The latest change implemented by Centrelink to its mobile app has divided opinion across Australia, after the Department of Human Services introduced a pop-up which displays an Acknowledgement of Country message to all users.
The mandatory pop-up recognising Indigenous Australians was implemented in line with National Reconciliation Week, and the message now appears every time any users attempts to log in to the application, which is used by many to access information about their Age Pension, along with other welfare payments including Newstart.
The new message reads: “The Department of Human Services acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands we live on. We pay our respects to all elders, past and present, of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations.”
While many people agreed with the premise of the message, others debated the value of it, with users on forum site Reddit questioning how much money the government spent adding the pop-up, with one person claiming it was “probably several thousand”.
While others described the move as a “token effort”, suggesting the resources could have been donated to Indigenous charities instead.
“Maybe… I dunno… enact policies and social welfare programs in consultation with indigenous groups, and ya know [sic], work to improve their quality of life. That would be actually doing something,” one person commented on the Reddit post.
Another added: “I’m not anti the statement, if it had some substance behind it in context. As is, given how hideous our government has been to Aboriginal people, it’s egregiously hypocritical.”
While a third said: “Seems like a completely token effort. I wonder how much this cost to implement, money that actually could have gone to an Aboriginal charity or social group instead being used to force every single person to click to continue every time they log into the app.”
As part of the change, Centrelink users are also able to change the background of the app to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artwork.
The Department of Human Services defended the new pop-up feature with General Manager Hank Jongen explaining it was created in conjunction with Reconciliation Week as a recognition of cultural heritage.
“To coincide with Reconciliation Week, we have added an Acknowledgement of Country to Centrelink online accounts and the Express Plus Centrelink app,” he said in a statement to Starts at 60.
“We believe our Acknowledgement of Country is important in recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage. We believe it’s important to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians as the traditional custodians of this land.”