people including their forms of expenditure (via income management), forms of working via the Community Development Programme (CDP) and their places of habitation, where they might access basic citizenship services.

All these measures have implications for consumption of market commodities, including food from shops, and of customary non-market goods, including food from the bush.

We have all heard the bad news, year after year, report after report, that the government-imposed project of improvement, called ‘Closing the Gap’ and introduced by Kevin Rudd in 2008, is failing.

Using the government’s own statistics, after 10 years only one target, year 12 attainment, might be on track. I say ‘might’ because ‘attainment’ is open to multiple interpretations: is attainment just about attendance or about gaining useful life skills?

What national and average Closing the Gap figures do not tell us is just how badly the estimated 170,000 Indigenous people in remote and very remote Australia are faring. This region where I focus my work covers 86 per cent of the Australian continent.

What we are seeing in this massive part of Australia according to the latest census are the very lowest employment/population ratios of about 30 per cent for Indigenous adults (against 80% for non-Indigenous adults) and the deepest poverty, more than 50 per cent of people in Indigenous households currently live below the poverty line.

This is also paradoxically where Indigenous people have most land and native title rights, a recent estimate suggests that 43 per cent of the continent has some form of indigenous title; and is dotted with maybe 1000 small Indigenous communities with a total population of 100,000 at most.

Native title rights and interests give people an unusual and generally unregulated right to use natural resources for domestic consumption.

This form of consumption might include hunting kangaroos or feral animals like the estimated 100,000 wild buffalo in Arnhem Land.

Such hunting is good for health because the meat is lean and fresh; it is also good for the environment because buffalo eat about 30kg of vegetation a day and are environmentally destructive; and it is good for global cooling because each buffalo emits methane with a carbon equivalent value of about two tonnes per annum.

The legal challenge of gaining native title rights and interests is that claimants must demonstrate continuity of customs and traditions and connection to their claimed country. But in remote Australia, culture and tradition have been identified as a key element of the problem that is exacerbating social dysfunction. (That is unless tradition appears as fine art ‘high culture’ which is imagined to be unrelated to the everyday culture and is a favourite item for consumption by metropolitan elites.)

Hence the project of behavioural modification to eradicate Indigenous cultures that exhibit problematic characteristics, like sharing and a focus on kinship and reciprocity, to be replaced by western culture with its high consumption, individualistic and materially acquisitive characteristics.

Connection to country, at least if it involves living on it, is also deemed highly problematic by the Australian state if one wants to produce western educated, home-owning, properly disciplined neoliberal subjects — terra nulliusis now to be replaced by terra vacua, empty land.

Such empty land would be ripe for resource extraction and capitalist accumulation by dispossession Despite all the talk of mining on Aboriginal land, there are currently very few operating mines on the Indigenous estate. This is imagined as one means to Develop the North, but recent history suggests that the long-term benefits to Aboriginal land owners from such development will be limited.

MUCH of what I describe above in general terms resonates with what I have observed in Arnhem Land where I have visited regularly since the Intervention; and what I hear from Aboriginal people and colleagues working elsewhere in remote Indigenous Australia.

From 2007 to 2012 all communities in Arnhem Land were prescribed under NT Intervention laws. Since 2012, under Stronger Futures laws legislated in force until 2022, the Aboriginal population has continued to be subject to a new hyper-regulatory regime: income management, government-licenced stores, modern slavery-like compulsory work for welfare, enhanced policing, unimaginable levels of electronic and police surveillance, school attendance programs and so on.

The limited availability of mainstream work in this region as elsewhere means that most adults of working age receive their income from the new Community Development Program introduced in 2015. Weekly income is limited to Newstart ($260) for which one must meet a work requirement of five hours a day, five days a week if aged 18-49 years and able-bodied.

Of this paltry income, 50 per cent is quarantined for spending at stores where prices are invariably high, owing to remoteness.

The main aim of such paternalism is to reduce expenditure on tobacco and alcohol which cannot be purchased with the BasicsCard.

