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Social security rules penalise Indigenous communities: statement by ATSIC Commissioner Alison Anderson.



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Social security rules penalise Indigenous communities

 

16 November 2000

 

Statement by ATSIC Commissioner Alison Anderson

I wish to endorse the joint statement ‘Overhaul the Social Security Penalty Regime’ coordinated by ACOSS yesterday.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face more red tape and scrutiny than any other sector of the community.

Every financial matter, from social security to enterprise funding, ties us up in complicated financial regulations.

Yet our communities have the lowest levels of education and the highest unemployment rates of any sector.

As such, our people are the most at risk from the harsh imposition of penalties for breaches of Centrelink guidelines.

Our people simply cannot afford to lose social security support because they breach Centrelink guidelines by mistake.

Families are living from one social security payday to the next.

Financial penalties make it difficult to pay the rent, feed the kids and find the money for bus tickets and phone calls to look for work or go to educational courses.

In addition, in many regional and remote areas of Australia government services are non-existent.

Appropriate support on social security issues is hard to find. Impersonal, distant Centrelink call centres are not suitable sources of advice.

I endorse completely the arguments that ACOSS has put forward for changes to the social security penalty regime because they have an intense impact on Indigenous communities.

The federal government claims to be serious about making improvements to Indigenous

health, education and employment but the social security penalty regime is pushing us in the opposite direction.

I endorse the measures identified by ACOSS for making changes to the imposition and administration of penalties.

I further call for the government to pay special attention to the problems faced by people living in remote Australia where there are no government services such as Centrelink or Job Shops.

Alison Anderson Commissioner for Northern Territory Central Zone Papunya

Contact: Denis Maher 08 8959 4225 / 0418 246 284

 

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