Income Management

What is compulsory income management?

The Accountable Income Management defines compulsory income management as the quarantining of a percentage of government payments received by income support recipients combined with the application of enforceable behavioural conditionalities.

The Department of Social Services differentiates between the Cashless Debit Card and Income Management programs1.  However, the AIMN acknowledges that the implementation of the Basics Card as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response(Intervention) marked the genesis of a range of different compulsory income management schemes in Australia. This includes initiatives grouped under Income Management including the Cape York Welfare Reform, New Income Management and Place-Based Income Management, as well as the Cashless Debit Card trials.

The evolution of compulsory income management in Australia2

  • 2007: The BasicsCard is introduced in a number of communities in the Northern Territory as part of the Intervention.
  • 2008: Income management (IM) is expanded to the Indigenous communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge in Cape York, Queensland as part of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial.
  • 2008: IM is rolled out to metropolitan Perth as well as to the Peel and Kimberley regions in Western Australia as part of a child protection initiative.
  • 2010: IM is extended across the entire Northern Territory as part of New Income Management. The Rudd government makes changes to IM to make it compatible with the Racial Discrimination Act (1975).
  • 2012: IM is extended to Logan (Queensland), Rockhampton(Queensland), Bankstown (New South Wales), Playford (South Australia) and Greater Shepparton (Victoria) as Place-Based Income Management3.
  • 2012-2013: IM is introduced in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia and then in Laverton and the Ngaanyatjarra Lands (including Kiwirrkurra) in Western Australia.
  • 2014: IM is introduced in the Ceduna region of South Australia.
  • 2016: The cashless debit card (CDC) trial starts in Ceduna, South Australia and Kununurra, Western Australia.
  • 2018: The CDC trial is expanded to the Goldfields region, Western Australia.
  • 29 January 2019: The CDC trial is expanded to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area, Queensland, until 30 June 2020.
  • 25 March 2019: The federal government announces a further extension and expansion of the CDC across the East Kimberley, Ceduna and Goldfields areas and of IM in Cape York until 30 June 2020.
  • 17 December 2020: The Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020 gains Royal Assent, establishing the CDC as an ongoing program and designating the Northern Territory and Cape York areas as CDC program sites.
  • 17 March 2021: the CDC roll out begins in Cape York and across the Northern Territory. In the latter case, people on the BasicsCard are described as being able to “volunteer” to go onto the CDC, even though in practice the move is from one system of compulsory income management (CIM) to another.
  • 30 September 2022: The Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022 gains Royal Assent, abolishing the CDC and ending CIM across the East Kimberley, Ceduna, Goldfields and Bundabreg and Hervey Bay areas. The Act also schedules the end of the CDC in the Northern Territory and Cape York, but rather than ending CIM, provides for an ‘enhanced’ IM scheme (to be developed) in these areas, pending further consultation on the future of IM.


2 Developed in reference to and