Shop managers that I have interviewed tell me that despite steep tax-related price rises (a pack of Winfield blue costs nearly $30) tobacco demand is inelastic and sales have not declined.

Since the year 2000, Noel Pearson has popularised his metaphor ‘welfare poison’. Pearson is referring figuratively to what he sees as the negative impacts of long-term welfare dependence. In Arnhem Land welfare is literally a form of poison because in the name of ‘food security’ people are forced to purchase foods they can afford with low nutritional value from ‘licenced’ stores.

However, paternalistic licencing to allow stores to operate the government-imposed BasicsCard is not undertaken equitably by officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

So one sees large, long-standing, community-owned and operated and mainly Indigenous staffed stores being rigorously regulated, managers argue over-regulated. Such stores are highly visible, as are their accounts.

But small private-sector operators (staffed mainly by temporary visa holders and backpackers) that have been established as the regional economy has been prised open to the free market appear under-regulated, even though they are also ‘licenced’ to operate the BasicsCard.

These private sector operators compete very effectively with community-owned enterprises because they only have a focus on commerce: all the profits they make and most of the wages they pay non-local staff leave the region.

Owing to deep poverty, many people can only purchase relatively cheap and unhealthy takeaway foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases, like acute heart and kidney disorders, followed by lung cancer from smoking.

With income management Aboriginal people are being coerced to shop at stores according to the government’s rhetoric for their ‘food security’. Before the introduction of this regime many more people were exercising their ‘food sovereignty’ right to harvest far healthier foods from the bush.

This dramatic transformation has occurred as an unusual form of regional economy that involved a high level of customary activity has been effectively destroyed by the dominant government view that only prioritises engagement in market capitalism — that is largely absent in this region.

On one hand, we now see the most able-bodied hunters required to work for the dole every week day with their energies directed from what they do best.

On the other hand, the greatly enhanced police presence is resulting simultaneously in people being deprived of their basic equipment for hunting — guns and trucks — regularly impounded because they are unregistered or their users unlicenced.

People are being increasingly isolated from their ancestral lands and their hunting grounds.

Excessive policing, growing poverty, dependency and anomie are seeing criminality escalate with expensive fines for minor misdemeanours further impoverishing people and reducing their ability to purchase either more expensive healthy foods or the means to acquire bush foods.

A virtuous production cycle that until the Intervention saw much ‘bush food consumption’ has been disastrously reversed. Today, we see a vicious cycle where people regularly report hunger while living in rich Australia; people’s health status is declining.

Welfare reform and Indigeneity is indeed a toxic mix, poison, in remote regions like Arnhem Land.

I WANT to end with some more general conclusions.

On the regulation of Indigenous expenditure, we see a perverse policy intervention: the Australian government is committing what are sometimes referred to as Type 1 and Type 2 errors.

The former sees the government looking to regulate Indigenous consumption using the expensive instrument of income management that has cost over $1.2 billion to date, despite no evidence that it makes a difference.

The latter sees an absence of the proper regulation of supply in licences stores evident when stores with names like ‘The Good Food Kitchen’ sell cheap unhealthy take-aways.

In my view the racially-targeted and crude attempts to regulate Indigenous expenditure are unacceptable on social justice grounds.

Two principles as articulated by Guy Standing stand out.

‘The security difference principle’ suggests that a policy is only socially just if it improves the [food]security of the most insecure in society. Income management and work for the dole do not do this.

And ‘the paternalism test’ suggests that a policy like income management would only be socially just if it does not impose controls on some groups that are not imposed on the most-free groups in society.

Paternalistic governmentality in remote Australia is imposing tight regulatory frameworks on some people, even though the justifying ideology suggests that markets should be free and unregulated.

Sociologist Loic Wacquant in  Punishing the Poor shows how the carceral state in the USA punishes the poor with criminalisation and imprisonment; the poor there happen to be mainly black.

