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Remote Australian town wracked by violence after 1000 residents taken off cashless welfare card

The remote South Australian town of Ceduna is in crisis with violence surging after the local cashless welfare debit card scheme was scrapped last year.

About 1,000 people were part of the cashless debit card program in Ceduna, population 3505, before Labor abolished it in 2022, claiming it unfairly targeted, victimised and stigmatised the Indigenous community, which made up at least 24.8% of the town at the time of the 2021 Census.

The cashless debit card was introduced in Ceduna in 2016 in an attempt to curb anti-social and unlawful behaviour in and around the town.

But locals have reported rising crime and violence since it was scrapped, much of it catalogued in dozens of social media videos showing brawls in public and vicious fights at schools and sporting events.

Rowan Ramsey, the federal liberal member for Grey, said that residents were “desperate” and told The Advertiser that more than 30 businesses were “at their wits end, concerned for the viability of the businesses, their workers’ safety and the security of residents in the town”.

“Their personal stories are in many cases sickening,” he said.

“Most… link the surging violence and anti-social behaviour to the removal of the cashless debit card. They are desperate and need action now.”

He urged Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth to visit the town to see the situation for herself, but Ms Rishworth said claims the youth crime wave was caused by the ending of the cashless card program were “baseless”.

“Many towns, particularly in regional and remote Australia are dealing with complex and intergenerational problems, where there is no one solution,” she said.

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