AHCWA rejects Karl O’Callaghan’s call to expand cashless welfare

The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia has challenged outgoing Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan to look in his own backyard and adequately police remote communities rather than advocate for greater disempowerment of indigenous Australians.

AHCWA chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox today rejected calls by Mr O’Callaghan, whose contract ends on August 15 after 13 years at the helm of WA Police, for an urgent expansion of the cashless welfare system to combat child sex crimes in regional WA.

“The cashless welfare card is not a panacea to complex social problems,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.

“While AHCWA supports the government’s commitment to improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal people and prevent child sexual abuse, we do not support the ill-conceived idea that cashless welfare cards can turn the tide on the abhorrent abuse of children.

“There has been no conclusive evidence to date that cashless welfare cards play any role in reducing the impact of issues such as illicit drug use or child sexual abuse.

“Instead, greater investment is needed in programs that address social determinants and build strong families and communities.

“Ultimately, we need to see an increase in community programs and comprehensive support services to help address these complex social issues in Aboriginal communities.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said Mr O’Callaghan’s admissions in The West Australian newspaper that his officers could not protect children in remote communities was gravely concerning.

“At what point does the buck stop with police and governments to keep communities safe? Over the past 13 years, how have the high instances of sexual abuse not have been addressed earlier?” she said.

“There is a large police presence in Roebourne, and admissions by Karl O’Callaghan that ‘police were not capable of protecting children in those communities’ and ‘neither the police nor government can guarantee protection of these children’ shows a lack of commitment to work with communities to effectively address these issues.

“The reality is there are a huge number of people very unhappy with the way they have been affected by the cashless welfare system imposed by the Federal Government.

“If anything, this is a failure of policing in the Roebourne area to address these crimes.

“The cashless welfare card does not need to be expanded. The solution does not lie in the disempowerment of Aboriginal people, but rather additional police resources and a greater commitment to stamp out these shocking and abhorrent crimes.”

AHCWA is the peak body for Aboriginal health in WA, with 22 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) currently engaged as members.

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