In Australia, punitive neoliberalism punishes those remote living Aboriginal people who happen to be poor and dependent on the state.

Once again there is a perversity in policy implementation.

Hence in Arnhem Land, people maintain strong vestiges of a hunter-gatherer subjectivity that when combined with deep poverty makes them avid consumers of western commodities that are bad for health (like tobacco that is expensive and fatty, sugary takeaway food that is relatively cheap).

At the same time commodities that might be useful to improve health, like access to guns and trucks essential for modern hunting, are rendered unavailable by a combination of poverty and excessive policing.

Australian democracy that is founded on notions of liberalism needs to be held to account for such travesties.

Long ago in 1859, John Stuart Mill, the doyen of liberals, wrote in  On Liberty: “…despotism is a legitimate form of government in dealing with barbarians, providing the end be their improvement and the means justified by actually effecting that end”.

In illiberal Australia today, authoritarian controls over remote living Indigenous people and their behaviour are again viewed as legitimate by the powerful now neoliberal state, even though there is growing evidence from remote Australia that things are getting worse.

I want to end with some suggested antidotes to the toxic mix that has resulted from welfare reform that is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people and impoverishing them.

First, in my view despotism for some is never legitimate, so people should be treated equally irrespective of their ethnicity or structural circumstances.

Second, the Community Development Programme is a coercive disaster that is far more effective at breaching and penalising the jobless for not complying with excessive requirements than in creating jobs. CDP is further impoverishing people and should be replaced, especially in places where there are no jobs, with unconditional basic income support.

Third, people need to be empowered to find their own solutions to the complex challenges of appropriate development that accord with their aspirations, norms, values, and lifeways. Devolutionary principles of self-government and community control, not big government and centralised control, are needed.

Fourth, the native title of remote living people should be protected to ensure that they benefit from all their rights and interests. There is no point in legally allocating property rights in natural resources valuable for self-provisioning if people are effectively excluded from access to their ancestral lands and the enjoyment of these resources.

Finally, governments should support what has worked in the past to improve people’s diverse culturally-informed views about wellbeing and sense of worth.

While such an approach might not close some imposed ‘closing the gap’ targets, like employment as measured by standard western metrics, it will likely improve other important goals like reducing child mortality and enhancing life expectancy and overall quality of life.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Cashless Debit Card rollout : 5 specific concerns of Twiggy Forrest’s #Mindaroo Foundation Report : finds the Cashless Debit Card shows effects on the communities ranging from negligible to negative

 ” The problem with policy making in this area is that the government fails to accept that the data on the CDC shows effects on the communities ranging from negligible to negative.

We know that the CDC has not worked, and yet there is still a push for the trials to be expanded and extended. The effect of this report is to reinforce the beliefs that the so-called ‘solution’ continues to primarily involve tinkering with the details of technocratic policies. This runs the risk of further marginalising precisely those who are in most need of an effective and comprehensive federal safety net.”

Dr Shelley Bielefeld and Professor Eva Cox : See in full Part 1 below 

Originally published HERE 

 ” Family violence rates rise in Kimberley towns with cashless welfare

Introduction of cashless welfare card coincides with significant increase in domestic violence callouts and assaults, police data shows “

From the Guardian see other report CAEPR_Topical_Issue_2_2017_0

” NACCHO is strongly opposed to the current cashless debit card trials as well as any proposal to expand. We also note that Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by the trials and that they are in and proposed for locations where the majority participants are Aboriginal. Whilst it is not the stated intent of the trials, its impact is discriminatory.

NACCHO knows that some Aboriginal people and communities need additional support to better manage their lives and ensure that income support funds are used more effectively.

However, NACCHO is firmly of the view that there are significantly better, more cost efficient, alternative approaches that support improvements in Aboriginal wellbeing and positive decision making.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services would be well placed to develop and implement alternative programs. We firmly believe that addressing the ill health of Aboriginal people, including the impacts of alcohol, drug and gambling related harm, can only be achieved by local Aboriginal people controlling health care delivery.

