Look after them? Gender, care and welfare reform in Aboriginal Australia

Eve Vincent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Cashless Debit Card (‘the card’) is a stringent form of welfare quarantining targeting Aboriginal Australians. Select social security recipients have 80% of their fortnightly payments sequestered onto an electronic card that blocks the purchase of alcohol or gambling products. Advocates for the card envisage that its introduction will normalise Aboriginal family life. Analysis of the relationship between gender, care and the neo-paternalistic welfare state has been largely overlooked in research concerning the card. This article redresses that neglect, placing the lived complexities of everyday caregiving within the larger landscape of the neo-paternalistic welfare state’s care. I craft three ethnographic portraits that explore how the lived effects of the card are deeply shaped by culturally and historically conditioned caregiving practices. I then shift scales from everyday caregiving to the state’s provision of care, arguing that a neo-paternalistic welfare state has effectively supplanted the post-war Australian welfare state’s nurturance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
Issue number1
Early online date20 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Aboriginal Australia
  • care
  • Cashless Debit Card
  • gender
  • welfare reform


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