"Yes, welfare debit cards can break the cycle of abuse."

When you’re trapped in a cycle, sometimes intervention is the only strategy that can genuinely stand a chance of breaking the chain.

When you’re stuck on an unhealthy course, a fresh perspective to steer you in a more beneficial direction can save you.

Cashless debit welfare cards are the perfect example. Rather than the usual system of welfare payments from the government going into bank accounts, cashless debit cards have “cash” on them but are locked from use in liquor stores and gambling venues, and also prevent cash withdrawals.

Having confirmed success in two existing trial sites in South Australia and Western Australia, the Federal government has confirmed a third and fourth trial site.

The announcement comes as ORIMA Research figures from the first two trials, which began last April and May, are being showered with praise. Trials in Ceduna, South Australia and East Kimberley in WA, both showed dramatic reductions in alcohol consumption. The majority of participants have identified as Indigenous Australians, whereas the upcoming trial areas will not be mainly indigenous – Kalgoorlie is next.

There was growing concern that alcohol abuse and related violence had reached a “crisis” point.

These figures are incredibly encouraging. Why? Because they show that welfare cards genuinely can make a difference. They do impact people’s lives in a positive way and truly improve quality of life.


The trial stats show:

  • 41 per cent of people who drink alcohol said they drank less frequently.
  • 37 per cent of binge drinkers said they were doing so less often.
  • A decrease in alcohol-related presentations to hospital and alcohol-related family violence.
  • In East Kimberley, there was a 15 per cent reduction in alcohol-related pick-ups by community patrol services in Kununurra.
  • There was a reduction in referrals to the sobering up shelter in that area of 8 per cent.
  • A total of 48 per cent of gamblers said they gambled less and there is also a suggestion that use of illegal drugs has declined.
  • There was a decrease in the number of women drinking through pregnancy.
  • Parents and carers reported spending more time on their children’s schooling and homework.
  • Some reported saving money.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the move as “an exercise in practical love.” Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce said, “We are having great success in reducing alcoholism and also the things associated with it such as family violence, women getting beaten up.”

OK, his choice of words may be rather crass, but let’s keep our focus on the bigger point, it’s so immensely important.
Statistics repeatedly underline that violence thrives in boozy environments. With the introduction of welfare cards, we’ve finally found a realistic solution – a genuine tool to provide effective outcomes.

Welfare cards actually provide effective outcomes. (Image via Getty.)

The Australian reports Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter said, “The improvement we are most proud of is in the lives of families… it has been really quite amazing. Kids have been missing out on food because parents were pouring [money] down the throats of pokies… it’s the most dramatic improvement I’ve seen. I’ve been involved for 14 years through council in trying a series of initiatives… this is certainly the most significant change for the better I’ve seen… I certainly hope the naysayers don’t get their way.”

It’s hard to imagine that in light of such glowing evidence and feedback from the local community that naysayers exist. They do. Some have described the introduction of welfare cards as “shameful”. Surely the scheme makes more sense than drug testing and denying welfare further down the track?

The Greens stand to oppose them and Labor has yet to confirm support for the card. This may block the move in the Senate to broaden these trials to other communities. Shorten says, “Let’s also recognize, unless the community wants to do this cashless welfare card, it won’t work.”

He speaks no sense.

To show compassion to communities who are struggling, why on earth wouldn’t we try a new approach? This system has been shown to be hugely successful. Why oppose something purely for the sake of being obstructive? Why pretend we should all jump up and down to protect people’s right to live in unimaginable horror rather than improving their communities?


This is about the rights of children to have food on the table, to have stable and safer environments. Those rights outweigh everything else – certainly any pretend right to spend money from the State as alarmingly as you please.

This is such a shimmering ray of hope shining on the possibility of breaking a heartbreaking cycle of destruction.

Welfare assistance isn’t a matter of lining people’s pockets so they can destroy themselves, neglect and damage their families. Welfare should be provided to improve wellbeing.

Does this fix the problem of drug addiction across the whole country? No, of course it doesn’t. The cards have been trialed so far in specific, remote struggling communities. They have helped. Frankly, anyone objecting is standing in the way of genuine progress.

Do you support the government continuing this trial?

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