Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee appearance

  • Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee appearance image

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Thank you for the opportunity to represent UnitingCare Australia here today.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the sovereign First Peoples of the lands on which we are variously meeting from – and to pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I’d also like to express my solidarity with their ongoing struggle for justice at this critical point in time in our history.

UnitingCare Australia is the national body for the Uniting Church’s community services network and is an agency of the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia.

We give voice to the Uniting Church’s commitment to social justice through advocacy and by strengthening community service provision.

We are the largest network of social service providers in Australia, supporting 1.4 million people every year across urban, rural and remote communities.

We focus on articulating and meeting the needs of people at all stages of life and those that are most vulnerable.

To support our contribution to today’s hearings, I would like to acknowledge the participation of my colleague, Simon Schrapel AM, who is the CEO of Uniting Communities. Uniting Communities provides services to the Ceduna community and can speak to the experiences of the participants on the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) in Ceduna and more broadly through convening the Accountable Income Management Network for the past 10 years which has brought together those with lived experience of being on the CDC and Basics card together with researchers and service agencies operating in communities subject to various forms of CIM.

I also introduce Samantha Gledhill our First Nations Adviser, a First Nations person who speaks to the impact that Compulsory Income Management (CIM) has on the self-determination and rights of those that are subjected to it. She also represents the voice of our national staff Network on First Nations strategic policy and advocacy issues.

UnitingCare Australia has been advocating against the CDC since its inception in 2016. In the past two years, we have made three submissions on this issue and included it in both our pre-budget submissions.

We support this Bill based on the large evidence base which has been built by government and independent researchers identifying the extensive problems linked to CIM. We also note the data and information gathered through our services network which further supports the problems associated with CIM.

Based on this evidence we have two recommendations:

  1. We believe that all forms of CIM should be abolished and replaced with an opt in approach to Voluntary Income Management that should be developed and implemented in consultation with communities and those with direct experience of receiving income support to achieve meaningful and positive long-term outcomes for participants.
  2. We support the government’s staged approach to transition participants from the CDC, and we recommend that the government adequately fund ongoing wrap-around supports for communities, with a focus on community led solutions that will address the underlying issues which lead to participants being placed onto CIM.