The cashless debit welfare card has led to a large drop in alcohol abuse and family violence in trial communities, according to an independen­t report that found community and leader support for the scheme to be rolled out nationally. The landmark final report has found the positive health and social outcomes are almost without precedent. Almost half the 2141 welfare recipients in the remote trial communities of East Kimberley in West­ern Australia and Ceduna, South Australia, reported significantly cutting their drinking, drug and gambling dependence. There was a significant reduction in alcohol-related family violence and a drop in arrests, assaults­ and flow-on impacts.


A fall in alcohol­-related hospital admissions and improved welfare outcomes and ­caring for children was also noted. The evaluation of the federal government trial program, conducted by ORIMA research, reported­ that 41 per cent of drinkers said they drank alcohol less frequently, and there was a corresponding 14 percent reduc­tion in arrests for public drunkenness. The Federal Government intends to expand the mandatory participation trials into another community. Qualitative research suggest­ed the card had led to greater use of public facilities by families and the community feeling safer.


Almost 40% of parents and carers reported­ that they spent more time involved in their children’s schooling and homework, and 45% of participants in the scheme said they were now saving money. “There was a large degree of support from stakeholders and community leaders for the trial to be extended across the country because of the positive changes that had been observed, which were considered to be applicable on a broader scale,” the report said. “The evaluation findings indi­cate that the trial has had a considerab­le positive impact in both trial sites. The qualitative research­ found considerable evidence cited by many community leaders and stakeholders of a ­reduction in ­violence and harmful behaviours.”


The report concluded­ that there had been few previous initiatives that had produced such a positive impact for health and community outcomes, with the improvements increasin­g over time. “We are hoping it is the beginning of the turnaround,” minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said. “The card is not a panacea but it has led to a fundamen­tal improvement in these communities. There are very few other initi­atives that have had such impact. As many local leaders noted, these communities were in crisis, largely due to massive alcohol consumption paid for by the welfare dollar. I hope that we can look back in a decade’s time and say that this initiative was the beginning of the turnaround.


“A large part of the success has been the close working relationship with local leaders, who have co-designed and implemented the trial with us. They have demonstrated true leadership” Tudge said  The cashless debit card trials were introduced in Ceduna and the East Kimberley for a period of 12 months, following escalating concerns that alcohol abuse and related violence in the largely indig­enous communities had reached a “crisis” point. Under the trials, 80 per cent of all welfare payments are placed in an account accessible only through a Visa debit card that is locked from use in liquor stores and gambling venues, as well as preventing cash withdrawals.


Since the introduction of the card, alcohol-related presen­tations to hospitals in Ceduna had fallen by 37 per cent, leading to qualitative evidence of a fall in ­alcohol-related family violence. Of those who admitted to illegal­ substance abuse, 48 per cent reported to have been using less frequently, while 48 per cent of gamblers reporte­d gambling less. In Ceduna and the surrounding local government areas, poker machine­ revenue was reported to have been down by 12 per cent, the equivalent of more than $500,000 in 12 months. The number of people reporting that the card had made life more difficult had also fallen.


Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter said the improvements to people’s lives in just 12 months had been ­”stunning” and provided the best hope that a lasting solution to the social crisis was possible. “The improvement we are most proud of is in the lives of families, it has been really quite amazing,” Mr Suter said. “Kids have been missing out on food because parents were pouring money down the throats of pokies  It is the most dramatic improvement I’ve seen. I’ve been involved for 14 years through council in trying a series of initiatives, some of them have given good results in the short term, but this is certainly the most significant change for the better I’ve seen.”


“The results on the ground reflect the report. We have noticed a series of dramatic improvements, most notably the decrease in the amount of alcohol and gambling, and, while its harder to measure, a significant decrease in drug use.” Mr Suter said there had also been a “huge improvement in gener­al behaviour around town. You used to see a lot of intoxicated people and sporadic outbreaks of violence, that has dramatically decreased,” he said. “There has been a 40-50% decrease in all problem areas. But our biggest ambition was to improve the lives of families being neglected. I would like to see it expanded to other communities. I certainly hope the naysayers don’t get their way.”


Bill Shorten said ­Canberra should not be imposing outcomes on communities. “There’s no doubt that there’s concern in the community about the prevalence of ice and other drugs of addiction, but let’s also recognise, unless the community wants to do this cashless welfare card, it won’t work,” the Opposition Leader said. “The other thing I’ve got to make very clear here is that if you’re going to try and encourage people to break drugs of addiction, alcohol or other drugs of addiction, you need to make sure you’ve got the rehab facilities.”


Mining magnate Andrew Forrest­, a champion of the CDC, said last week that the country would continue to suffer for years if the trials were not rolled out nationall­y. “Children are dying and being raped and absolutely suffering, and we are not helping them,” Mr Forrest said. “The cashless debit card needs a lot of courage from the opposition and from those in government to put up with all those who could tip the balance of power ­either way, who are a tiny minority.”


Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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School curriculums have been “captured by ideologues” and ­history lessons are burdening ­students with a “strong sense of guilt” over the past treatment of indigenous Australians, experts argue amid the latest wave of “invasion day” politics. Kevin Donnelly, who co-chaired the review of the national curriculum, said the “pendulum in the curriculum, certainly in ­history, has moved too far towards the black-armband view and we don’t have a proper balance in recognising the positives and benefits of Western culture and Western civilisation”.


However, Ken Wiltshire, who sat alongside Dr Donnelly on the 2014 curriculum review, said the problem with the curriculum was not its substance but the fact teachers could pick and choose what to present to children, ­leaving students with a “piecemeal” understanding of Australian history. “The problem with the curriculum is too much choice which means kids sometimes miss out on seminal moments,” Wiltshire said. “The kids quite often don’t get a comprehensive history of Australia.” Professor Wiltshire, from the University of Queensland’s Business School, said that, to strike the right balance between white and indigenous engagement, it was imperative for schools to teach students the entire story of Australia.


“The whole of history should be compulsory,” he said. “If you’re not teaching the whole thing you’re not going to get a complete picture of the interaction between white and indigenous culture.” The criticisms of what goes on in the nation’s classroom follow warnings from historians against erasing European settlers from the national landscape. Indigenous broadcaster Stan Grant has previously called for the “great ­silence” about inaccuracies in indigenous history to end, starting with correcting an inscription on a statue of Captain James Cook that says the English explorer discovered Australia.


The Greens have added to the politically charged issue by launching a campaign to change the date of Australia Day. Last year the City of Yarra led the way by renaming Australia Day as “January 26” and replacing its citizenship ceremony with an event “marking the loss of indigenous culture”. Bella d’Abrera, from the Institute of Public Affairs, pointed to the Stolen Generations play performed at Sydney’s Forrestville primary school last year, where students dressed as nuns abusing indigenous children, as an “indication of how Australian children are being politicised in the classroom though the history curriculum”.


“Rather than being taught critical thinking skills or a balanced version of historical events, they are being fed on a diet of identity politics,” Dr d’Abrera said. “Our school curriculums have been captured by ideologues who are more interested in teaching students what to think, rather than the skills they will need. Education should be about skills and knowledge, not on ideology and “indoctrination.” Victorian Education Minister James Merlino hit out at criticism of how history was being taught “as complete nonsense.” He said “Victorian students are taught in accordance with national standards”.


Robert Randall, the head of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, which oversees the national curriculum, defended it as balanced. NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes said he would “continue to ensure that Australian history is being taught objectively in our schools”. “In NSW, we aim to achieve the right mix,” Mr Stokes said. “Indigenous history is taught inclusively and equally alongside early European exploration and settlement. If you’re genuine about trying to teach Australian history, it’s impossible to have one without the other.”


Dr Donnelly, a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, said: “When you look at the history curriculum part of the problem is students come away with a strong sense of guilt about what we’ve done as a nation in terms of indigenous culture and history.” He said it was concerning because “along with the things that were done that were wrong and caused harm, there are also beneficial and positive things but they’re not covered. The danger is that kids come away with a jaundiced view, a black-armband view where we feel guilt about something over which we now have no control.”


Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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After spending the months during the plebiscite campaign rejecting that there were any consequences to redefining marriage, the “Yes” campaign has now confirmed everything that the “No” campaign was warning about. The Equality Campaign co-chair, Anna Brown, has affirmed what the “No” campaign had been saying all along: same-sex marriage is not the final frontier, and never was. During an interview with The Guardian, Brown stated that, with same-sex marriage out of the way, she is turning her focus on ‘trans and intersex rights and gender diversity issues’. “As a movement we have a responsibility to stand by them and make sure they’re not left behind, to amplify their voices.”


Her top priorities include: “Easier gender changes on birth certificates. Preventing unnecessary surgery on intersex children. Gender education in schools and LGBTI acceptance in aged care.” One of Brown’s staunch supporters, Marriage Equality co-chair Alex Greenwich, has confirmed that the Australia’s LGBT community will be mobilised in the near future:  “We will work hard to protect the gains we’ve made, to work for new gains and to support the international effort.” They plan to do this by building on their database from the previous campaign, another admission that redefining marriage was only a stepping stone in their journey.


Brown foreshadows consultation in the year ahead to determine if they are “motivated only by a particular cause” or have the “appetite to mobilise around broader LGBTI issues”. She says she will be “disappointed” if the movement loses the goodwill, support and membership database built by the same sex marriage campaign. With the vote safely in their pocket, LGBT activists are now looking to continue with their agenda. Less than a month after same-sex marriage became law, the LGBT movement feels empowered enough to throw off its disguise and show their true colours. But we shouldn’t be too surprised. We knew that it would not stop at their projected benchmark for ‘equality’ and we were right.

Source: Australian Marriage Alliance

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