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Category Archives: Social Justice

Lawyers Call for a Royal Commission into Manus and Nauru Deaths

Media Release

Sydney, Australia – 25 Dec, 16 – 10am

In the wake of the latest death (acknowledged in Brisbane on 24.12.16) of Faysal Ishak Ahmed, a 27-year-old Sudanese refugee held on Manus Island the National Justice Project, the not-for-profit human rights law centre in Sydney, has demanded a prompt inquest into the circumstances of the death and called on the Australian Government to institute a Royal Commission into the miserable level of medical care that refugees receive on Manus and Nauru.

Adjunct Professor George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project and a Professor of Law at Macquarie University, said, “I send my condolences to the family of this young man. Tragically, he is the latest victim of a systemically cruel and inhumane system designed and operated by the Australian Government.”

“We have many vulnerable clients on Manus and Nauru are not receiving adequate healthcare and we are consistently working and taking action on their behalf. It appears that Faysal did not receive appropriate treatment for his condition and we now have another death that was likely to have been entirely avoidable.”

“This is the tip of the iceberg. The government consistently delays necessary medical treatment, often until it is too late. Evidence given at the Coronial inquest into Hamid Khazaei’s death has confirmed that the government’s political manoeuvring can be fatal.  An inquest would determine whether the Government’s actions, poor medical care or both contributed to Fayzal’s death but they take time and how many more individuals will die waiting for the government to act on such recommendations.

A Royal Commission with broader enquiry powers into the provision of health care on Nauru and Manus is necessary to lift the lid on this scandalous state of affairs” Newhouse said.

Professor Newhouse continued, “The Minister for Immigration is on record complaining of a War on Christmas. Where is this government’s spirit of charity and love for the most desperate and vulnerable people in the world at this time?”

The NJP has called for an investigation into Faysal’s death by the Queensland Coroner, as well as an investigation into the death of Rakhib Khan, who died waiting for a medical evacuation from Nauru earlier this year.

The National Justice Project has already successfully sued Peter Dutton and the Department of Immigration for negligence on behalf of a young woman who was raped and fell pregnant on Nauru (the S99 Federal Court case in May 2016).

The NJP also has dozens of cases of individuals and families suffering in pain without proper care or treatment.

When so many outstanding neglect cases are taken into account, together with the deaths of Hamed Khazaei, Rakib Khan and now Faysal Ahmed it is clear that there is an urgent need for a broader enquiry – with Royal Commission powers – into the provision of health and medical care on Nauru and Manus Island.

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed – John 3:20. 

ABOUT THE NATIONAL JUSTICE PROJECT

The National Justice Project is a not for profit legal organisation. We combine strategic legal action with effective advocacy to advance human rights and social justice in Australia and in the Pacific Region.

For further information please visit our website – www.justice.org.au

 

Family challenges David Dungay death in custody reports

By Jane Salmon

Protest the Aboriginal Death in Custody of David Dungay (at Long Bay on December 29, 2015).

A rally was held today Thursday 22nd December 2016 in Sydney.

It involved a march from Central Station (Country Trains) to Department of Corrective Services in Lee Street Sydney City

The walk stopped at Harry Deane Building at 20 Lee Street Sydney – about 200 metres from Central Station

Speaking was Leetona Dungay (the mother of David Dungay). Many other Dungay relatives were in attendance.

Leetona Dunga’s speech notes include details about his death (restraint asphyxia when held face down into a mattress by guards at Long Bay).

NSW Police and Department of Corrective Services have issued reports concluding that there was nothing suspicious about David Dungay’s death.

There is also a candlelight vigil at Town Hall on 29 December to mark the passing of a year since David Dungay’s unnecessary death.

The matter is still before the Coroner and has not been listed. It will probably get a hearing late 2017 or early 2018.

The lawyers for the case are Duncan Fine and Professor George Newhouse of the National Justice Project.

Speech by Leetona Dungay at Sydney rally on 22 December 2016.

Hello, or as my people say, Ghymaghayal.

First I want to thank the traditional owners of the land where we are right now – the Ghadagal people of the Eora Nation.

I am here today – we are all here today to honour and remember a beautiful young man called David Dungay Junior.

He was my son.

David was a warrior. Like his dad. Like my people from up near Kempsey.

David died in Long Bay Prison Hospital on the evening of 29 January 2015.

He was a Dunghutti man from Kempsey.

It is hard to believe that today in Australia this type of thing is still happening.

But I stand here before you as the mother of a son who was taken away from me when he was still just a kid – when he was just 26 years old.

David was about three weeks away from release on parole at the time of his death.

He had entered the adult prison system at age nineteen and had nearly completed a seven-year sentence.

Memory is very important in all cultures. But especially in our culture. Aboriginal culture.

We have to remember who we are as a people.

David Junior was born on 2 October 1989 in Kempsey. His early life was tough but he was very loved by his close-knit family.

David Junior enjoyed schooling, music and was an excellent sportsman.

At about age six he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. But the Durri Aboriginal Medical Service in Kempsey looked after him.

David Jnr took responsibility and looked after himself and his diabetes and took his own blood sugar levels in the morning and at night. He always carried jelly beans and biscuits so he could look after himself.

But in prison they just don’t look after you properly.

One day a prison officer saw David Jnr eating biscuits in his cell.

The officer, who knew that David Jnr was a diabetic, but still he ordered him to stop eating the biscuits but David was unable to comply with his order.

My son was overpowered and restrained by at least four officers applying force.

Why?

Why is this happening?

