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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?

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