Around 700 banking cards are held and accessed by community staff on behalf of Aboriginal residents of Ngaanyatjarraku Shire in remote Western Australia because they cannot use the cards to access money, The Australian reports.
Warburton community adviser and shire president Damian McLean said six communities in the shire were affected, with whole families unable to access funds in their accounts
“It’s doing enormous harm to communities who don’t have access to basic services,” he says.
“You have to get your keycard activated via SMS security to a phone you may not have anymore.
“Replacing cards, activating them and dealing with SMS security in order to access money are all a problem.”
Mr McLean said comments by WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt in The Australian on Wednesday accurately reflected the huge problem for Aboriginal users of banking cards and cashless welfare cards.
In his opinion piece, Mr Wyatt said that during a recent visit to Warburton he saw the community’s office staff helping a single mother contact a distant call centre hoping to have her bank account reactivated after she keyed in the wrong pass code.
“Unable to produce the required evidence to identify herself, she was told to travel 1000km to Alice Springs to front in person. She was desperate and broken.”
Another mother sought emergency relief to feed her children after her income was suspended by Centrelink for breaching work-for-the-dole conditions.
Mr Wyatt also said Ngaanyatjarra people were being “ensnared” by the cashless welfare card when they visited Kalgoorlie and other Goldfields towns that are part of the card trial: “They are joining the increasing number of destitute people who rely on their impoverished families to survive.”
Hundreds trapped in welfare card limbo (The Australian)