Why is this happening in Australia today?

Why are we locking up our proud young Aboriginal men in prison?

How many of them need to die?

This is 2016 – not 1816 or 1916.

We need to get angry.

We need to have our voices heard.

We have lawyers working for us at the National Justice Project in Sydney and we are going to find out. And the people who did this to my son, they are going to be held accountable.

The Aboriginal people of Australia need to take a stand.

Because there’s too many mothers like me who have lost their sons.

This is our land.

No more young Aboriginal men – like my beautiful son David – to die in jail.

And that’s how we can best honour my son’s memory.

I want to thank all the people who have been helping me for a year now since David Junior passed away:

  • The Vocational College
  • Many Rivers
  • Aboriginal Women Prevention Unit
  • Marcy Hoskin
  • Raul Bassi
  • Ken Kenny
  • Elizabeth Jarret
  • Amber Champen

Finally, I want to say it has now been just about one full year since David passed away.

And we are still waiting for all the documents and all the files so that our lawyers can make sure justice is going to be done. But that is going to happen pretty soon. And then next year we are going to get a fair hearing in front of the Coroner and I know the Coroner is going to find out the truth. And the people who did this to David are going to be brought to justice.

All we want is justice.

Thank you.

 

Politicians shame children for caring about others

You may have noticed yesterday’s minor furore over primary school children sending a petition to various politicians protesting the vileness, criminality and inhumanity of off-shore detention policies.

The children didn’t use those words of course, rather they asked that politicians show concern for children in off-shore detention and resettle them. They also sent drawings expressing their distress on behalf of detained children.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed that eight-year-olds should be writing to Santa not getting up petitions, and federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham expressed his wish that the teachers involved be hunted down and disciplined for aiding and abetting the children’s budding awareness of human rights. Children should not be “politicised,” it was bipartisanly agreed.

Off-shore detention policies are inescapably political: it is impossible to “politicise” what is inherently political. Shorten, Birmingham et al should be owning the shamefulness of their policies, rather than shaming children for objecting and protesting.

Of course politicians don’t want children knowing, let alone caring, about the crimes and misdemeanours they continue to commit against humanity in the interests of attaining and maintaining power. However, in my experience children are far more aware of the world than most of us give them credit for. They need tools with which to deal with the deceits and duplicities of politicians, and politicians have only themselves to blame for this parlous situation.

What is most wickedly deceptive and destructive is the conflation of concern for the welfare of others with so-called  “politicisation.” We’ve had decades of contempt for “lefty bleeding hearts.” We have now reached a stage at which anyone expressing concern over the state (and compliant media) treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians, those struggling with poverty, mental health, disability and the myriad other challenges people face in a country in which increasingly the only concerns that matter are those of the alpha white male and his consort, is immediately accused of the manufactured offence of “politicisation.” Or my particular favourite, Political Correctness Gone Mad (PCGM).

Do we really want to grow children who believe that caring about the fate of others is something to be ashamed of?

The abysmal legal and moral failure by both major parties to fulfil their responsibilities to asylum seekers and refugees under both international and domestic law is the core problem, not children or anyone else protesting this failure.

If you want your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children you know and or teach to become aware of the human rights of others, I recommend this rather lovely book, titled 2030 Not a Fairytale. In 2015 world leaders adopted the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting seventeen Global Goals to be attained by 2030. These goals are simply explained to young children, and are an excellent introduction to caring about the world they’ll inherit and the people in it.

I know I’m being dangerously subversive, suggesting the politicisation of children. Shoot me.

As for whether or not the 2030 goals will be attained, and the usefulness or otherwise of world leaders at the UN setting them, that’s another story we have to tell children at another time. First, let’s brainwash them into caring.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

We need to focus on justice for refugees, not ignore it

By Kerry Fressard

In the wake of two days of non-violent peaceful protest at Parliament, some sensationalist and hyperbolic media outlets have failed to address the issue behind the protests. That is, the bipartisan support for human rights abuses, sexual and physical assault, and trauma occurring in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

In order to refocus the discourse surrounding the protest it is important to focus on the issue at hand. Offshore detention is (intentionally) cruel, expensive, and does not effectively reduce suffering and loss of life.

Offshore detention is misguided as a deterrent. The argument put forward by the government is that detaining asylum seekers who attempt to come to Australia via boat on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru saves lives and prevents suffering. As the government refuses to provide the public who elects them and pays their salary with information surrounding ‘on water’ matters we cannot say, or know, if it has been an effective deterrent. Furthermore, we certainly cannot make a strong case that it has in fact saved lives and reduced the suffering of asylum seekers. However, we can categorically confirm the abuse and torture of refugees and asylum seekers illegally held on offshore detention centres. Refugees have died in offshore detention, women have been sexually assaulted and raped, children have faced physical and emotional abuse, and a large proportion of those held in offshore detention suffer from emotional and psychological trauma as a result of their detainment. The suffering in offshore detention centres has been highlighted in the media, through Senate inquiries, in reports by NGOs and the United Nations Human Rights Commission, in accounts provided by doctors and teachers that have worked in the centres, and by the detainees themselves.

There are alternatives to the current policy of offshore detention. Community based processing is less harmful to asylum seekers and would cost a fraction of the $4-5 billion spent every year on offshore detention. Regional solutions such as processing refugees and asylum seekers before they attempt the journey by boat to Australia would most certainly act as a deterrent to risky boat journeys. Key to all alternatives is that they are timely, that asylum seekers are processed quickly so they can begin building their futures and moving on with their lives. It is important to ask why it is that these policies have not been implemented. Is it that the government and opposition are actually aiming to deter people fleeing war zones and persecution from seeking asylum in Australia at all? If so, I hope people reflect on the cruelty of such a move by politicians who consistently purport to be fighting to give people a fair go.

