Ephemera

I have nothing profound to say.

‘Healthy Welfare Card’ Misses the Point

Under the guise of protecting children and reducing substance abuse, gambling and domestic violence, the Federal Government is supporting trials of a new mandatory income management system, known as the ‘Healthy Welfare Card’.

Is it ground hog day? Well, not exactly. The scheme, concocted by billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, will not be restricted to Indigenous communities as Twiggy has suggested or like the income management (IM) methods employed in the unprecedented Northern Territory Intervention (NTER), 2007. No, there will be no removal of the Racial Discrimination Act this time. The Federal Government has kindly stated that it will not just be Indigenous welfare recipients who will be subjected to their surveillance and control, but the privilege will also be extended to vulnerable and marginalised non-indigenous families (MacDonald, 2015). It’s good to see that we are now testing non-evidence-based methods of welfare allocation on a diverse group of vulnerable and marginalised communities instead of just indigenous communities for a change.

The Howard Government birthed income management in Australia in 2007. Since then, multiple sources have suggested a range of issues relating to the scheme in terms of evidence and impacts of IM in Australia (Buckmaster & Ey, 2012; Dee, 2013; Equality Rights Alliance, 2014; Mendes Waugh & Flyn, 2014; National Welfare Rights Network, 2014; SPRC, 2010 ). Mendes et al. (2014) raise serious concerns regarding flaws and gaps in evidence surrounding the legitimacy of income management in Australia. These concerns specifically pertain to issues that have seen little follow up investigation once identified such as the dynamics of choice and control within these systems; limited genuine community consultation; and the quality of decision making regarding IM participants. The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) (2014) has rejected the healthy welfare card, a move backed by over 30 community groups. So too has the Australian Bankers Association (2014), stating, “the banking industry supports providing individuals and communities with the knowledge, skills and capabilities to ensure they manage their finances.”

Compulsory and voluntary income management schemes, encouraged through monetary incentives, are already utilised in a number of communities throughout Australia (Department of Human Services, 2015). Negative impacts of IM schemes have been revealed in numerous Government and non-Government reports. These impacts include women feeling judged whilst using their welfare EFPOST card (Basics Card); a high proportion of women not feeling safe; a loss of freedom, power and community; as well as control and constraints relating to the use of the Basics Card (Buckmaster & Ey, 2012; Equality Rights Alliance, 2014; Mendes et al. 2014). Some reports have suggested voluntary IM may have assisted people to manage their income, yet there is significant evidence suggesting substance abuse and parenting issues are not impacted (Buckmaster & Ey, 2012; Katz & Bates, 2014).

One must ask, “why”? Why are these communities labelled by the government as ‘high risk’? Why are some families and individuals struggling? A 2014 report from ACCOSS stated that 80% of community services in Australia are unable to meet demand with the areas of greatest community need comprising the biggest gaps (ACCOSS, 2014). Mendes et al. (2014) suggest that causes of disadvantage link strongly to broader structural and systemic issues and that IM may not take this into account effectively. Whilst the Federal Government has cut millions of dollars from community services around the country, it is happy to further marginalise families by implementing more controlling and paternalistic policies placing more restrictions on their choices.

Plenty of people in Australia who are impacted by substance abuse, gambling and domestic violence do not receive government payments, will their income be quarantined too? Or could it possibly be that the Government is feeding into the old, and unequivocally incorrect, ‘poor people are immoral’ argument? If the Government truly cares about individuals, families and communities experiencing hardship they must stop cutting the services already unable to meet the needs of the most marginalised members of the community.

References

ACCOSS. (2014). Australian Community Sector Survey 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.acoss.org.au/images/uploads/ACSS2014_final.pdf

ACOSS. (2014). Groups call for the rejection of the healthy welfare card. http://www.acoss.org.au/media/release/groups_call_for_rejection_of_forrest_review_healthy_welfare_card

Australian Bankers Association. (2014). Response to Forrest Review. Retrieved from: http://indigenousjobsandtrainingreview.dpmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/get-involved/public-submissions/australian_bankers_association.pdf

Buckmaster, L & Ey, C.(2012) Is income management working?. http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2011-2012/IncomeManagement

Dee, M. (2013). Welfare surveillance, income management and new paternalism in australia. Surveillance & Society, 11(3), 272-286. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1471985469?accountid=13380

Department of Human Services. (2014). About Income Management. Retrieved from: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/enablers/centrelink/income-management/about-income-management

