Pleas for food from hungry kids fuel cashless card calls
A YOUNG girl, whose skin had turned grey from malnutrition, standing in front of Faye Whiffin pleading for food.
This is just one of many third-world like scenes Ms Whiffin claims to have witnessed in her time working as a leader for a youth group at the local community centre.
It's why she believes the controversial Cashless Welfare Card needs to be rolled out in Hinkler and its neighbouring towns to ensure the well-being of children on the Fraser Coast comes first.
Ms Whiffin, who has been the president of the Burrum District Community Centre for the past seven years, said she was regularly confronted by children at the local youth group every week claiming they hadn't eaten all day.
She said there were at least 10 kids a week who visited the centre stating the same thing.
"And when those kids do get afternoon tea, they're like a vacuum cleaner," Ms Whiffin said. "Even over the school holidays we'd get a handful of kids coming in asking if we had anything to eat."
Ms Whiffen said she would often see the children's parents walking across the road from the pub to pick them up after youth group, deducing they were spending their welfare payments through the afternoon.
But the grey-skinned 11-year-old girl was the final straw.
"Her brother said the same, occasionally I'd give them money and buy them some food, but they were always hitting me up for food.
"I tried for a year with various agencies to get those kids taken out of that house.
"I even had a woman come into the community centre asking for money, claiming she didn't have enough to feed her kids, while holding a brand new $50 packet of cigarettes," she said. "I mean, how much mince can you buy for $50?"
Ms Whiffin told the Chronicle these stories reinforced her belief the Cashless Welfare Card's trial was worth a shot.
"If the parents can't spend money on booze or gambling, then hopefully the kids might actually get fed," she said.
"People say welfare is an entitlement... the only entitlement in my mind is the entitlement of a child to expect to be cared for and fed properly."
The controversial card has been proposed as a method to end 'welfare dependency' and combat drug problems in Hinkler by limiting cash withdrawals to 20 per cent of a Centrelink payment.
Residents placed on the card would also be restricted from purchasing alcohol and gambling products.
Since it was first proposed last year, the cashless card has received significant backlash from the community.
Kathryn Wilkes, one of the region's leading opponents of the card, said there were alternatives to rolling out the card.
When asked about the situation in Howard, she said the town needed better investment in government services to stop the problem.
"With the small percentage of parents doing the wrong thing, where are the services that are meant to be reporting these problems?" Ms Wilkes said. "We need to get support services into the area to find support for those people."
Ms Wilkes maintained more funding needed to be reinvested in government service rather than trying to solve social problems with the card.
"The Cashless Welfare Card goes against people's civil, economic and liberal rights... and takes away a person's autonomy and self-agency.
"Social security payments are there to provide economic security for the community."