Significantly, the vast majority of the people being illegally detained offshore have been found to be refugees. These people deserve empathy and compassion and should be evacuated from the offshore detention centres immediately.

Media that does not address these issues and instead focuses on protester conduct is failing to report on the serious maltreatment and abuse of asylum seekers and refugees at the hands of Australian government policy. Surely, Australia’s inhumane treatment of people fleeing from persecution is more important than the appearance of protesters or exposes on the number of protests that the members of the group have previously participated in. Because of the wilful ignorance and failure to focus on crimes committed in offshore detention, such outlets are in some part complicit in the abuse of asylum seekers and refugees.

A key role of the fourth estate is to investigate and report on the actions of the political elite that act in our names. The main story to come out of the two days of protest at Parliament House is not whether we restrict public access to the building, nor it is the personal lives of the human rights advocates involved, but rather that there remains to be bipartisan support for the abuse and torture of refugees held illegally on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru. The camps remain open, people’s lives hang in the balance, and their futures remain uncertain. Forget the spin, sensationalism and hyperbole, and let us focus on providing justice and freedom for refugees and asylum seekers.

 

I am a Racist – Live with it!

By Nader Galil

“My name is Nader and I am a racist*!” (think alcoholics anonymous)!

I am also a cheat, a liar, I’m selfish and I’m a hypocrite. These are essentially ordinary human traits that lay within us all to varying degrees. Although we’re inaccurately taught to see these as defining personality characteristics, it is important to recognise these as behavioural “states” that reveal themselves depending on an individual’s personal and/or social circumstances. We are quick to generalise and label when in reality it is often an individual’s own subjective view of an encounter or exchange with another.

“Until a problem is recognised and defined it cannot be corrected to bring about (positive) change”

Behavioural psychology acknowledges that a child will form over 80% of their worldview by the age of 8, and that this worldview directly corresponds to the same neurological pathways in adult decision making. For example, selfishness (or self-righteousness) in adults is related to a child’s sense of entitlement, and lying (generally) can be related to our survival instinct – to create a positive outcome like avoiding a fight, getting out of trouble or gaining some sort of advantage. These behaviours become part of our “default” attitudes as they are automatic responses from the subconscious mind.

From a behavioural perspective, racism works exactly the same way; the difference is that it enters the subconscious chronologically at a later stage (as does sexism, homophobism and other learnt behaviours). The attitude is a direct a result of environment, and is reinforced covertly through social conditioning, education, media, etc. It resides with the subconscious and is triggered by external circumstances that an individual is confronted with.

So, what is racism and why is it so obvious to some and not so to others?

The word “Racism” is a highly subjective term that can be easier understood when its mechanism is broken down into two general behavioural forms – Explicit and Implicit.

Explicit racism is the devil you know. It refers to the fringe of society who are proud of their disposition and openly express their superiority over other races, creeds and cultures. Their psychology and worldview is obvious and thankfully only make up the fringe of society. These proud racists are generally contained and don’t pose a massive threat to the balance of social tolerance.

Implicit racism is the devil we don’t know and fundamentally affects society at large. On the surface, it seems less sinister but is actually far more dangerous as it is deeply rooted in the subconscious and is generally unrecognisable. Its true danger lies in the way that it is quickly and easily radicalised into its explicit form and provides a clear path for figures like Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson who use their xenophobic rhetoric to penetrate the mainstream. If anything positive can be taken from the US election result, it is the realisation that racism is at least tolerated en masse by half of the greatest power in the world. Paradoxically, most Trump supporters would not identify themselves as racists and would be outraged at the accusation of being called such.

As with so many social ills, we are intent on addressing racism at its “effect” stage without even considering why it actually exists in the first place. We often hear that “Education is the key,” and although there is merit in the statement, its application is fatally flawed as it is the type and timing of the education that is symptomatic of the problem. Movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and FIFA’s “RESPECT” campaign can bring the issue front of mind (the conscious), but racism is embedded at the back (the subconscious) so we are effectively ‘shooting at the wrong target’! In the end, they prove futile as they do not address these deeply harboured values and beliefs at the core level.

Racism can be more accurately defined as an “Unconscious Bias” as Euro-centrism is anchored in our subconscious…

Society is taught that it is exclusively Europeans that have contributed anything significant to the world; that all the technologies, freedoms and comforts that we enjoy today are a result of European initiatives and ingenuity. This attitude is the breeding ground for this implicit, subconscial form of racism which leads to the misconception that the European mind is superior to any other race.

When we add the lack of Indigenous appreciation and education in European settled lands, our self-righteous attitude becomes that of: “This is our God given right to the land – the natives weren’t doing anything before we arrived – We developed and civilised this country and put it on the map! It is us who made this country great!”

A great example of our Euro-centric education is when we refer to a time from the 6th until the 14th centuries as the “Dark and Middle Ages” – where apparently, nothing happened in the world! When Europe was stagnated, uncivilised and barbaric, very few know that this was actually a “Golden Age” for both the Islamic and Chinese worlds. The modern world as we know it was born in this time. The Islamic world is directly credited for bringing about ‘The Renaissance’ and hauling Europe out of its Medieval quagmire.

