Cashless Welfare Card
There have been some media reports suggesting the Government has made the decision to introduce the cashless welfare card to the Goldfields region.
We haven’t quite reached that point, but I’m extremely optimistic that we’ll get the final approval to implement the program within the next month.
There are a few more steps we need to take – the Department of Social Services will be in Kalgoorlie-Boulder today and tomorrow to collect more feedback, and similar sessions will likely be held in other parts of the region next week.
But on the whole, the consultation process that has been under way since May has strengthened my resolve and I am fully committed to seeing the card rolled out across the region.
In November 2015, following an end of year school presentation in Leonora, I was approached by an Aboriginal woman, Gaye Harris, affectionately known in the community as Nana Gaye.
Speaking after a spate of teenage suicides in Leonora, Nana Gaye told me the social issues in Leonora had reached crisis point and something needed to change.
It was at that point when I first suggested we push for the cashless debit card.
Nearly two years on, the same social issues are still rife in parts of the Goldfields, and a broken welfare system is failing our children.
A police officer from Leonora told me a story in May, when I was in Laverton with Human Services Minister Alan Tudge.
Officers responded to a burglary at a house in the town, but found nothing of value taken – money, alcohol and jewellery were all left untouched.
All that was missing was food from the refrigerator.
In the gravel outside the house, there were tiny footprints leading to and from the property. A hungry child had snuck in just to steal food.
I am thoroughly convinced that if we do not take a new approach to the way welfare income is distributed, we will condemn a generation to a life of poverty and disadvantage.
The feedback from the Goldfields community has indicated there is strong support for the cashless debit card, and I think we have an endorsement to implement the program.
If we get the green light to proceed, the real work on how this card could function in a region-wide trial would begin.
Certain members of the community will be asked to join a steering committee and take a leading role in the design of the program, which ensures this mechanics will be driven at a grassroots level.
It is my preference for the card to be rolled out across the entire region but if certain shires are not ready to take part immediately, we can continue to work with those communities throughout the implementation process.
I stress that the Government doesn’t think this will be a silver bullet to fixing some of the complex social issues in the Goldfields.
I do believe, however, that this card can serve as an important step in restoring quality of life to our disadvantaged future generations.