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First Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


This report reviews the Cashless Debit Card Trial and evaluation focussing primarily on the Final Evaluation Report released by the Australian Government in September 2017. The Evaluation by Orima Research, is intended to evaluate the Trial in the first two trial sites of Ceduna, South Australia and in East Kimberley, Western Australia.

Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) does not support the expansion of mandatory income management through a Cashless Debit Card (CDC). We believe that addressing complex health and social issues, such as alcohol, drug and gambling problems, through the welfare system is fundamentally flawed. 

As well as analysing the Final Evaluation Report itself, this review also examines the extensive expert commentary on the trial and evaluation. This is undertaken with a view to the Federal Government’s desire to expand the trial firstly to the Goldfields, WA and Hinkler electorate Queensland – but also the current intention to remove the limitations within the existing legislation, potentially allowing expansion across the nation.

Key Findings:

  • There is a lack of evidence of a causal link between people receiving income support and people with alcohol, drug and gambling problems.
  • Participation in the Cashless Debit Card should only be on a voluntary basis and supported by a suite of relevant support services.  
  • QCOSS cautions that the Cashless Debit Card may further stigmatise welfare recipients in areas where there are limited economic options and has the potential to divide communities.
  • In QCOSS's view, expansion of the Trial should not be supported on the basis that:
    - there is insufficient evidence of success to warrant any further expansion of the trial at this stage
    - there is a lack of clarity on the key goals and outcomes of the trial. 
    - the evaluation methodology is questionable and the outcomes inconclusive. In addition, the two new sites represent a markedly different environment and Trial scope which has yet to be tested and evaluated .
    - that operating in complexity requires testing of multiple options, preferably options that are supported by evidence and expert opinion. 
    - community support has not been clearly evidenced, and indeed appearances indicate divisions in the community. It is critical that solutions for communities should be based on community need, driven by community need. 
    - accountability for public funds would recommend that there is clear articulation of costs and benefits of the trials prior to any further expansion.
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