This was a time when the Islamic and Arab world established highly advanced and intellectual societies; where European scholars and academics flocked to places like Baghdad and Córdoba to learn medicine, the sciences, philosophy and every other discipline taught at universities today. We enjoy turning on our computers because of a Persian mathematician named Al-Khwārizmī’s discovery of the algorithm! The Chinese also made many advances in farming, nautical equipment, warfare, the printing press, paper currency and precise time keepers.

Euro-centrism extends it hand to religion as well. How else can we believe that the man, born of the Arab Semitic tribe in Bethlehem, has white skin, straight blonde hair and blue eyes?

Question: Would racism even be possible in Christian lands if Jesus was portrayed as a Semitic man (i.e. Dark skin, dark curly hair and dark eyes)?

Euro-centrism teaches an overwhelming importance on Europe and distorts historical facts to suit European ideals. This supports the belief that European lives are valued over all others and is desensitised en masse to atrocities inflicted upon non-Europeans. This was clearly demonstrated in November 2015, when millions of Facebookers were empathetically mobilised to place the Tricolore filter over their profiles in solidarity with France while remaining complicit in their silence when atrocities were inflicted upon the innocent of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We love to buy into Euro-centrism and to accept these initiatives in the pretext of human compassion which only serves to reinforce its supremacy through actions like this.

Are we actually interested in ridding the world of racism?

The unfortunate answer is an overwhelming “NO!” We enter the same cycle of creating new initiatives that have never effectively provided real solutions – and we do this expecting different (positive) results. Unless Euro-centrism is not corrected in our history books and media, and replaced with truth and historical facts, it is actually unreasonable to expect attitudes to change!

Euro-centrism breeds racism wherever it exists, so one must conclude that if we are not mature enough as a society to address racism at its core then we must be accepting to the fact that…

“We are all racist, and we need to live with it!”

*Racism exists the world over and it is not exclusive to Europeans or to those of European heritage. This article is directed towards Europe and European settled countries.

Nader Galil is a business/life coach whose passion lies in helping people with personal issues by unblocking pathways to bring about positive change. With a corporate background and experience both here and in Europe, he has been able to gain a deep understanding of different cultures and anthropology. His interest in understanding human behaviour has led him to studying Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and is currently studying his Bachelors Degree in Psychology. Nader’s other articles include “What is Love? (Love and its Evolution)”, “The First Generation Aussie Social Dilemma” and “Being a Better You” just to name a few.

 

Is there a prescription drug shortage we don’t know about?

I’m on drugs. The legal kind. Earlier this year one of my specialists suggested to me I fill my prescription whether I needed a refill or not as there was a nationwide shortage of the drug. In Australia? Yes. So I dutifully filled my prescription. Doing so required a number of visits to local pharmacies, but one had a small supply left. The next time I needed a repeat, I was given a substitute drug. I didn’t think too much of all this at the time, but my experience then shows this is not now a new problem.

Last week I needed two drug prescriptions refilled. Pharmacy 1 – no supply of either. Pharmacy 2 – no supply of either but could order Drug A in for collection the next day from another pharmacy. Pharmacy 3 – no supply of either. Pharmacy 4 – had Drug A (so I kept that in mind in case Pharmacy 2’s order failed) and was able to substitute Drug B for me with another brand, something Pharmacy 3 had specifically told me they could not do without another prescription.

So I eventually got both drugs but it took two days, four pharmacies and a substitute drug. Not to mention the time and the travel costs involved. Yes, I could have called around, but I was already out of the house, so just kept going. Had no local pharmacy been able to supply, I’d have gone home and hit the phone.

Tell me again, I do live in a rich western country, don’t I?

When I returned to Pharmacy 2 the following day to collect Drug A, I asked why were these shortages occurring. The pharmacist told me it is because the government has lowered the prices they will pay the pharmaceutical companies to the point there is no profit in selling the drugs to Australia. Consequently they send their production to countries where sales are more profitable. If demand is higher elsewhere, Australia misses out.There is no profit in drugs for the pharmacy either, I was told. That explains why pharmacies are selling so much other “stuff” these days.

The pharmacist pointed to several heavily laden shelves. “Diabetes drugs”, I was told. Ordered in bulk to protect the health of their regular diabetes patients, because the pharmacy expects a drug shortage.

I don’t understand how the system works. Maybe I should, but I don’t – and I suggest the majority of the population don’t know the finer details. We get a prescription, we go get it filled, we take the drugs. We cringe if it is something not on the PBS. That’s about all of the process most of us delve into. I did read the following on the PBS website, titled “Setting an approved ex-manufacturer price for new or extended listings“. At that point I decided I wasn’t the woman for the job.

Price negotiations with the responsible person for new or changed listings are undertaken by the Pricing Section on behalf of the Minister, following a positive PBAC recommendation.  A Cost Information (PB11b) form is required to be submitted by the responsible person as part of the initial application to the PBAC.

 

After a price has been negotiated, the responsible person is requested to submit a Request for Approved Ex-manufacturer Price (PB11a) form in order to formalise the price offer.  The responsible person is then notified by email when the Minister has formally agreed to the negotiated price.

Who pays for the drugs? The government or the pharmacies? Do the pharmacies act as distribution centres? I thought the PBS provided subsidies: perhaps I am wrong. I’m not sure I want to understand. What I do know is that as a patient prescribed medication by my medical specialists, I expect to be able to get that medication without the risk of politically induced shortages – or pharmaceutical company avarice. I don’t begrudge the companies achieving a profit, businesses running at a loss don’t stay in business for very long. Greed is not good, despite Gordon Gekko‘s beliefs – or the current competition on Melbourne’s Gold 103.4 radio station.

