Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in remote Queensland communities are often living without electricity, unable to afford the necessary power cards or unable to buy one due to limited business operating hours, a new report released today has found.
The Queensland Council of Social Services’ (QCOSS) report explores the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers using electricity pre-payment meters in remote communities.
QCOSS CEO Mark Henley said the report, titled Empowering remote communities: Experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers using electricity pre-payment meters in Queensland aimed to highlight some of the inadequacies being experienced by many low-income and vulnerable families in several Queensland communities.
Mr Henley said research was undertaken in conjunction with the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network and involved interviewing and surveying 30 electricity customers in three remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland.
Pre-payment meters are used exclusively in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and require consumers to pre-purchase power cards which are then inserted into the meter.
Mr Henley said the report found that although pre-payment meters were generally seen as positive because they prevented customers from building up debt and experiencing ‘bill shock’, the system left them vulnerable to having their prepaid credit run out and being literally left in the dark.
“The research identified that households are often going without electricity because customers are either unable to afford to buy the necessary power card or couldn’t buy one because the store was closed or had no cards left,” he said.
“Besides these issues, the report also highlights the inadequate consumer protections in place for pre-payment meter customers, including a lack of understanding of concession eligibility and exclusion from other financial assistance schemes.”
Mr Henley said a win was achieved recently when the Queensland Government confirmed that pre-payment meter customers are now eligible for the Electricity Rebate.
“It is important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers using electricity pre-payment meters have access to the same concessions and supports as all other customers”, he said.
QCOSS will continue to work with industry, government and community stakeholders to develop practical solutions to work through the recommendations in the report.
“These are complex problems and we need to worth together to identify solutions to improve the lives of this state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
For more than 50 years QCOSS has been a leading force for social change to eliminate poverty and disadvantage. With more than 600 members, QCOSS supports a strong community service sector.
Read the report snapshot here.