This evaluation provides evidence about the outcomes of the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) in the first three trial areas in which it was rolled out: Ceduna and surrounds in South Australia and East Kimberley and the Goldfields in Western Australia. The purpose of this evaluation was to create a new, integrated evidence base and use it to assess the impact of the CDC, as these were presented to the evaluation team by the many stakeholders and CDC participants who informed the research.
- This research found consistent and clear evidence that alcohol consumption has reduced since the introduction of the CDC in the trial sites. However, with the current evidence, it is not possible to attribute these changes to the CDC alone. They can be attributed, however, to the full complement of relevant policies in the trial areas. However, it wasn't possible to offer any conclusion about whether the CDC influences drug use or the social harm it causes.
- The qualitative and quantitative data both highlighted that feelings of discrimination, embarrassment, shame and unfairness as a result of being on the Card were reported across all trial sites by a majority of CDC participants. In contrast, it was only a small minority of CDC participants who did not report any of these negative feelings about the CDC.
- The evaluation produced mixed findings about the impact of the CDC on the health and well-being of participants. A large proportion of CDC participant survey respondents reported that their quality of life had been affected in a negative way, especially in the Goldfields trial site and more so for non-Indigenous CDC participants. However, a sizeable minority reported an overall positive impact of the CDC on their quality of life, especially in the East Kimberley site.
- There was no clear-cut consensus view about a positive or negative impact of the CDC on the life and welfare of children in the CDC trial areas. However, participation in cultural and social activities was reported to have reduced considerably since the CDC introduction.
- Among the Indigenous CDC participants in all three trial sites saw an approximate half/half split in reporting more or less control of one’s life. Perceived similarities with previous government policies which had impacted the lives of Indigenous Australians was also noted by some respondents. In particular, references were made of the parallels between the historical distribution of rations to Aboriginal people and the placing of monies under the CDC. Furthermore, the CDC was considered by these respondents to be a paternalistic policy, which was being imposed disproportionately on Aboriginal people who had not been given an opportunity to voice their opposition.