The first time I experienced a shortage with Drug A, I asked the specialist was there an alternative. He said yes, there was, but the side effects were pretty undesirable (my words, not his) and he’d prefer to avoid prescribing it.

I think of all the chronic condition patients in this country and wonder what the future holds.

In 2007-08, around 15% of people in the 0-24 age group reported having either asthma, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression or high blood pressure.

We read about the horrific medical costs in the USA and watch the Australian government undermine universal health.

I only questioned one pharmacist but what I heard was enough to cause concern and I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the speaker. Is there a mainstream investigative journalist who will take up the challenge to find out the truth? Do readers have similar experiences to share?

What it is REALLY like to be unemployed

Unemployed. If there has been any day in my 61.5 years of life when I’ve felt it is all just too much, yesterday was that day. Today is not much better. While sharing the pain I feel publicly may further hinder my employment prospects (is that even possible?) I share in the hope my experience may help others know they are not alone and may, just may, encourage some employers and recruitment agents to rethink their approach to candidates. The government also needs to walk a mile in my shoes, then tell me I can get a job and they can safely cut the Newstart Allowance. And yes, Grace Collier, I am training to start my own business – if I can hold my body together. Holding my body together costs money.

Where to start? Some background for context, perhaps. I was diagnosed late 2014/early 2015 with autoimmune (AI) conditions. Nothing I can’t manage, providing I can AFFORD to manage them. In my experience, AI conditions can take a lot of time and money to manage to the point where I look and feel normal (photo supplied as evidence). With a couple of exceptions: I can no longer sit for hours without moving, like a good little accountant should. I have to move reasonably often.

In June 2015 I was made redundant. In September 2015 I secured a new job which lasted a massively long six weeks. It seemed to boil down to the fact I refused to get my hair cut short, but I was called at home and told not to go back in, by “mutual agreement”. It was indeed mutual, as I found it a very toxic environment and had already contacted the recruitment agency with my concerns. The agency had encouraged me to “hold on until January”, which I had tried to do.

Having been made redundant in June then effectively fired (for the first time in my working life) in October, I wasn’t feeling very good psychologically. Off to the psychologist who was my saviour and the GP for anxiety medication.

AI needs time to manage properly, so a senior management role is no longer an option for me. Given the medical situation Centrelink have me in the disability support stream of job seekers to provide additional employment assistance – but most of that assistance seems only to kick in AFTER I secure a job, such as they can provide a sit-stand desk. In all the time I’ve been with this Job Search Provider, I have been referred for ONE interview! ONE! The Job Search Provider network seems, to me, to be more about meeting the contractual compliance obligation paperwork to “earn” their revenue (funded by the taxpayer) than actually finding work for the unemployed. That is an analysis for another day. When I ended up in tears one day I was told to go and get a medical certificate to exempt me from job hunting. I was in tears because I DON’T HAVE A JOB! Getting a medical certificate to stop me looking for a job wasn’t going to improve the situation!

I started studying a Diploma of Fitness Coaching with the objective of setting up my own business providing training to people like myself who need exercise for pain control/management. I understand what it is like to not be able to move first thing in the morning and I know the benefits exercise has provided me. My doctors (of whom I have a battalion) all support my business plan. Getting the qualification, however has proven difficult. Registered training organisations (RTOs) seem to me to be of a similar ilk in many instances to the Job Search Provider network. I need 120 hours of practical placement and within that be able to train five people for about six weeks to complete a final assignment. That is just one complication: we were told on enrollment we would be able to work after six months of the twelve month course (obviously an attractive proposition to an unemployed person). Well, yes, if we can find someone to employ us without insurance. I’m a CPA – am I likely to do that? Anyway, really, a minor problem. I just don’t need people like Grace Collier telling me to “start my own business” – I’m trying, but I’d like to stay alive in the meantime.

I am under the care of four specialists: endocrinologist, rheumatologist, dermatologist and gastroenterologist. Then there is my GP (who thankfully bulk-bills), my physiotherapist and massage therapist. Luckily these days I see the specialists less frequently than I used to: every three or six months, but they are not cheap. Yes, Medicare covers some of the cost, but the patient still has to pay up-front. No, I am not going the public health system route with chronic conditions unless I absolutely have to, because I need this team of specialists to provide continuity of care, not be seeing a different one of each specialty each visit. The specialists’ visits vary between $120 and $180 a visit. Then I am to have three skin biopsies next month – that’s not cheap either. At one stage I was having endoscopies every six months: private patient with health insurance I may soon have to give up. Not to mention the travel costs to see all these health professionals.

Then there is the cost of the prescriptions: because I have a pension card (thanks Centrelink, I really needed to be reminded you think I am a hopeless case too old for a Health Care Card) these are reduced to $5.20, but the other supplements, like fish oil, glucosamine, Vitamin D, magnesium etc are not. I get a Pharmaceutical Allowance of $3.10 a week.

Are you stressed out so far just reading this? Actually, NONE of that is too bad. With exercise I am rebuilding my muscle strength (working on hip adductor strength at the moment for the physically inclined among you) and keep the pain away almost 100% of the time. Until my stress levels get too high and cause a flare.

Job hunting is the most stressful thing in my life. Ever. Worse than the suicides of my parents or my four divorces. The four divorces? That’s why I am not independently wealthy at my age, which is what people like Scott Morrison no doubt expect. Pity I’m not a famous film star – they always seem to stay rich after divorces. I digress.

