Pilbara card trial would hit one in 10

Tom Zaunmayr and Sophia ConstantinePilbara News

The Federal Government’s cashless debit card would be distributed to more than one in 10 Town of Port Hedland residents if it were introduced to the region.

Figures disclosed in last week’s Shire of Ashburton council meeting revealed 4461 Pilbara residents would have met the triggers for the card as of December.

Of those, the Town of Port Hedland was home to the highest number of potential recipients, with 10.3 per cent (1706 people) based on 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics population estimates.

The Shire of East Pilbara came in with the second highest at 7.6 per cent (928 people), followed by the City of Karratha with about 6 per cent, or 1525 people. Only 302 welfare recipients were recorded in the Shire of Ashburton, or about 3 per cent of its population.

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Durack MHR Melissa Price said she believed the Goldfields was the leading WA candidate for the next trial site.“The early evidence from the East Kimberley and Ceduna is encouraging, where we have seen a decrease in attendances at sobering-up centres already,” she said.

“However, at present there are only two new trial sites to be funded, and the likelihood of WA getting both trials is unlikely.

“The most significantly progressed talks in WA appear to be between the Department of Human Services and the eastern Goldfields communities, including Kalgoorlie, Leonora and Laverton, but I remain hopeful towns like Port Hedland or Broome will be successful in their bids,” she said.

Town of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco met with Social Services Minister Alan Tudge last week to seek further information about the cashless welfare card trial and how it might be applied in Port Hedland.

Mr Blanco said the minister had advised if Port Hedland were to be considered, there would need to be strong community support, particularly from Aboriginal elders.

“Port Hedland is much larger and more diverse than the current trial sites, so achieving this broad level of support will require extensive consultation,” he said.

“I have asked for officers to prepare a report for (the) council to consider whether to commence an extensive community engagement process to determine the level of support for cashless welfare in our community, which we could then present to Minister Tudge.”

At last week’s meeting, Shire of Ashburton councillors voted to inform the Pilbara Regional Council that the Shire was not ready to support the principle.

Shire of Ashburton deputy president Linton Rumble said the council was not satisfied with the level of community engagement.

He said it was inappropriate to support the trial until results of an independent analysis on current trials had been finalised.

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