“The showbags have been filled and the dagwood dogs are on the cooker for the opening of the Royal Darwin Show today” shouts The Northern Territory News. Yes, it’s showtime in the Top End again — for those who can afford it. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA) has ruled that Aboriginal Territorians whose income is controlled through income management under the intervention won’t be able to use their Basic Cards to get into the Show.

The 58th Royal Darwin Show isn’t bad value: $17 a day for adults, kids under 14 for $10 and families for $40, and many of the events, from ring events to racing pigs, are free. But it just got a lot more expensive for some of the poorest Territorians — the many Aboriginal people who visit the Show. Thousands of Aboriginal Territorians, half of whose income is controlled through income quarantining and management, won’t be able to access money through their Basic Cards to get into the Show.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) have spent weeks negotiating to allow the Show to become a “temporary Basics Card merchant” but FAHCSIA have ruled that families can’t use their Basics Card to get into the Darwin Show.

The Basics Card is the only practicable way for thousands of Aboriginal Territorians to access their welfare payments under the income management terms of the Intervention — with Basics Card purchases excluding access to items such as alcohol, cigarettes and p-rnography.

Chairperson of NAAJA Norman George told Crikey that FAHCSIA ruled that the show was not a priority, and that the card should only be used for food and basic items.

We were “very disappointed and disgusted over the decision,” said George.

“There should be some flexibility to use these Basics cards,” George told Crikey. “The show society were very accommodating, and said they were willing to accept the Basics Card.”

“The show comes around once a year, and the children very much look forward to it, as do adults…they’ve been waiting for 12 months,” said George. “Everyone loves going to the show … every second house would be going. They just want to go the carnival. Where’s the equality?

George told Crikey that Basics Card holders were similarly denied the right to use their card at the recent Show in Katherine and that consequently, numbers for the Show were down this year. “FAHCSIA and Minister Macklin had months to make a decision, but nothing was done. They just treat us like second class citizens,” said George.

Crikey understands that Basics Card holders are given the option to go to the Centrelink office, and formally apply to make out a Centrelink cheque made payable to the Royal Darwin Show Society.

But George told Crikey that “… not many people know about going to get the cheque, they haven’t got the message about it, there’s been no promotion.”

George said that card holders are more likely to just turn up to the show, “they will probably just be turned away, imagine seeing the faces of your children, they’ll be devastated.”

Crikey contacted Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin’s office with the following questions:

Given that the Darwin Show organizers were amenable to accepting the Basics Card, what was the problem with granting the organizers Basics Card merchant status?

Crikey has been given information that there are other measures in place for cardholders ie Basics Card holders need to go to the Centrelink office and formally apply to make out a Centrelink cheque made payable to the Royal Darwin Show Society. If so, how has this been communicated to Basics Card holders?

Macklin’s office did not get back by deadline.