WA leaders plead for welfare card rollout

Daniel McCulloch

Western Australian indigenous and community leaders are pleading with the prime minister to urgently expand cashless welfare card rollouts, releasing a graphic video depicting "war zone" conditions across the state.

Indigenous education worker Jean O'Reeri broke down in tears describing remote and regional communities ravaged by welfare-fuelled drug and alcohol abuse.

"We, the grassroots people, live with it every day. The hurt, the suffering, and the abuse," Ms O'Reeri said before joining delegates to show Malcolm Turnbull the video in Canberra on Wednesday.

"We need help, we need the communities, we need the government to intervene and help us out as community leaders because we can't do it on our own."

The video includes footage of brutal fights among indigenous people and statistics revealing the extent of violence and sexual abuse in communities.

In one town, 184 of about 500 children had been sexually assaulted, with 36 men facing 300 child abuse charges.

In another, six children had committed suicide within 18 months.

Ms O'Reeri and Bianca Crake are both from the East Kimberley, where cashless welfare cards are already in use, and say they're helping people improve their lives.

Ms Crake describes seeing fathers doting over their young children and taking them grocery shopping, with families venturing out to buy household items.

"We've never seen those things before," she said.

The cards quarantine 80 per cent of welfare payments, which cannot be used to buy alcohol or gamble but can be used to pay for housing, food, clothing, household supplies and essentials.

The remaining 20 per cent of a welfare payment is placed in a person's regular bank account and can be withdrawn as cash.

A recent review of the two trial sites - the East Kimberley in WA and Ceduna in South Australia - found the cards had been effective in reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling.

The federal government will continue the trials and is looking for two more pilot sites, with the delegates calling for a national rollout.

Billionaire businessman Andrew Forrest, who joined delegates meeting with Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at Parliament House, describes the cards as a circuit-breaker.

"(They) really limit the amount of drugs and alcohol which come into and are consumed by communities," he said.

"That gives community services a chance, that gives health workers a chance, that gives the police a chance."

Port Headland mayor Camilo Blanco wants the cards for his town, saying he's not prepared to sit silently while domestic violence and sexual assaults are rife in his community.

Mr Forrest said opponents of the cards, including the Greens, were covering themselves in shame.