Updated August 08, 2017 07:59:24
Cashless welfare cards need to be forced on residents in a far north Queensland Indigenous community so they stop wasting government payments on sly grog and drugs, according to Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Wayne Butcher.
Cr Butcher said the community — 800 kilometres north of Cairns — was awash with cash from lump sum family tax benefit payments.
“A lot of people are consuming alcohol, for a dry community,” he said.
“It looked like Dan Murphy turned up on the weekend — I tell you, it wasn’t a pretty sight.”
Bulk cash pay-outs, calculated on income at the end of the financial year, recently landed in bank accounts in the community.
Cr Butcher saidthe money was being spent on drink, drugs and cigarettes, rather than children.
“The worst thing is the children are suffering.” Cr Butcher said.
He said school attendance rates have dropped by as much as 50 per cent in recent weeks.
“When low-income earners get $4,000 or $5,000 in a lump sum, it affects the whole lifestyle in Lockhart,” he said.
“You start to see children wandering the streets because the carers have different priorities.
“It’s really affecting our community so we need to have this discussion with the Federal Government around bulk payments all at once because it’s causing havoc for us on the ground.”
Cr Butcher said he would like the bulk payments spread out across the year and the introduction of a cashless welfare system.
“It limits those welfare payments so there’s only a certain percentage they can take out as cash, you can’t buy cigarettes and you can’t buy alcohol,” he said.
“We’ve got to remember that the money is not for the parents or the carers — that money belongs to the children and is to be spent on health and education.”
The Federal Government is trialling a cashless debit card in Ceduna in South Australia and the east Kimberley in Western Australia.
The debit card looks and operates like a normal bank card, except it cannot be used to buy alcohol or gambling products or to withdraw cash.
Eighty per cent of the money a person receives from Centrelink is paid into the cashless debit card and 20 per cent is paid into a person’s regular bank account.
Topics:indigenous-policy, government-and-politics, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, local-government, activism-and-lobbying, welfare, lockhart-river-4871, cairns-4870, qld, australia
First posted August 08, 2017 06:25:16
Contact Kristy Sexton-McGrath
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