Income management and the Racial Discrimination Act

Australia Northern Territory
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This paper provides information on the relationship between income management and the Racial Discrimination Act and the issues that are likely to arise if this question comes before the Australian Human Rights Commission for determination.

Income management refers to a policy under which a percentage of the welfare payments of certain people are set aside to be spent only on ‘priority goods and services’ such as food, housing, clothing, education and health care. Compulsory income management was introduced by the Howard Coalition Government in 2007 as part of the legislation for the Northern Territory Emergency Response. At this time, income management schemes were also established as part of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial, for situations of child neglect and for situations where children of welfare recipients are not enrolled at and/or attending school. Provisions were also introduced for people to have their income managed voluntarily.

The policy of compulsory income management of welfare payments has been one of the most contentious changes to Australia’s income support system in recent history. One of the most controversial aspects of income management has been its relationship to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the legislation that gives effect to Australia’s obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

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