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No-grog cashless welfare card trial set for WA’s north

Date posted: 29 June 2015

A cashless welfare care which stops recipients from buying alcohol or gambling could be trialled in towns such as Kununurra and Halls Creek, Western Australia (WA) within a year.

But Aboriginal development groups have warned more support services are needed if the trial is to be a success.

The Healthy Welfare Card, recommended to the Abbott Government by WA mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, is seen as a potential 'turning point' for struggling Aboriginal communities.

The chairman of Aboriginal development group Wunan, Ian Trust, welcomed the card as the 'first step' in turning the welfare crisis on its head but wanted a trial delayed by up to 12 months until alcohol rehabilitation services were established and community consultation had taken place. 'This whole process is about a marathon, not about a sprint,' he said. 'It could take us 20 years to see outcomes.'

Mr Trust, whose group is based in the East Kimberley, said most of the community believed change was necessary. 'In the spot-based polling that we did in Halls Creek, we estimated about 60% of people thought that the current situation in terms of unemployment rates, kids not going to school, people committing suicide, the number of people going to prison - it just can't continue and we've got to come up with a new strategy,' he said.

Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley president John Moulden said the council stood with Aboriginal leaders in welcoming the trial.

'We've had a number of meetings with Alan Tudge, the parliamentary secretary liaising with communities on the Healthy Welfare Card,' Mr Moulden said. 'He indicated in his last visit that when it happened, Kununurra would be one of the sites. Our expectation is that if (the trial) is successful it will probably be a permanent ­arrangement.'

Kununurra father-of-three, Michael Beebe, said grog and violence had become part of everyday life and most of the Aboriginal community wanted something to change. He said he wanted a different future for his children, with better homes and job opportunities.

'Change needs to come from within the community first,' said Mr Beebe. 'If the community can't do it, there needs to be some intervention.'

Source: Perth now


Last updated: 29 June 2015
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