Let me share some examples that stand out in my mind. One major hospital interviewed me for a job I really was very keen on. They didn’t employ me, but subsequently interviewed one of my ex-staff for the same position and asked her about me. They did tell me to keep applying for other jobs at the hospital. So I did. Never got one. In the end you dread being the resume the HR staff member looks at and goes “oh, no, not her AGAIN!” and automatically throws your resume in the reject pile. So I don’t apply to that organisation any more.

The government department that sends you an email stating you were “in this instance rated non-competitive” and then sends you a follow-up email of how to break the government job application code/secret.

The private, family owned company who did a phone interview with me for forty minutes and invited me to a job interview the next day for which I had to take a day off work from my then eight week contract position (so lost a day’s pay)  – and never got back to me to tell me I didn’t have the job, despite promising to contact me the following week. They ALWAYS promise to be in touch tomorrow, by the end of the week, next week….. they lie. If recruiters actually interview an applicant, surely they can have the common courtesy to notify the applicant of the outcome?

The state government authority that wrote to tell me a job I had applied for had been withdrawn. When I saw it advertised again a fortnight later I wrote and asked if I could submit another application. Oh yes, was the response, “but please note the criteria includes specific knowledge of our INTERNAL computer system”. Then why advertise externally? Policy requirements, yes, I know. Easy to circumvent by framing the selection criteria in such a way only an internal applicant will qualify.

The sporting body that sends you an email with a subject line of “Not this time around…”. I accept that if you haven’t been unemployed for twelve months, the subject line might not bother you. When it is just another in a long line of rejections, the impact is harsh.

The legal firm that promises second round interviews will be held in two weeks time and unsuccessful applicants will be notified with feedback. Dead silence.

Over time, the rejections become just too damaging to the soul. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger? No, I’m sorry, not always true. As a very wise psychologist once said to me, the reality is more like water dripping on a stone – eventually the stone wears away. There comes times when you just can’t bear another rejection. Hiding under the doona with digital dragons is less soul-destroying than applying for yet another job you won’t get.

Then there is Centrelink demanding a certain number of job applications per week. Just to meet the KPIs. It doesn’t matter if the jobs are suitable, just anything to meet the numbers. Naturally, this results in more rejections which heightens the stress levels.

Network, they say. So you do. You contact people you have worked with in the past via the professional version of Facebook. Dead silence. That is depressing, because you think you had a good working relationship with many of those people – but that was in many cases years ago – perhaps they no longer even remember you, although you remember them. Thank you to the few that did respond, I appreciate it.

Younger people tell me today’s recruitment environment requires that applicants follow-up as it shows interest to the recruiter. In my day that was frowned upon, just was not done. So while I do it, it goes against every fibre of my upbringing. More stress.

Other advice I am given – change my resume. Basically, turn it into a lie. I can’t do that, I can’t lie about who I am – I don’t want to work for people to whom I have to pretend I’m something I’m not. I am a CPA, I have skills and experience which, while I may not be able to work 100% as a desk jockey any more, I can still use. My brain still works, damn it. Also another thing that wasn’t done when I was growing up.

When I was in my twenties, if you got the job you were most likely offered the job at the end of the interview. Yes, I know the competition is greater today, I know unemployment is higher – all those logical points don’t reduce the stress of being unemployed.

I’ve joked no-one wants to employ their mothers. Hiring managers are predominantly mid-thirties to mid-forties. And woe-betide you if you want a less senior role for medical reasons. These days people want carbon copies of the previous incumbent of a position, nothing more, nothing less. If an applicant doesn’t fit the mould: rejection. The knowledge that in most cases the recruiter only has time to read the first three lines of any application, if that, isn’t comforting.

I’m scared. Scared I will never get a job, scared I won’t be able to pay my medical bills and will therefore not be able to keep my AI conditions controlled. Scared I’ll never have my own private space again. Yes, I don’t even have my own space. Thanks to the generosity of my wonderful daughter and her equally wonderful husband, I have a roof over my head – but it costs me $120 a month to have my stuff in storage. I am 61, I want my own space! I feel I am interrupting their lives and it makes me cringe inside. I’ve been independent since I was 15 years old – this is an adjustment I am not dealing with well at all. More stress. There is no-where I could rent for less than the Newstart Allowance of $264.35 a week and still pay for food, utilities and medical care.

There is a known relationship between stress and AI conditions. The doctors say over and over “reduce the stress in your life”. Yesterday was a day when the stress boiled over and the pain had flared. The physiotherapist sent me home to lay on a heat pack and I woke this morning with a very sore back. She also strongly suggested I revisit my psychologist and was concerned I hadn’t had a massage (money considerations). I went to the psychologist’s office and made an appointment. As I got back in my car, a gust of wind slammed the car door into the side of my head. I burst into tears for the umpteenth time that day, I came home (missing class), lay on the heat pack and took a Serepax – the first I’ve taken in months. Physiotherapist suggests I touch base with my rheumatologist….. in other words, she is suggesting I have a condition flare. First in over six months.

How do I REALLY feel? As if life has no point any more. No-one needs me, no-one wants me. I have no social life: a social life is expensive and I have no idea how much longer I have to survive on what little money I do have. I feel I am a burden to my daughter. If this is what the next twenty years is going to be like then please stop the planet, I want to get off. There are days when I ask myself why am I bothering to fight back? Why push my body through the bench press and leg press? Why bother taking all these damn medicines and supplements? Just why in the hell bother at all?