We know that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say over our lives, the issues that impact on us and can develop our own responses, there is a corresponding improvement in wellbeing. This point is particularly relevant given that the majority of trial participants are Aboriginal. “

Selected extracts from Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 

Download HERE or Read in Full Part 1 Below

NACCHO submission on cashless debit card final

For background info from NACCH

See recent NACCHO Cashless Debit Cards posts 

Part 1 


The Cashless Debit Card (CDC) has been in operation in the trial sites of Ceduna, South Australia, and the East Kimberley, Western Australia in since March and April of 2016 (respectively).

Progressive rollout of the CDC in the Kalgoorlie/Goldfields region in Western Australia has been in motion since the 26th of March, 2018.

If the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 recently presented to Parliament passes, then trials will be expanded to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region in Queensland as well.

The CDC is a form of income management that quarantines 80% of social security payments received by working-age people (15-64 years) in trial sites, preventing cash withdrawals (the remaining 20% goes to the participant’s usual bank account).

The aim of the CDC is to restrict purchases of alcohol, illicit drugs, and gambling products. The CDC is compulsory for all income support recipients in Ceduna, the East Kimberley, and the Goldfields who receive the Disability Support Pension, parenting payments, Carer’s payment, Youth Allowance, and Newstart Allowance.

For those on the aged pension or veteran’s payment, or for those earning a wage, there is an option to voluntarily engage with the scheme. In the proposed rollout to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region, the program will apply to people 35 and under who are in receipt of Newstart, Youth Allowance (Job Seeker), and parenting payments.

The Federal Government’s announcement of intent to expand the CDC to the new sites at Goldfields/Kalgoorlie and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay received immediate approval from the Minderoo Foundation, whose founder Andrew Forrest has been a staunch supporter of the CDC, having been one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of cashless welfare.

In late 2017, the Minderoo Foundation presented a report to the Minister for Human Services– the Hon Alan Tudge MP- containing 11 recommendations to facilitate the further expansion of the CDC program of income management[1].

The first two sites were also seen as primarily covering First Nation recipients of income support payments, but this focus appears to be broadening. This shift must be highlighted, as it suggests that the model will be extended to a wider range of welfare recipients. The explanatory memorandum attached to the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 states in its section on human rights:

Noting the indirect impact the Cashless Debit Card currently has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in identifying the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area as a fourth location, consideration was given to expanding to an urban population, with a significantly lower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

It is estimated that 14 per cent of participants in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. With the addition of the Goldfields areas, Western Australia, and the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area, the proportion of Indigenous participants across the four sites will be approximately 33 per cent.

What’s in the Minderoo Foundation report?

The Cashless Debit Card Technology Report (November 20th, 2017) was produced by the Minderoo Foundation in collaboration with ALDI, Australia Post, Australian Payments Network, Coles, Commonwealth Bank, Department of Social Services (the report notes that the Department acted as observers), eftpos Australia Limited, Heritage Bank, iA6, Indue, Ingenico, PayPal, PC EFTPOS, Smartpay, Systemware, The Initiatives Group, Visa and Woolworths. Inputs were also received from the National Australia Bank and ANZ Bank.

The aim of the report is to highlight the changes required to facilitate smoother functioning and further expansion of CDC trials.

It therefore engages with some of the challenges raised in the ORIMA evaluation of the East Kimberley and Ceduna trial sites. The report asserts that the issues with the CDC noted till date are largely technical, and open to amelioration via upgrades to the technological side of income management.

The author(s) argue that the ORIMA reports ‘found mixed results that underscored technological limitations within the current CDC model’ (p. 4). 11 recommendations are made under the following three headings: improving social outcomes, improving participant and merchant experience, and creating a scalable solution.

The angle taken by the Minderoo Foundation and workshop collaborators collapses the diversity of negative responses to the CDC- largely articulated in terms of increased financial hardship with flow-on social effects– into a list of simplified indicators that merely address the technical platform for service provision. Despite this, the report advocates for the continuation of the CDC, encouraging technological upgrades to facilitate its expansion to new sites.