Equality Rights Alliance (2014) Women’s experience of income management in the Northern Territory. Retrieved from: http://www.equalityrightsalliance.org.au/sites/equalityrightsalliance.org.au/files/docs/readings/income_management_report_v1-4_0.pdf

Katz, I., & Bates, S. (2014). Voluntary Income Management in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. Retrieved from: https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/09_2014/voluntary_income_management_in_the_apy_lands_final_report_2014.pdf

Mendes P., Waugh J., & Flynn C. (2014). Income management in Australia: A critical examination of the evidence. International Journal of Social Welfare, 23, 362–372. DOI: 10.1111/ijsw.12066 2014: 23:

National Welfare Rights Network. (2014). Creating Parity or Creating Uncertainty?Retrieved from: http://www.welfarerights.org.au/sites/default/files/field_shared_attachments/policy/The%20National%20Welfare%20Rights%20Network%20Creating%20Parity%20-%20SUBMISSION.pdf

Social Policy Research Centre. (2010). Evaluation framework for new income management. Sydney: Social Policy Research Centre

Macdonald, S (2015, March 22). Federal Government to trial cashless welfare card, with payments not allowed to be spent on alcohol or gambling. Retrieved from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-22/government-trial-cashless-welfare-card-payments-alcohol-gambling/6339080

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Reflections via fine-liner.

Constantly surrounded by rice, bananas, tea, forest and their captors.

Constantly surrounded by rice, bananas, tea, forest and their captors.

Quintessentindia

I have a guava tree next to my balcony. It’s a favourite spot for various birds to come and play. Ones with green bodies and brown heads, ones completely fluorescent green, little ones with black mohawks and bright red cheeks, ones with bright pink heads, blue ringed necks and colourful bodies, minute little packs of birds whose hues very from brown, to green, to blue, to red. There is also a resident crow-peasant who clumsily hops between the tree branches of surrounding trees. From my balcony I can also see fields with roaming chickens, cows brought every morning by their dedicated owners and for the sharp eye there are also mongoose and spotted deer. Throughout the day the dances of the visible wildlife are accompanied by the chirping of cicadas and crickets, which lurk in the trees and the wet undergrowth below my house.

Tea fields near Ponnani, Tamil Nadu

Tea fields near Ponnani, Tamil Nadu

The balcony is my place of solace. Predominantly because its view epitomises whole region in which I am currently residing, and provides a comfy viewing platform at the same time. The only characteristic absent from view are tea fields, their mosaic patterned beauty I have yet to take for granted. My experience of seeing the tea fields is a far cry from my peaceful balcony, for the stunning view of the area is usually accompanied by screaming up or down the mountainous region on public jeeps or buses travelling to towns and villages that are visited as part of my Social Work placement. What feels like a death-defying ride is often partnered with thumping Tamil pop music or a constant deafening bus horn, the latter provoking anxiety and the former trivialising the experience. Despite my Social Work degree drilling it into me that I can’t say things like this, sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason. My commute to ACCORD’s area centres, along with most other experiences which entail after leaving my home, is so quintessentially ‘Indian’ (ie. 18 people crammed into a jeep when the driver is sitting halfway out of his seat/door/window, accompanied by banter in the local tongue/s, being stared at, blaring tabla and my translators continually being asked where I’m from) that the experience of India that everyone talks of has certainly lived up and beyond expectations.

Another few notes about things that make me happy here:

  • Being greeted by at least ten children from the surrounding area on the walk to breakfast. ‘Goooood Morninagggg akka [big sister]’, “How are youu?’.
  • Baby. Animals. Everywhere.
  • Tea fields. Tea fields. So many tea fields.
  • Warm welcoming faces and kind honest people.
  • Cicada lullaby’s.
  • Idli, dosa, poongal, appam and other delicious breakfast foods.
  • Learning about tribal culture and beliefs.
  • Deep reflection on my own world views and privilege.

 

 

 

 

India so far,

I’m still trying to make sense of this place. So far I’ve only been to one small town and one city so my perception is only based on Bangalore and Gudalur in Southern India, thus far. I’m working with ACCORD, an organisation striving to improve the lives of local Adivasi populations.

