‘Income management’ programs, restricting the way in which some recipients of government transfers can spend this money, have operated in Australia since 2007. The nature of the programs implemented varies considerably, including the mix of voluntary and compulsory elements, and differences in the scope and nature of targeting. A number of evaluations and other studies of these programs have been made. The methodologies of these have varied, as has the specific set of subprograms they have studied; some have mainly relied on the perceptions of participants and various stakeholders, and a smaller group has focused on seeking to measure and report actual changes in behaviour and outcomes over time.
This has led to an apparent diversity of findings that has been exaggerated by selective use in public debate. The largest and most in-depth evaluation of income management was the evaluation of New Income Management in the Northern Territory. This found that the program had not achieved its objectives and appears to have created dependence. The relative findings of the studies are considered.
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), ANU 2016