Protest vigil against income management

Social workers and union members are set to start a two-week vigil outside Bankstown Centrelink Centre in Sydney’s southwest to protest the rollout of income management in the region.

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The Bankstown Local Government Area is one of five national sites a trial on income management began on Sunday.

Arab Council Australia executive director Randa Kattan said the vigil, which starts at 8.30am (AEST) on Monday, aimed to take on the government’s national legislation.

“Income management in the Northern Territory has seen systematic abuses of the rights of Centrelink recipients.

“We will be outside Centrelink to let people know their rights and know they are not alone.”

The council is one of many community groups and unions that have joined the Say No to Government Income Management coalition.

The coalition also plans to boycott the trial, with support workers refusing to refer people onto the system.

A coalition spokeswoman Pam Batkin said the trial could result in people having up to 70 per cent of their welfare payments quarantined through a BasicsCard.

Money can then only be spent in certain Centrelink-approved stores and items.

“It is bad social policy because it further stigmatises and marginalises people who are really struggling,” she said.

According to the federal government’s Department of Families, Housing, Community Services (FaHCSIA) and Indigenous Affairs, “income management is a budgeting tool to help people to meet ongoing needs for themselves and for their family”.

Income management ensures support payments are spent on “priority items” such as food, housing, clothing and utilities, FaHCSIA says in an online statement.

Watch the report by SBS’s Jeannette Francis on YouTube

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