Once I can’t afford to maintain my health, then I will be unemployable and end up on the Disability Pension. Hopefully, in my specific case my studies will prevent that, but on a daily basis it can be hard to see past just today. Not everyone in my sort of situation has the option to develop a new career and I do worry about the chances of business success at my age. But 68 year-old Hillary Clinton ran for President of the United States, so there is hope.

The lack of physical contact with anyone other than my physiotherapist or massage therapist grows more stressful each passing day.

Other unemployed have different sets of problems: mortgages, children to feed, car loans to pay. The emotional feelings, the stress, the sheer degradation of it all, is the same.

RUOK? No, I’m not OK. Not that anyone ever asks. We are just numbers – the great unwashed of unemployed. Past our prime, not valuable any more. A burden on society, our government keeps telling us. Malcolm Turnbull, do you have ANY idea what it is like to be told in the news cycle nearly every single day what you and your government ministers think about us?

I’ll bounce back, I always do. But not everyone can, not everyone does.

NB: I have deliberately not tried to “take the emotion out” of this article. If it is to serve any purpose, the emotion needs to be there. It is why I have written it today, a day when I feel absolutely NOT OK.

I also want to add that while I have criticised the Job Provider Network and RTOs in this article, I want to make it clear in both those systems there are some wonderfully caring people and in the latter some terrific teachers. It is the system I’m railing against, not the front line staff. Centrelink staff have always also been very nice to me.

 

 

Our Republic can be a Treaty

By R D Wood

At present a discussion of the republic seems separate from a discussion of a treaty with Indigenous people. And yet, a republic can enable a type of constitutional recognition for all Australians and it can be a type of treaty with the many bodies that represent our ‘first nations’. It could also pay heed to the many types of law here that are still thriving be that in Aranda, Banjima or Yolgnu country.

It is essential to understand Indigenous laws as their own body of important knowledge. The implications of acknowledging this are yet to be fully formed but if the debates between Murandoo Yanner and Noel Pearson are anything to go by, we need to acknowledge the diversity of opinion when it comes to traditions that pre-date 1788. Indeed, if we recognise that there were and are Indigenous legal systems here, which is something gestured towards by Bruce Pascoe in Dark Emu and A P Elkin in Aboriginal Men of High Degree, we need to think through their shared attributes and interpret them with good common sense. In other words, we need to realise the true implications of the fact that Australia has been long inhabited.

It needs to be said that Indigenous law is not unitary or singular, but rather there are many legal systems that differ. In the Pilbara alone there is men’s law and women’s law and different legal structures and titles within those two as well. It is as complex as any UN Resolution but that does not mean we cannot collaborate on what a new legal structure looks like for Australia as a whole. Many countries have many different systems of law operating concurrently. Hong Kong is simply one place where this is the case and India has Muslim Personal laws as well as the British derived constitution.

In addition, other nations have some ideas that were never taken on board. For example John Wesley Powell proposed the idea of ‘watershed democracy’ in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This divided governance into areas based on water bodies rather than on agricultural patchworks, squiggly lines not perpendicular squares. If Australia’s jurisdiction had been divided based on catchment areas we might have avoided the Murray-Darling tragedy. In regards to Australia’s greatest river, we might not find ourselves in the same difficulty as we are at present if we had a system like Powell’s or if we had a system where water rights belong completely to the end of resource user like the mouth of a river. The law needs to embody that. The law needs to understand that there are potential systems of government here that can mesh with traditional life and that this can fit with the cutting edge of legal title and economics.

If one looks at the AIATSIS map based on Indigenous Australia (below), we can see that the continent is divided into 17 areas – Southwest, Northwest, Desert, Kimberley, Fitzmaurice, Arnhem, Gulf, West Cape, Torres Strait, East Cape, Rainforest, Northeast, Southeast, Riverine, Spencer, Tasmania, Eyre. They are geographic and political entities that correspond to governmental possibilities. These are based largely on water bodies and the styles of life in them are different too. If you have travelled around Australia and spent time in remote Indigenous communities you know that the Central Desert is a world away from the Torres Strait or Tasmania. While I am attached to the states, and am proud to be a sandgroper, we need to rethink the fundamental boundaries that have been drawn here. Two houses of parliament make sense, but why not two levels with regional authorities that are watersheds. This would be instead of the state and local levels that are divided based on straight lines.

That might mean the abolition of state and local governments and their replacement with one level of hydro-geographically based authorities that assume their duties. After all, it is a common criticism that our public service is bloated and inefficient. This view does a disservice to the people who work in it but it also contains a half-truth. We need to ask what does the public want to see achieved? How can we best serve it? Australia could be well and truly a watershed republic. This could be a better society than what we now have and which fits with traditional Indigenous law as it exists in the archive and in communities right across Australia.

People can speculate on why a republic cannot happen at the moment, and blame that on the lack of political leadership. It is not often we get anarchists or libertarians in positions of power, but we could be happy to let go of being a colony. More importantly though, from where I stand, it is a great opportunity to discuss what kind of society we want to be, to discuss what our future looks like, especially for our most vulnerable as they interact with the legal systems in this country. That will mean confronting deaths in custody, advocating for non-violent policing and keeping channels of communication open that had seemed to be closed. We can do this by thinking through bureaucratic procedures including re-organising the states to approximate traditional Indigenous sovereign bodies, changing our Constitution and citizenship ceremonies to be a type of treaty and recognition, and integrating old systems of understanding into contemporary laws. This will mean we are on the path to accepting who we truly are.

