This paper concerns the lived experiences of individuals subject to the first Cashless Debit Card (CDC) trial in the Ceduna region of South Australia. First introduced into Ceduna in early 2016, the CDC quarantines 80 per cent of working age recipients’ state benefits in a selected trial site: 20 per cent of payments are deposited into the recipient’s bank account; the remainder is available on a debit card barred from operating at any alcohol or gambling outlet across Australia.
Since mid 2017, Eve has been conducting ethnographic research into life on the CDC, which centres the voices of those Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people affected by the trial. This paper is in three parts. First, in an exploration of method, Eve outlines the relationship between storytelling and statistics. While statistics alone are attributed the capacity to attest to policy success or failure, narrative methods shed light on complex experiences of various dimensions of participation in this policy trial, revealing the potential impact that ‘welfare reform’ measures have on an individual’s sense of worth and social belonging. Second, Eve presents a summary of the empirical findings of her research. Finally, Eve suggests that further analysis needs to foreground question of gender, probing the intersection of gendered relations, gendered work and care, and the gender of the state.
Eve Vincent is a senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University. Her books include ‘Against Native Title’: Conflict and Creativity in Outback Australia, published by Aboriginal Studies Press in 2017 and the edited collection Unstable Relations: Environmentalism and Indigenous People in Contemporary Australia, published by the University of Western Australia Press in 2016.