Bordered welfare in Australia: Income management as a bordering technology of neoliberal and colonial governance

Leanne Weber, Sara Maher, Robyn Newitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we investigate the imposition of compulsory income management on racialised categories of welfare recipient in Australia, identify the contribution made by neoliberalism and settler colonialism in shaping that policy, and characterise income management as a form of ‘bordered welfare’. We begin by acknowledging that key features of neoliberal governance include an ideological aversion to the provision of welfare and the shifting of responsibility onto individuals to promote their own financial security and wellbeing. This has been accompanied by punitive approaches to welfare provision for those perceived to be deficient neoliberal citizens and a commitment to using financial levers, including the welfare system, to shape all manner of human behaviour. We trace the contours of the income management system and report the views of Aboriginal organisations and community leaders about their differential treatment as welfare recipients, noting that restrictions on financial autonomy are a well-documented form of surveillance and control historically directed towards Aboriginal Peoples in Australia. We conclude that this system operates as a form of bordered welfare that classifies certain categories of Aboriginal people as deficient citizens, subjecting them to differential, and detrimental, treatment driven by the ideologies and technologies of both neoliberalism and settler colonialism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPunishment and Society: the international journal of penology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 May 2024


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