Building Communities14 Feb 2020

Why truth and respect must be at the heart of the Cashless Debit Card debate

Generation One CEO Shelley Cable addresses some of the misinformation circulating about the Cashless Debit Card (CDC).

Our mission at Generation One is to create parity with and for Indigenous Australians.

One of the ways we have been advocating for this is through our support for the CDC.

Soon the Australian Government will vote in the Senate on whether to approve an extension to the existing trials around Australia, and whether to transition people in the Northern Territory and Cape York from the Basics Card, to the CDC.

As the vote gets closer, there’s been a lot of commentary and debate on the topic. It’s great that people are engaging in the discussion, but sadly we’re also seeing a lot of misinformation and unfounded rumours.

I want to address three points of misinformation, because what’s important is not whether or not you support the CDC, but whether your opinions are based on accurate information.

Firstly, Minderoo and our role

  • Minderoo Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit organisation, founded by Andrew and Nicola Forrest.
  • Our role has been to champion the positive impacts the CDC can and does have, and engage with communities to advocate for a CDC, with wrap-around supports, that best meets their needs.
  • We do not operate the CDC, and we, including Andrew Forrest, have no financial interest in it, or in Indue Limited, which provides both the Basics Card and the CDC.

So, how does the CDC work?

  • 80% of an individual’s welfare payments are made onto the CDC, and the remaining 20% is made into their regular bank account as cash. Participants don’t get paid any more or any less on the CDC.
  • The CDC works just like any other debit card and can be used at more than 900,000 outlets across Australia – anywhere where you can use Eftpos, you can use the CDC. You can use it to buy anything, except alcohol or gambling products.
  • And, the cost of the CDC is falling over time. It does not cost $10,000 per person as some have reported – current estimates are less than $1,000 and continuing to fall.

And finally:

  • The origins of the CDC did originate with predominantly Indigenous communities. In fact, it was with the advice of Indigenous community leaders and Elders, that the idea of the CDC was first developed.
  • Two communities we worked with at the time asked to trial the CDC to address some of the most serious issues in their communities.
  • Over time, the trials have expanded into new communities, and now the majority of people on the CDC, approximately 60%, are not Indigenous people.

We know the CDC is something people feel strongly about. People have differing views and experiences – and that’s OK, and it’s important to have this debate and feedback, because it helps make the CDC better.

What is not OK is some of the personal attacks that have been made, in private and in public, towards community members, including CDC participants who support the card, and towards Minderoo staff. Our people are absolutely committed to the mission of Generation One, to create parity, and communities must be allowed a safe space to speak about whether the CDC is working for them or not.

The important thing is not whether you support the CDC. The important thing is to allow healthy and respectful debate, based on accurate information, to help us all in driving forward the best solutions, and creating the social change we all want so badly for our communities.

Shelley Cable
by Shelley Cable

Shelley Cable is a Wilman-Nyoongar woman from Perth, Western Australia, and the leader of Minderoo Foundation’s Generation One initiative. Shelley has dedicated her career to promoting Indigenous leadership and ending economic disparity for her “mob”, striving for the empowerment of Indigenous Australians through financial literacy, and highlighting that self-determination begins with secure employment.

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