Working paper

The cashless debit card trial in the East Kimberley

4 Dec 2017

This paper focuses on the Cashless Debit Card trial in the East Kimberley, Western Australia. The card aims to restrict cash and purchases to curb alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling. The card targets Indigenous people disproportionately – 82.0% of the people in the East Kimberley trial are Indigenous. The current study is based on 13 months of research into the Australian Government’s trial of the card in the East Kimberley. We review the card in the context of current policies to manage Indigenous consumption. We then look at aspects of the trial in the East Kimberley, including its implementation, lack of community engagement, community resistance and effects on money management. We find not only that the trial was chaotic, but that its logic is deeply flawed, and disconnected from the relational poverty experienced by people receiving state benefits. We also find that the card has become a symbol of government control and regulation in the study site.

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