Part of a podcast series

The Wheeler Centre

View all episodes in this series

Bottom Dollar: Welfare Quarantining in Remote Australia

Listen to Bottom Dollar: Welfare Quarantining in Remote Australia

Photo of Jessie Taylor, Jackie Huggins, Elise Klein and Beverley Walley

Jessie Taylor, Jackie Huggins, Elise Klein and Beverley Walley

Cashless Debit Card (CDC) regimes have been operating in Ceduna, South Australia, and East Kimberley, Western Australia, since 2016. Under these schemes, welfare recipients receive most of their income pre-loaded onto restrictive debit cards that can’t be used for the purchase of gambling or alcohol products, or to withdraw cash.

'Why can't we let the human being decide if they want it or not? That's what we're saying'

Jackie Huggins

Proponents say welfare quarantining protects children and vulnerable people from the harm caused by alcohol and gambling in remote communities. But others say the restrictions are punitive and even racist, primarily affecting Aboriginal people and people with disabilities. In terms of an incursion on the liberties of free Australian citizens, the CDC is indeed unusually radical. Yet in 2018, two new CDC schemes are expected to roll out in communities in Western Australia and Queensland.

In this discussion, Jessie Taylor, Jackie Huggins, Elise Klein and Beverley Walley explore the CDC. Does the evidence support the extension of the programme? Is there a dark side to the regime? And in choosing the locations for the scheme to be rolled out, is remoteness a proxy for race?


Portrait of Jessie Taylor

Jessie Taylor

Jessie Taylor is a lawyer working in the community sector, and a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Monash University. Jessie is the current President of Liberty Victoria. In April 2018, Jessie was appointed to the Board of Directors of Donkey Wheel Ltd. She sat on the Board of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in 201516.

Portrait of Jackie Huggins

Jackie Huggins

Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA is Bidjara and Birri Gubba Juru from Queensland. Jackie is the Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples. She was the National Co-ordinator for the Aboriginal Women's Unit in DAA in 1984 and on the Steering Committee for the Aboriginal Women's Task Force which produced the Women's Business report.

Portrait of Elise Klein

Elise Klein

Elise Klein is a Lecturer of Development Studies, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. She currently leads a research project examining Cashless Debit Card trial in the East Kimberley and works on a grant from the British Council’s International Challenges Fund on therapeutic cultures and the digital revolution. 


Portrait of Beverley Walley

Beverley Walley

Beverley Walley is a Noongar Ballardong woman from the South West of Perth in Western Australia. She also has connections to the Mirrawong Gaderong people in the East Kimberley of Kununurra, Western Australia, where she currently resides.

Beverley did her primary and secondary schooling in a wheatbelt town called Goomalling which is approximately 100kms from Perth. After graduating Year 12 at Iona Presentation College in Mosman Park WA, Beverley then went on to complete a Diploma in Secretarial Studies.

Soon after, Bev worked for the Aboriginal Legal Services following other experiences with appointments to Department of Community Welfare, Department of Social Security and ATSIC-Aboriginal Medical Services in Broome and Kununurra, and Centrelink in Kununurra.

During her education journey, Bev has been involved with Oxfam Australia and Aarnja, both strong women’s leadership organisations. Bev has also been involved supporting individuals who are against the Cashless Debit Card scheme. Bev is currently a retiree who was an employee for ten years with the Department of Education.

At present Bev is the Chairperson of the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service in Kununurra, WA.

The Wheeler Centre

Subscribe to the Wheeler Centre's podcast to hear full recordings of our talks – featuring the best in books, writing and ideas.