Recommended Resources – The Stringer – Independent News, Investigative Journalism

Welfare payments quarantining for WA desert

April 4th, 2013

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin

Aboriginal peoples in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia will be subjected to income management measures as the Federal Government continues its promise to expand income management.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin confirmed the controversial system moving into the Ngaanyatjarra and Kiwirrkurra lands – bordering WA, the NT and SA.
Up to 70 per cent of welfare payments are quarantined and the money can only be spent on food, rent, clothing and utilities.
But the income management measures are not a first of WA. Already there are 1,500 people under income management – mostly in Perth and the Kimberley and mostly Aboriginal peoples.
Ms Macklin is arguing that a large number of residents in the Ngaanyatjarra and Kiwirrkurra lands said that they wanted income management. She said that most of the 1,500 in Perth and the Kimberley who had entered into income management agreements had done so voluntarily – but a signature does not mean it was voluntary if they were threatened with losing payments altogether if they did not sign.
Income management was one of the stalwarts of former Prime Minister John Howard’s NT “Intervention” measures.
Minister Macklin has said that “welfare should be not be a destination or way of life” but most of the communities where income management has been imposed, the State, Territory and Federal Governments have not invested funds in grafting in layers of community development, employment and adequate access to education and health and furthermore most of these towns and regions are still lacking the full suite of services and utilities that should be available to every Australian.
They are being kept poor – by the Australian Government and by the very instruments the Australian Government has stated it has set up to help these peoples.

  1. Income management was supposed to teach people how to budget and manage their money ‘better’.  There is no evidence that this has succeeded as people living in poverty will always struggle to make ends meet.  The income management programme (or welfare quarantining) is highly expensive and in the NT now costs around $9,500 per person per year to administer.  It has made people lives harder as they try to cope with the unwieldy red tape requirements.  They have less choice in where they can shop and cannot now share travel costs and other activities important to Aboriginal people such as funerals.  It is increasingly obvious that the government is not interested in improving the lives of those who live distant from the major centres but is more keen on keeping them impoverished thus making it more likely that people will sign over their land for mining or other development in order to obtain services freely available to the wider community.  Hopes of employment are limited to jobs in the mining industry.  Making life harder for the poorest in our community does not enable social inclusion but leads to stress, disillusion and despair.

Recommended Resources – Our Place Magazine produced by The Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT)

The Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) is a national Indigenous science and technology not-for-profit organisation. CAT was established in 1980 and is incorporated under the Northern Territory Associations Act. CAT is governed by an Indigenous Board.

CAT works with remote communities across central and northern Australia and has offices in Alice Springs (NT), Darwin (NT), Derby (WA) and Cairns (QLD).

CAT has 120 staff. Thirty percent are Indigenous.

CAT is the owner of a company, Ekistica Pty Ltd, which trades as CAT Projects. The company delivers professional engineering services and solutions designed to enhance the sustainability of remote and urban communities across Australia and the Asia Pacific region. More information is available at

CAT manages the Bushlight project, delivering renewable energy services to remote Indigenous communities across northern Australia. More information is available at

Through the Desert Peoples Centre Joint Venture, CAT is the managing agency for the desertHub – a social enterprise development and support initiative. More information is available at

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