Leaders in welfare plea

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph
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Aboriginal leaders have called for control to be given back to the people as hopes for a Pilbara cashless welfare card were doused last month.

Newly formed Aboriginal consultation group Strong Leaders has responded to Town of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco’s public challenge to bring him a solution to the drug and alcohol-related issues in the town.

As revealed by Seven West Media last month, the highly debated cashless welfare card is set to be next rolled out in the Goldfields, bypassing the Pilbara despite being heavily pushed for by Mr Blanco.

Strong Leaders member Raylene Button said while community members had different views on the cash-less welfare card, they were unified in finding a new solution to the drug and alcohol-related antisocial issues among the local Aboriginal community.

“We say, let us take care of our own affairs,” she said.

“If you want to save our people and get their life back in order, then give back our communities and give back our support there.”

Ms Button said having to come into Port Hedland to access health services made accessing drugs and alcohol easier than in remote communities, which was the reason for the increased social issues in Port and South Hedland.

“We had our communities closed and services taken away, so then everyone came into town and problems escalated in town,” she said.

“So the Government created problems for our local towns here, and that then started all the talk about the welfare basic card. It just went from one extreme to the next.

“So we say let us take care of our own affairs.

“Your solutions are great, but let us try ours now.”

The call for control comes after Mr Blanco said in an interview no one had a working solution to the issues in Port Hedland after he released CCTV footage of social iss-ues in the South Hedland Square.

“Give me a solution that will actually work,” he said.

“Every time I ask that question to someone that opposes the cashless welfare card, they come up with nothing.”

Mr Blanco said when he met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this month, he was told representatives from the offices of Federal ministers Alan Tudge and Christian Porter would be coming to the Pilbara to consult about the card trial.

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