Settler colonialism in Australia and the cashless debit card

Elise Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Settler colonialism continues in Australia today. One way this occurs is through processes of assimilation such as targeting First Nations subjectivities with behavioural conditions on their social security payments. In this paper, I draw on a 13-month study examining one such programme; the Cashless Debit Card trial in the East Kimberley region in North West Australia. Through restricting cash and purchases to curb alcohol consumption, illegal drug use, and gambling, card aims to instil “responsible behaviour” such as getting a job in the capitalist economy, accumulating private property, and succeeding in English education. Through drawing on critical discourse analysis, I ask, what does the Cashless Debit Card tell us about the settler state's attempts of continued assimilation? The paper explores specific ways the state legitimising assimilation through provoking narratives of First Nations dysfunction, depoliticising poverty and colonisation, constructing evidence around success of policy, and constructing ideas of “community” in order to regulate who speaks and who is overlooked. Although assimilation attempts are made, there is resistance and pushback in the trial site. Attempts of assimilation, not actual assimilation, can only be observed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)265-277
    Number of pages13
    JournalSocial Policy and Administration
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


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