• The federal government's cashless debit card will be expanded to Western Australia's Goldfields region after legislation cleared the Senate. (The Conversation)Source: The Conversation
An inquest into the deaths of a group of Aboriginal youths who took their own lives in WA's far north has heard the federal government's Cashless Debit Card has further disempowered vulnerable families on welfare.
14 Aug 2017 - 5:49 PM  UPDATED 14 Aug 2017 - 5:51 PM

The income management trial was set up in the east Kimberley in April 2016 to help curb problem drinking, gambling and domestic violence - elements that were present in the lives of 13 young Indigenous people who killed themselves over a three-and-a-half year period.

University of Melbourne development studies lecturer, Dr Elise Klein is researching the policy and told the inquest the compulsory program was rolled out without proper community consultation, silencing many Aboriginal voices and causing tension and frustration amongst a diverse population.

Dr Klein told the inquest via video link from Melbourne the scheme represents neo-colonialism and government overreach.

"The card has been a symbol of disempowerment, a symbol of state intervention, punitive intervention over someone's life."

"It's explained as the 'white card'," she said.

"The card has been a symbol of disempowerment, a symbol of state intervention, punitive intervention over someone's life."

Dr Klein said the system was chaotically introduced with design flaws, including a balance-checking mobile app for people who "didn't know how to use the internet let alone own a mobile phone"

Many of the children who claimed their own lives were inadequately fed, but Dr Klein said it was "naive at best" to think controlling parents' consumption would effectively combat this, insisting the card made money management "much harder" for people already living below the poverty line.

Dr Klein said many of the scheme's participants had told her using the card was like going back to the "ration days", referring to when Aboriginal people working on pastoral stations were paid in tea and sugar, as opposed to real wages.

"Young people watching this play out in their families can only feel extremely debilitated," she said.

The problem is compounded for jobseekers subjected to the coalition's controversial remote work for the dole scheme, which Dr Klein slammed as oppressive.

She called for bottom up, community-led development of services to address the complex social dysfunction plaguing Indigenous communities.

Earlier, one of the last people to speak to a 13-year-old boy before he killed himself, former Kununurra District High School deputy principal Jamieson Coltman, told the inquest child protection authorities failed to intervene despite reports of domestic violence.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Local Aboriginal Medical Service details available from www.bettertoknow.org.au/AMS
National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

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AAP