The federal government is urged to consider some form of revenue management to address entrenched disadvantages among Indigenous communities.
A parliamentary committee is examining an Albanian government proposal to abolish the cashless debit card, which would drive more than 17,000 welfare recipients out of the system.
Debit cards were introduced by the Liberal-National Coalition in 2016 and introduced in several communities, including Ceduna in South Australia and Cape York in Far North Queensland.
Under this scheme, up to 80% of social benefits could be placed on the cards and the funds could not be withdrawn for cash or spent on gambling or alcohol.
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A former mayor of Ceduna says the government will regret the “senseless abandonment” of the card.
Allan Suter was involved in implementing the cashless debit card trial in Ceduna and said it has led to massive improvements in his community.
The map addressed gambling and alcohol abuse issues in the city and improved the lives of many women and children, Suter said in a brief to the committee.
“Our local community…is disappointed and horrified in some cases that this most worthwhile initiative is being shut down,” he said.
“The level of support from everyone in our community was reflected in the fact that I was known as a strong supporter of the card and was re-elected (to the council) with 70-80% of the vote. “
Meanwhile, a leading Indigenous think tank says revenue management models have been successful in some communities.
In a submission to the committee, the Cape York Institute urges the government not to apply a blanket approach to revenue management, but rather to allow communities to decide on a model for themselves.
“Revenue management is a vital and effective aspect of the Family Responsibility Commission’s self-determined local authority model,” the brief states.
“Revenue management in FRC communities is carried out by local elders and respected people empowered as decision-makers to help their own community members change.”
But the institute stresses that the wellness card is not a magic bullet to fix deep-rooted problems and should be used alongside other reforms.
“Revenue management should not be imposed from the outside top down, substantial on-the-ground support and community leadership ready to step up is required to be successful,” the submission reads.
The Cape York Institute and Mr. Suter will appear before the commission on Tuesday.