Research was field-based
Allan Suter is mistaken in his accusation that “another ‘study’ of the Cashless Debit Card has been completed from far away without any local visitation”.
He made this accusation after an interview I gave to a West Sentinel journalist about field-based research I have conducted in the East Kimberley into the Cashless Debit Card.
The research I am undertaking at the University of Melbourne follows an invitation of concerned community groups in the East Kimberley.
My research didn’t happen from an office in Victoria; I spent various parts of the past year in the East Kimberley to interview many people including those that were involved in the implementation of the card, policy makers and people on the card.
My research shows that the card has significant negative economic and social impacts on vulnerable people.
My research is not ground-breaking; after the federal government forced income management on people in the Northern Territory, the government’s own 2014 evaluation showed similar findings.
Concerning, is that again similar findings are evident in the recently released ORIMA evaluation of not just the trial East Kimberley, but also Ceduna.
What’s worrying is the cherry picking of data and the synthesis of the ORIMA report itself by decision makers, at both local and federal layers of government.
It is also concerning that Mr Suter claims that consultation for the card occurred, yet in the East Kimberley consultation was extremely limited and select.
The situation in Ceduna was similar – where the concerns of 30 plus community groups opposing the card, were and continue to be, completely overlooked.
Mr Suter and the federal government were always going to implement the card, despite any objections outlined by community groups.
Receiving state benefits means you are within a financially vulnerable group.
My research and others including the 2014 evaluation in the Northern Territory Income Management Program shows that forced income management furthers this vulnerability by making it harder for people to management their money.
This is why 49 per cent of those on the card say it made their lives worse.
Not, as Mr Suter pejoratively suggests, because people “want to use benefits to purchase alcohol, drugs or gaming products”.
Contrary to Mr Suter’s claim, it was the ORIMA evaluation that states on average, one in five participants reported that their children were worse off under the Cashless Debit Card (pg B24).
Given that the welfare of children is used in the justification of bringing in the card, these impacts need further investigation.
The mayor’s inability to engage constructively with objective facts further fuels concern that the Cashless Debit Card is used for political gain, at the expense of the people subjected to the card.
Independent research is valuable as it provides guidance in politically charged policy areas.
Dr ELISE KLEIN
Lecturer Development Studies School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Melbourne
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