Aboriginal people succeeding through ability, opportunity and reward for effort


Wunan believes a good home, together with real work and a proper education for children are the key ingredients for Aboriginal people and families in our region to re-establish control over their lives and enjoy making real choices.

Wunan has long championed welfare reform as being critical to improving the lives and opportunities of Indigenous people in the East Kimberley. Wunan’s advocacy of welfare reform in the region has been important in building a strong case for change within government. It is driven by Wunan’s belief that Aboriginal success comes from investing in people’s abilities, providing real opportunities, and encouraging and rewarding aspiration and self-responsibility.
The East Kimberley region has extremely high levels of welfare dependency and severe social dysfunction, including chronic alcohol addiction, domestic violence, suicide, crime, and child abuse and neglect. Wunan’s Chairman Ian Trust and other local Aboriginal leaders have formed a clear view that without radical change, including welfare reform, the circumstances of Aboriginal people in our region will continue to deteriorate at an increasingly rapid pace.

It is our vulnerable children and old people who will bear the heaviest burden if this is allowed to occur. Our children will continue to be removed from their families because their families are not safe, many of our children will be born with FASD and never be able to receive a good education, and a large percentage of our people will go to prison and, in some cases, commit suicide.

We acknowledge that agreeing to the East Kimberley being a trial site for the restricted debit card may seem to some a rather drastic step. However, it is our view that continuing to deliver the same programs we have delivered for the past forty years will do nothing for our people and, besides wasting more time and money, will condemn our children and future generations to a life of poverty and despair. As leaders in the East Kimberley, we cannot accept this.

In 2015, Wunan and other Aboriginal organsations wrote to Minister Tudge calling for the East Kimberley to be a trial site for the Cashless Debit Card because they had a strong belief that this trial could be the catalyst for breaking the cycle of poverty and despair in the East Kimberley.

After months of discussions, the Minister subsequently announced that Kununurra and Wyndham would be trial sites and the card was rolled out in April 2016. This is an Indigenous-led reform and local Aboriginal leaders have worked together with the Federal Government to design the trial in the East Kimberley. As part of this process, Indigenous leaders also negotiated a $1.5 million package of support measures.