• Ceduna was one of the two trial sites for the cashless welfare card which caused deep divisions in the community over its effectiveness. (The Point)
There are mixed reactions to the strategy designed to curb the high levels of alcoholism and violence in the South Australian town of Ceduna. The Point's Danny Teece-Johnson speaks to locals to gauge the mood of the town.
By
Danny Teece-Johnson

Source:
The Point
15 Mar 2016 - 8:18 PM  UPDATED 15 Mar 2016 - 8:39 PM

Ceduna, South Australia: Monday morning at 9am on a Public Holiday.

It was a ghost town when NITV arrived, but one large store was already open. The local bottle shop. Yet, this is a region with well documented alcohol issues - so why is it the first shop in town to open, and the last one to close?

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The controversial Healthy Welfare Card - an initiative of the Federal Government - has been rolled out for a 12-month trial period in Ceduna on Tuesday.

The card has been introduced to help reduce the rates of alcoholism and violence in the region.

"The process is starting today, and essentially we will be handing out cards, posting them out, and as far as I'm aware its all going very smoothly," says Ceduna Mayor, Allan Suter.

"We have had an Aboriginal leader and another lady door knocking around town, and they have seen a lot of support, we  believe 90 per cent of the community support this."

Ceduna elder Sue Haseldine says that despite reports in the mainstream media, the majority of residents of all colours were against the card.

She tells NITV's The Point that it's a complete breach of human rights.

"We are against it. There has been a complete lack of consultation with local community members. They have only spoken to service providers, and people who work for them, not the people who will be put on the card. People here black, white and yellow have been made to feel like second class citizens and its a complete breach of our rights."  

NITV's The Point met with 20 residents against the card. They say that despite their diverse backgrounds, they have all been painted with the same brush.

They're calling for a targeted approach, where individuals with alcohol and violence issues are placed on the card rather than the whole community.

However, Mayor Suter dismissed this telling The Point: "It cannot be targeted, as that would be discriminatory."

Mr Suter has been campaigning strongly for the card, saying it will make Ceduna and its surrounding a communities, a safer place.

He says those that are opposing it are a minority, dismissing any suggestion that it impacted human rights.

"Legal advice has been obtained, Welfare is a privilege not a right," says Mr Suter.

Watch: NITV video journalist Danny Teece-Johnson reports from Ceduna, SA

The card which becomes operational on March 29, will quarantine 80 per cent of an individual's welfare payment leaving 20 per cent to access as cash.

Those on the Healthy Welfare Card will be given the opportunity to apply to an appointed panel to get the ratio of payments changed to a 50/50 Card and cash split, if they demonstrate they are responsible with their money.

The 'Say No to the Welfare Debit Card Ceduna' group who have been critical of the Card System, and the Mayor on social media, say it has huge concerns with leaders who are campaigning for the card to be on the panel, citing a complete conflict of interest.

"How are we meant to apply to a panel to increase our cash payment that has people on it that see those against it as troublemakers? Its not transparent and its not fair. We need an independent panel, we need a targeted approach and we need to feel like human beings," says Sue Haseldine.

In 12 months the trial will be reviewed by the Federal Government to see what impact, if any, the card has made on alcohol abuse and violence in the region.