HR Leader logo
Stay connected.   Subscribe  to our newsletter

Compulsory income management isn’t working

By Kace O'Neill | |5 minute read

A study has revealed that compulsory income management (CIM) is doing more harm than good, proving to be ineffective in reducing harm.

CIM was established in the Northern Territory in 2007 with the hope that the policy would be an intervention to combat alcohol-fuelled child abuse and neglect in remote Indigenous communities.

CIM “is a form of conditional welfare that involves the mandatory quarantining of a portion of welfare recipients’ social security payments”.


This policy, however, that was implemented in the NT is perceived to be ineffective in reducing any harm and, in fact, can contribute to situations of family violence and is incompatible with the needs of welfare recipients.

A new study, led by Charles Darwin University (CDU), asked participants a series of questions about their thoughts on the long-term role and impact that CIM has had in the NT and the social harm it can perpetuate.

Author and CDU senior lecturer in professional practice, Dr Steven Roche, said the study concluded CIM was considered a punitive approach to reducing harm and was incompatible with the needs of welfare recipients.

“The findings detail CIM’s negligible impact on behaviour change around social harms and suggest that CIM can exacerbate issues such as family violence, where CIM is weaponised by men who use violence in situations of family violence,” said Roche.

Roche then explained that study participants detailed how welfare recipients found loopholes or ways to bypass CIM to purchase prohibited items. Also, how CIM doesn’t prevent or reduce family violence and how it fails to address the underlying issues of harm from alcohol and other drugs.

Rather than being aligned with the original goals of the policy, CIM is instead working to enable detrimental behaviours throughout the NT communities.

“A key theme also identified among participants was the challenges that CIM could create for welfare recipients residing in regional and remote areas,” said Roche.

“CIM was viewed by participants as exacerbating the existing cost-of-living pressures, particularly in remote areas where consumer choice is limited, and travel is expensive.”

Not directly working with communities was highlighted as a key issue for CIM. Instead of integrating community leaders and input, participants strongly believed that CIM is a “top-down approach”, with little effort to work with locals to identify ways of addressing social harms among welfare recipients.

“A policy reform agenda involving genuine community consultation is desperately needed to better understand the complexities of CIM in the NT that holds principles of community-based policy development at its heart,” concluded Roche.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.