Kimberley Land Council Directors met with Senators Jacqui Lambie and Skye Kakoschke-Moore at the council’s quarterly board meeting in Kununurra last week to discuss the cashless debit card.

The senators were in the region as part of a three-day tour of the East Kimberley to investigate the card’s effectiveness.

The KLC Board voiced its support for measures that assist people to overcome substance abuse issues, but had diverse views about any real benefits of the card following its roll-out in the northern WA towns of Kununurra and Wyndham.

KLC director Marianne Skeen said she was concerned about the lack of consultation with local communities.

“This card has been forced on communities with little or no consultation with the people who are most affected,” Ms Skeen said.

“In Halls Creek, the government tried to impose the scheme on the community before it was rejected by the Shire.

“This is another example of governments making decisions for us, not with us.”

Fellow KLC director Greg Tait questioned the decision to limit the trial to areas with a high proportion of Indigenous residents.

“Substance abuse is not just an Indigenous issue,” Mr Tait said. “These problems affect all Australians from all walks of life.

“If the government really wants to know if this card works and can make a difference, they should target all types of communities.”

KLC chairman Anthony Watson said there was no clear evidence of the card’s success in the East Kimberley.

“This card is a bandaid solution, which does not go to the heart of addressing the real systemic issues of alcohol and drug abuse,” Mr Watson said.

“Indigenous people make up just three per cent of the Australian population. Yet time and again our people seem to bear the brunt of government policies and programs aimed at addressing issues that affect the entire Australian community.”

The board also raised concerns about the lack of support services to help people reduce their dependence on alcohol or drugs and have better financial management practices.

“Communities must be prepared well in advance for life-changing policies,” Mr Watson said.

“This has been sorely lacking in Wyndham and Kununurra with the roll-out of the cashless debit card.”

Wendy Caccetta