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When the Elders in Bankstown were made aware that the BasicsCard was coming there, we wanted to know if there was going to be any consultation, and if they were enforcing it without people’s knowledge. You can’t take people’s rights away. This is our rights and our self-worth, our integrity, that people are knocking down. You can’t be kicking people while they’re down. You need to prop them up and listen to us and have that welfare people do consultations for them to explain exactly what is going on in the areas of the BasicsCard, which is still intervention – no matter what colour you paint it, it’s still an intervention into people’s lives. It’s not on. Carol Carter, Kamilaroi woman, Bankstown Elder

Photography by Belinda Mason.

Aunty Carol Carter acquired Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) as a result of malpractice by her local doctor, who failed to check her medical records and prescribed medication she is allergic to. Within 48 hours she was hospitalised. Her body’s immune system attacked part of her peripheral nervous system, leaving her paralysed. Carol was unable to access services that would have provided her with compensation, and by the time she was able to, that opportunity had passed. Her determination has meant that she does not live in a nursing home, but is able to live independently. This determination extends into her local community in Bankstown, as she campaigns to improve consultation processes.

The BasicsCard was introduced as part of the NT Intervention (through the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007). This policy was a massive assault on the human rights of Aboriginal people and has been condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights. The Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 was suspended to allow these wide-ranging controls over the lives and land of Aboriginal people. The BasicsCard is one of these control measures. It restricts what Aboriginal people can buy with their social security payments, only allowing them to buy approved items such as food and clothing at government-approved stores. For many Elders, this has been a traumatic return to the days when Aboriginal lives were ruled by government protectors, and rations were distributed instead of cash. In 2012 the BasicsCard was being expanded into other disadvantaged communities, across Australia, including Bankstown in Sydney.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM

Elder, Utopia homelands