Tangentyere’s Voluntary Food Voucher System

Proudly serving Aboriginal people for 25 years


The food voucher system is designed to overcome the “feast and famine” cycle of fortnightly Centrelink benefits, whereby people can find themselves without money for food for the last part of the fortnight before they received their next payment.


The food voucher system was put in place at Tangentyere Council over 25 years ago by Aboriginal elders living on town camps.

How it works

  • Tangentyere’s food voucher system is voluntary.
  • People signed up with Centrelink can choose to have a nominated amount of money deducted from their Centrelink payments every fortnight. This money is then provided to them in the form of a food voucher, which is issued through the Tangentyere community banking service.
  • This system is also used for food boxes for pensioners or meals on wheels to eligible town camp residents.
  • The food vouchers are made out to the Aboriginal owned supermarket in Alice Springs because it is the only supermarket that has to date expressly agreed to make sure that people don’t get change from the vouchers to purchase alcohol. In the past, the big supermarkets were reluctant or unable to police this problem and would give people change which could then be used to purchase alcohol at the supermarket’s alcohol outlet.
  • Family members with drinking problems can give written permission for a sober family member to collect their food voucher when they are drinking. The bank staff will only give people a small voucher for food when they are drunk in case they lose their voucher or forget that they got them. They can pick up the rest of their voucher when they are sober.
  • If people are going out bush for cultural reasons for a while, they can cancel their deductions while they are away, and start up again when they come back to town.

How much does it get used

  • There are 840 food voucher clients (including old people and those who are income managed). These people use the bank at least twice a month and often twice weekly.
  • Since 2001, 1,970 food voucher clients, including old people, deceased clients and people from remote communities, have signed on to the food voucher system.
  • The Tangentyere Community Bank Service handles between $8,000 and $14,000 each day in withdrawals for these participants.
  • In the financial year 2006-7, the Tangentyere Community Bank Service issued $1,700,000 in food vouchers; $155,000 in food boxes; $60,000 for meals on wheels, and $1,000 on blankets and mattresses.


Centrelink charges $.99 to Tangentyere per person for each transaction they make.

In 2006-7, these fees totaled $17,000 and $1,650 in GST. Tangentyere Council is not funded for these charges.

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department info

Phone: 08 8951 4210
Fax: 08 8952 8036
Email: Click to send

4 Elder Street
Alice Springs,
NT 0870

PO Box 8070
Alice Springs,
NT 0871

Tangentyere Council