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People in Prison – Stories from the Northern Territory

By Katherine Marchment

This article opens a window into the lives of people in the prison system in the Northern Territory. These are their stories.

A Place to Stay

I was in Katherine for a Fracking Convergence. I met an ex-lifer and his wife, who had also spent time in prison. We talked for a bit. They asked me if I had somewhere to stay. I said I didn’t, so they invited me to stay with them. “You are welcome sister,” they said.

They gave me a bed and a feed. They said I could help myself to anything in the fridge if I felt hungry. We were at their house along with their other guests, black, white and brindle. We played music, looked at photos and cracked jokes. They talked to me about life, their love of their (traditional) country, about jail and parole.

They let me know they didn’t drink alcohol or allow it in their house. Sometimes drunks come round late at night humbugging. They gave me a couple of nullas to protect myself in case I needed it. I knew I was protected and I was safe. They opened my eyes to the human side of the correctional system in the Northern Territory.

Through them, my eyes opened to some of the struggles aboriginal people go through dealing with the Northern Territory correctional system and the police. They know I’m a writer and they want their message to get out there. I’ll do my best to translate their message to me into whitefella lingo so it can reach a wider audience.

Next morning as I was leaving I thanked them for letting me stay. The lifer grabbed my hand and looked me in the eye and repeated “You are welcome in my house sister.” So I have stayed with them on subsequent visits to Katherine and learned a bit more about what it means to be a prisoner and an ex-prisoner in the Northern Territory.

Blood on the Wire

I am friends with another ex lifer who is currently serving five months in prison for breaching parole. I have found him to be a good man. Again I always feel safe and protected around him. He is a funny, witty, intelligent and kind person. A local hero who has achieved notoriety for escaping from maximum security prison twice. His girlfriend has written a book about this: Blood on the Wire by Carolyn Wilkinson. It is a great read.

He asked of me, that if he returned to prison, that I would come in and visit him one time. I looked at him in disbelief and said “but you won’t go back to prison, you haven’t done anything wrong”. Little did I know then about how punitive the Northern Territory Parole Board is for the most minor of parole breaches. Even a person like me who has no criminal record would have trouble staying out of prison living under those parole conditions.

The odds are stacked against ex prisoners trying to stay out of prison and they know it. He joked with me saying that I would find out about him returning to prison from the front page of the NT News.

Vitriol and Revenge

Sure enough, a couple of months later, I found out he had returned to prison from a front page headline in the NT News “Cold Blooded Killer returns to jail”.  The comments accompanying the article were full of vitriol and revenge:

“He should never have been let out”

“They should lock him up and throw away the key”.

He may have been a cold-blooded killer 27 years ago when he committed his crime of accessory to murder. However, it just doesn’t gel with my impression of the free man I now knew and I value as my friend.

His parole breach: He was pulled over by police for speeding and they found a cannabis cigarette belonging to his girlfriend in his car – possession. The arresting officer was prepared to let him off. The Parole Board was not. He was sentenced to five months prison for this crime. The irony is that he doesn’t smoke cannabis himself. He is subject to random urine tests for the rest of his life as part of his parole conditions and considers it just not worth the risk.

Jailed for Protecting his Wife

He took me one time to visit another ex lifer friend of his who had offered to take him “on country” for a while to go hunting in the traditional ways. I met this man and his wife. His wife was a very warm gregarious person and did most of the talking. You could see that they were soul mates. She showed me the photos of their wedding that they had done in the whitefella way, although it was held on her traditional country. Beautiful.

We talked about and looked at a lot of art. The two men are both very talented artists and both have had their work featured in exhibitions. We talked about hunting on her traditional land. Both her and her mother offered to take me out with them. We talked a lot about family. And we talked about jail and parole.

This man has returned to jail a few times since being released on parole. He and his wife told me that the last time he went to jail, was because he was protecting his wife and granddaughter and mother in law from a drunken relative who was trying to smash his way into the house. This bloke tried to remove him peacefully first, aware that if he hit anyone he would go back to jail. The intruder slammed a door on his fingers crushing them and broke a couple, so he did hit him, hard. He ended up back in jail for six months.

Life on parole

In the Northern Territory, a lifer once released, is on parole for the rest of his or her life. No other state in Australia does this. The conditions of parole are strict and it is near impossible to stay out of jail no matter how long your good behaviour or how minor a parole breach. The head of the Parole Board is a retired judge. The rest is made up of ex police officers and a victim advocate. No advocate for the prisoner, although a parole officer can make recommendations which are usually ignored.  They meet in secret, are accountable to no one, have no contact with the person they are sentencing for a breach. They just send out the “boys” (local police) to go get ‘em – and police officers enjoy going on a hunt.

The Parole Board have their friends and supporters in the media and government. Daryl Manzies: a local shock jock on Territory FM supports and promotes “tough on crime” initiatives on his show such “Mandatory Sentencing” and “Compulsory Tracking Bracelets” for Juveniles released on bail or parole.

Feed ‘em to the Crocodiles!

The NT News publishes the most sensationalist, bloodthirsty headlines that they can think up about those who have committed crimes because it sells newspapers.

In the former CLP government, our Attorney General and Minister for Corrections was an ex police officer. Former police officers have made up our members of parliament here in the Northern Territory for decades. Public opinion is very much conditioned to think in terms of revenge for the latest outrages committed by the local “runamoks”.

Territorians tend not to see those who have committed crime as human. Instead they call for blood:

“Run ