Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT) submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019

First Peoples economic conditions Cashless debit card Relative income poverty Northern Territory

The membership of Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) includes the Central and Northern Land Councils and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT). The combined constituencies and clients of our member organisations make up a significant portion of the Aboriginal population of the Northern Territory (NT) and also constitute the overwhelming majority of people who have been affected by compulsory income management. As such, APO NT has had more than twelve years of exposure to the impacts of income management, particularly on the NT Aboriginal population, since its introduction with the Commonwealth Intervention in 2007.

Income management has exposed Aboriginal income recipients to unrelenting, costly and paternalistic interventions yet over this period poverty and unemployment have worsened. Considering the evidence available, Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) opposes the current Australian Government plan to extend compulsory income management through a transfer to the Cashless Debit card (CDC). 

Key Findings:

  • Extending compulsory income management in the NT perpetuates the imposition of a one-size fits all policy on income recipients that largely targets Aboriginal people. It is, in every way, a top-down policy which, in the case of the NT, will be imposed on a significant number of Aboriginal people regardless of their circumstances.
  • APO NT supports voluntary income management programs being made available for all people on income management with consideration for short-term, supported compulsory income management in situations involving Child Protection or extreme vulnerability. All referrals for compulsory income management for Aboriginal people must involve a relevant and locally endorsed local Aboriginal Controlled Health or Community Service organisation.
  • It is APO NT’s view that effective public policy must be grounded in evidence. Unfortunately, despite the original objectives of improving the situation of children, reducing family and harmful behaviours around use alcohol and drugs and enhancing social and financial wellbeing under Income Management (2007) and New Income Management (2010), there is very limited evidence of success.
  • The proposed extension to income management in the NT is proposed to be through a transfer to the Cashless Debit Card, a program which is also not supported by adequate evidence.
  • Evidence does exist, however, that income management is not only causing few positive impacts but may also be causing harm. Using detailed birth data from across the NT, a recent Life Course Centre study indicates that rather than an increase in birth weight occurring under income management between 2007 and 2009, there was a drop of birthweight on average of more than 100 grams and an increased likelihood of lower birthweight of 30% compared to before the introduction of income management in 2007.


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