We outline the following specific concerns:

1.Lack of attention to human rights.

One of the most confronting suggestions in the Technology Report is in Recommendation 4, which suggests that the CDC should incorporate an opt-in income smoothing feature.

The report states that welfare funds could be disbursed in small amounts- with the example amounts being $20-$50- into the core transaction account on a daily/bi-daily basis. While it is proposed as a voluntary measure, it is nonetheless concerning.

Income support recipients who opt-in would be effectively drip-fed payments in order to curb early over-spends and payday lending (short-term, high interest loans). The report suggests that this might be applied in conjunction with basic financial education, but the emphasis is clearly on behavioural income management over financial literacy.

Also included in the report are assumptions about the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander income support recipients to manage their own money. Recommendation 2 refers to the need to impose technical solutions to dissuade humbugging and card-swapping. The report’s author(s) appear to problematize notions of community ownership by claiming that this leads to inappropriate shared use of the card. The solution offered is to create an opt-in card with CDC-equivalent restrictions for non-welfare recipients.

Problematizing community relationships and strategies to relieve hardship is particularly concerning given disinvestment in wrap-around support services- including remote Aboriginal housing– that may otherwise provide social security to Indigenous income support recipients. The suggestion that the CDC might stamp out humbugging is also ultimately unfounded, as it occurs for a variety of items other than cash, e.g. foodstuffs. Overall, this serves to underscore the racialised tone permeating the CDC discourse that specifically refers to the management of Indigenous income support recipients.

The report also fails to mention that despite the intention to target ‘vulnerable’ individuals and families for income management, eligibility is determined by catchment-area. This means that programs are rolled out by postcode rather than by participant. This is an issue, because while the purported aim of the CDC is to control the spending of individuals who engage in socially undesirable behaviour in order to curb this behaviour, the targeting is actually remarkably non-specific. As a result, many people who have never struggled with alcohol and/or other drug use or gambling are subject to the same restrictions on how they use their income support payments- something which has received push-back from many community members.

Additionally, the compulsory nature of enrolment means participants have to go through gruelling verification processes to opt out. Opting out of the CDC is technically available on the grounds of risk to mental, physical or emotional wellbeing, and involves an appeal to the Department of Social Services, an assessment by a Centrelink social worker, and then further review by the Department. This process is by no means transparent, and worryingly, the Secretary is not required to consider the impacts of the CDC on a person’s wellbeing prior to them becoming a trial participant. Anecdotal evidence has indicated that non-Indigenous participants have found it less challenging to opt-out of the trial than Indigenous participants.

The language of choice in the Technology Report is therefore dangerously misleading, as it does not reflect the reality experienced by CDC participants.

2.Data security issues and concerning technological aspirations

The report’s suggestion that Indue should move to introducing a tap-and-go payment system is concerning, as this presents the opportunity for easy misappropriation of cardholder funds if cards are lost or stolen. However, the report goes on to suggest that even the tap-and-go system should require PIN identification, rendering the supposed gains in accessibility redundant.

The report also indicates that expansion may involve leveraging the use of point-of-sale (POS) systems at major retailers to look at CDC participant spending patterns. Recommendation 3 encourages government to expand quantitative metrics using POS technology to capture details about how CDC participants spend their money on fresh food, alcohol and gambling. Supermarket giants Coles, ALDI and Woolworths are named in the report under this recommendation. As mentioned previously, all three are members of Minderoo’s technology working group, and publicly expressed their support of the CDC in January. This represents a concerning trend in technocratic aspirations to pry into the private financial lives of citizens.

3. Growing profits of the Income Management industry while doing harm to the poor.

 The Technology Report makes recommendations for increasing the scale of the CDC trials with the use of multiple card issuers rather than a single issuer (Indue).