Some musings :

  1. The women wear the most amazing clothes. I don’t think I’m yet to see the same sari or salwar kameez twice. And women are COVERED in gold and silver. Earrings, anklets, toe rings, bracelets, necklaces, hair pins, nose rings. Even women doing the most menial tasks are decked out in outfits far more impressive than any I’ve seen before.
  1. Gudalur, the quaint town where I’m residing for the next few months, is nestled in the Nilgiris which is a beautiful mountainous area surrounded by national park, including tiger reserves. They have leopards, tigers, elephants, monkeys and spotted deer. There are also tribal groups (Adivasis) who, today I learnt, used to call themselves a term which could be roughly translated to ‘the people’, only to distinguish themselves as just one component of the forest in which they resided. Their connection to land is comparable to Australia’s first peoples.
  1. Tea is grown, processed, sold and drunk in abundance here. Tea estates in the monsoon season are stunning. My fellow students and I are now regulars at a local teashop run by a friendly man named Abdul.  His tea is strong, milky and sweet when requested. 55 rupee for two cups of tea and cakes ain’t bad either ($1AUD).
  1. Paratha. A buttery, decadent, accompaniment to dhal is also abundant. Could possibly be described as the pastry of the Indian flatbread world. Need I say more?
  1. Every day prayers from the mosque and church bells echo through the valley here. Sitting on my veranda watching mist floating across the mountains listening to prayer in a foreign language evokes both comfort and curiosity.
  1. I am surrounded by a countless inspiring, thoughtful, experienced, welcoming, friendly and kind people from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Every moment of every day I am here I am learning massive amounts of information. I have also learnt substantially alternative education systems taught at the local Adivasi school and am beginning to realise how congruent they are with my beliefs. Reducing the amount of competition between children may prove to be incredibly valuable. As would letting them play and learnt at their own pace. 

Hog of the Hedge

20140313-151356.jpg

I drew this little hedgehog as a present for my beautiful girlfriend who adores cute creatures.
Sketched, coloured with water-colours and fine-lined.

Make Your Vote Informed!

Make Your Vote Informed!

Must watch:

The Australian elections are being strongly influenced by Murdoch media. It’s appalling to know that people may base their voting preferences on such ill-informed biased means.  

GetUp Australia has created this message for Australians.

Pyin Oo Lwin Mosque

I’ve been getting caught up in study and work as of late. I’ve been completely neglected any kind of creative outlet so I decided to share some photos from Mynanmar, which I shot earlier this year.

There still continues to be violence between Buddhist’s and Muslim’s in Myanmar, and the Rohingya people continue to be ostracised.

Now that the Government in Myanmar has eased off slightly in regards to their authoritarianism, ethnic tensions are high amongst many groups. I met Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists as well as the various people from different ethnic groups (Shan, Palaung, Arakanese, Afghan) , and they were all amazing. Their kindness towards strangers (ie. me….a mysterious foreigner) was mind blowing, but perhaps if they had known more about me they may have though differently.

Humans have so many different belief systems, that’s where our beauty is. Yet, it’s also one of our greatest downfalls. Don’t let it be yours.

Pentax K1000
Ilford 100 35mm B&W

Dew

I find solace

In these mornings

Where the wind

Buckles under

The weight of chance

And it’s breath halts

Momentarily

There is a stillness

In the way the trees

Welcome the morning

And a wonder in how

Their counterparts

Speak to the sun

Feathers ruffled

To welcome the days we fill

A funeral, a wedding

Dichotomy after dichotomy

Each morning

Blessed by the dew

By its necessity

For we are all like it

The dew

For each other

We’re necessity’s

Encapsulating the evergreens

And the deciduous.

Parked cars

Walls of homes

Abandoned washing

It welcomes all

Which is still

Into its embrace

It’s in these winter awakenings

The morning wraps

Itself around me

Perfection

The weather tears through my flesh
Opens me up
And wakens me
Invigorated,
I stand tall to the world
Flesh stolen by the day
Rays of sun
Shackle me to happiness
As I go about my business

Untitled IIII

My friends father unexpectedly passed away this week. Death isn’t something I’ve had to deal with often, but it’s something which has sculpted her life. Amoungst all of the heartache and despair, I feel as though we must use loss to learn to appreciate our lives. As well as to accept that in all of our wonderfully ambiguous glory, we are undeniably fragile. 

Today
I grasp my life with both hands
Squeeze it tight
I let the blue in the sky
Meld into my eyes
Try in any way
Express my gratitude
To the trees
For giving me breath
The cells in my lungs
My body
For giving me this chance
To feel
Sometimes so weak I just want
To die
Sometimes so happy I just want
To cry.
Either way I lift my head
Or surround myself
With those who’ll tell me to
Tell me it’s worth waking up
Despite life’s inextricable bruises
I feel so grateful to feel
Ineffable beauty and pain.