By Bonny O’Shea, produced for online by Erin Smith
A welfare intervention program, introduced by John Howard in the Northern Territory in 2007, is set to be trialed in a further five sites across Australia.
Income Management allows Centerlink to control where and how household money provided by the Government is spent.
The Federal Government wants to trial the system in five regions across Australia, including Logan and Rockhampton in Queensland, Bankstown in New South Wales, Playford in South Australia and Shepperton in Victoria.
Terry Steadman, chairperson of the Logan Indigenous Community Justice Group, is very worried about the affects of the program in his local area.
“Once they’ve imposed it on you, you’re locked into it,” he said.
Mr Steadman says community members have seen for themselves the program’s negative impacts in the Northern Territory, where it has been running for the past four years.
“They’re scared for the community, they’re scared of the impact that this will have,” he said.
Mr Steadman says it will not improve unemployment or social housing, and predicts youth crime will skyrocket.
Five years ago, the United Nations condemned the Howard government’s program as racially vilifying.
But the Gillard Government says there have been significant changes made.
Paddy Gibson of The Stop the Intervention Collective in Sydney says this is not the case.
“The amendments that have been made have been designed to try and make it appear as though the Income Management system is not racist,” he said.
“I mean if you read the legislation there is no longer any reference to Aboriginal communities or Aboriginal people, however the operation of the system is still racist.”
He says the wider trial is likely to impact refugees.
“That’s one of the things we’re starting to see in terms of the way the policy is operating, is as it expands out beyond the Northern Territory it’s often migrant communities that are targeted alongside Aboriginal communities,” he said.
“Overwhelmingly it’s still something that’s racist.”
Studies done in Darwin by the Women’s Rights Commission found the immigrant African community felt stigmatised by the program.
Mr Gibson says, “People were saying they were treated on the income management system like they were treated in the refugee camps being forced to go and line up for rations.
“They said they came into Australia to try to get away from that sort of treatment.”
The trial is due to start on July 1.