This means that Indue could make its infrastructure available to third parties, which can then offer a CDC package of their own to extend income management under their own provider name. While the report identifies this as a way to reduce stigma felt by CDC participants, make the CDC more user-friendly by leveraging existing banking industry support networks, and lead to greater product innovation through competition, this appears to open the option for an increased number of providers to capitalise off income management- Indue Limited is currently on a $21.3m contract with the Department of Social Services.

Interested third parties include the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Heritage Bank, who are members of the Minderoo Foundation’s technology working group. The report also expresses thanks for inputs from NAB and the ANZ Banking Group. The authors of the report suggest that a multi-issuer trial might be attempted in the Hinkler and Goldfields regions in this year’s rollout.

The report heavily advocates government subsidies for businesses who incur extra expenses as a result of CDC implementation, but the authors appear to show no similar concern for social security recipients who have actually incurred additional costs to good and services through their forced use of the CDC.

4.Selective use of data to support claims of success.

There are two key issues with the data being used to bolster the recommendations in the Technology Report- firstly, the fact that the collection of the data itself is methodologically and analytically flawed, and secondly, the nature of the data collection itself during formal evaluations of the CDC.

Janet Hunt of the Australian National University has conducted an analysis of the trial evaluation carried out by ORIMA Research on behalf of the government in 2017. Hunt highlights selective presentation of results by ORIMA, including a lack of clarity around the factors impacting reduced alcohol use in Ceduna and the East Kimberley, the telling facts that the majority of participants identified that the CDC made no positive change in their lives and that almost half of participants stated that the CDC had actually made their lives worse.

However, reference to these mixed results in the evaluation data only occurs in the Technology Report during a discussion of the technological ‘limitations’ within the current CDC model, where the issue is framed as one of inadequate scope for technological interference in financial transactions of income support recipients.

Based on a comparison between the BasicsCard and the CDC the latter is presented as a superior model, the report also makes the troubling suggestion that the government should undertake a study on the feasibility of moving BasicsCard holders onto the CDC infrastructure.

The report frames the CDC as an improvement on the BasicsCard due to enhanced ‘consumer protections’ such as having a more secure chip (as compared to magnetic stripe) and being more ‘user friendly’ with respect to its ‘open-loop’ model for purchase restrictions. The ‘open-loop’ model refers to the user’s ability to use the CDC ‘at any Visa Debit accepting store that is not categorised as a supplier of excluded goods and services’- where stores do not have to have entered into a contract with the Department.

This is in contrast to the BasicsCard ‘closed-loop’ model, where the card can only be used at approved stores who have entered into a contract with the Department, and only to buy approved goods and services. However, it is apparent that this is really just fussing over the details of how to most effectively manage the finances of income support recipients.

5.Little attention to wrap-around services.

While we acknowledge that the purpose of the report is primarily to discuss the technology of the CDC, there is typical lack of attention given to the importance of wrap-around services. Wrap-around services have been identified by the Australian Council of Social Service as a key component in addressing disadvantage in communities, as income limiting alone cannot ‘treat’ addiction- people need integrated and long-term support.

While this is even acknowledged briefly in the report itself, the report nonetheless recommends a list of 11 technocratic solutions to issues of social concern without presenting an understanding of how these changes might articulate with community-sector supports such as alcohol and other drug rehabilitation services, family violence services, financial counselling services, and so on. This disconnect is particularly salient when considering that the latest federal budget indicates that there will be further spending cuts to Australians receiving income support payments- particularly people who are unemployed, people with a disability, low-income families and students.

The problem with policy making in this area is that the government fails to accept that the data on the CDC shows effects on the communities ranging from negligible to negative.

We know that the CDC has not worked, and yet there is still a push for the trials to be expanded and extended. The effect of this report is to reinforce the beliefs that the so-called ‘solution’ continues to primarily involve tinkering with the details of technocratic policies. This runs the risk of further marginalising precisely those who are in most need of an effective and comprehensive federal safety net.

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[1] The report itself was only posted on the Minderoo Foundation’s CDC site on the 19th of May 2018.