In the hours before the recent long weekend, when most people’s thoughts turned to families, holidays and grand finals, Labor’s political spin machine was still running on high rotation.
And it appears that even the bipartisan goal to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage by providing clean and safe housing for indigenous Australians is not immune to Labor’s political tactics.
On Friday, 28 September, Minister Jenny Macklin wrote to Queensland Housing Minister Bruce Flegg in response to Mr Flegg’s correspondence regarding the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing; a seemingly routine matter.
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This Saturday the self-described “organic” Occupy Wall Street movement will be coming to a capital city near you.
They boldly claim “we are the 99 per cent” - it’s their official catchcry - so unless you consider yourself among the uber rich and powerful, these folks are your new voice. So they’ll be speaking for you when they wave their glib and nebulous placards declaring “people not profits” and “be the solution”. (I am not making these up – this is the print-ready poster artwork available on their website.)
Their initial beef was apparently with the financial sector – hence the occupation of Wall Street in protest. But their list of demands goes beyond the remit of the corporate fat cats and includes free education and a type of Utopian redistribution of wealth.
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It was all over in 30 minutes. Bowls were washed, toasters put away and the lids of the honey jars screwed back on. But the feeling was hard to beat.
Just like every other weekday morning between 8-8:30am, at least 25 kids from the Alexandria Park School in Sydney’s Inner West eat breakfast around a communal table and head off to class with full bellies; a peaceful and warm start to the day.
Lucky kids would do all of this in the comfort of their own homes. But for an increasing number of others, mum and dad are just not earning enough to feed them the most important meal of the day.
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We must rebuild for everyone
I visited a woman recently who - for the last three years - has only left her house once a week. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because she can’t.
Ruth - not her real name - uses an electric wheelchair, and has almost no vision. She lives in public housing and - through a decision driven by crass and uncaring bureaucracy - has been placed in a house which has three steps at the front, and six at the back. She has been provided with a portable ramp, which she cannot put in place without assistance.
It’s sobering to know that Australia has now joined the ranks of nations lining up to grapple with the obesity epidemic affecting its citizens.
Equally dismal is the news relating to mental health, that tells us that suicide is now the number one killer of all Australians under 35.
What does this say about the image of ‘the lucky country’ and the land of the ‘fair go’ that we hold so close to our national identity? What has happened over the last decades that has brought us to this point, and most importantly, how can we move forward in creating a healthier Australia?
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I was heartened last week to note the launch of the GenerationOne project to address Indigenous disadvantage in Australia and in particular, the approach the campaign has taken towards reaching out to the younger generation to “make a difference in our lifetime”.
It is certainly not the first time such a grand plan to address the gap between non-Indigenous Australians and Indigenous has been announced, however the backing of high calibre celebrities and notable businesspeople goes a long way towards bringing this idea to the attention of mainstream media – something many similar projects have failed to achieve.
This is an issue that requires the attention of all Australians, however individuals can often feel powerless in the face of such an immense and longstanding disparity, not knowing how one person can make a difference.
Hidden away in most capital cities around Australia there are troubled suburbs which suffer the afflictions of social and economic breakdown.
These communities are often populated by a majority of good hearted battlers living alongside a minority of ratbags. These hidden communities are often absent from our national debate partly because the communities lack advocacy skills and partly because the problems seem so intractable.
Often the only time these troubled suburbs are noticed is when the harsh glare of the media descends upon them in response to some criminal incident or to catalogue their social dysfunction.
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At the heart of the Australian ‘fair go’ is the belief that our society provides every individual with the opportunity to make the most of their lives, regardless of their parental or family background.
A commendable ethic indeed, but how real is it in practice?
Are we really giving our children the chance to grow up masters of their own destiny, or are we (unintentionally or not) confining them to tread the same footprints as their parents?
Once upon a time, in a 20th century age of ‘things’, people used to make sense of who they were by what they owned – land, house, car etc.
Today, in the age of communication, people are defined by who they know and what they share.
The phenomenal success of Web 2.0 vehicles such as Facebook and now Twitter (which I was told by a reliable source this week has seen 6,500 per cent growth in users in the last financial year), has demonstrated an astonishing need for people to connect and interact as the basis of their identity and wellbeing.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same adage can be applied to women’s equality in society. However, lately it feels like construction has come to a complete halt.
Research released this week by the Australia Institute positioned women as one of the groups hardest hit by the financial crisis in the workplace. While more men had lost full-time jobs than women, women faced worsening underemployment in the form of limited hours and poor pay.
The women hardest hit by this news will be those who can least afford it – struggling lone mothers and women from low-income backgrounds.
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