The Cashless Debit Card has been recommended for the Kimberley region of Western Australia by a coronial inquest into the suicide deaths of Aboriginal young people.
As part of a suite of 41 recommendations, West Australian coroner Ros Fogliani recommended:
“That consideration be given to extending an offer of a voluntary cashless debit card program to include the entire Kimberley Region.”
The coroner’s call for the introduction of the Cashless Debit Card in the region highlights the need for urgent action. Minderoo Foundation’s Generation One initiative believes the best approach would be to follow the lead of four other communities and implement the technology on a whole of community basis across the Kimberley region.
“We recognise the tragedy of the continuing crisis and trauma inflicted by youth suicide on communities in the Kimberley,” Generation One chief executive Tim McDonald said.
“It demands bold action from the Federal Government, including the rollout of the Cashless Debit Card across the Kimberley.
“From our engagement in this region over many years, we have long understood that communities believe this card would help them. This report reinforces that understanding but recommends something that can only be achieved through a long legislative process. We call on the Australian Parliament to make it easier for communities that want to trial this program to do so.”
The inquest findings, handed down in Perth today, follow a lengthy investigation by Ms Fogliani into the cause of death of 13 Aboriginal young people aged between 10 and 24 years old, who died in the Kimberley between 2012 and 2016.
Ms Fogliani found the situation in the Kimberley region remained “dire”.
“Whilst the stated aim of giving people the incentives to bring themselves out of poverty (through better health services, education and employment prospects) is very sound, some consideration needs to be given to those people who are presently beyond being able to take advantage of those incentives,” Ms Fogliani said in the conclusion of her report.
“It is my hope that more resilient communities and families will mitigate the types of pre-existing vulnerabilities that were evident in the children and young persons whose deaths have been investigated by this Inquest.”
The Cashless Debit Card has been trialled in the communities of Kununurra and Wyndham in the East Kimberley since April 2016. It has also been implemented in the Ceduna region of South Australia, the Goldfields regions of Western Australia and, most recently, in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region of Queensland.
An independent evaluation of the impact of the Cashless Debit Card on the Ceduna and East Kimberley communities, released in September 2017, found it helped to reduce alcohol, drug and gambling use by up to 48 per cent.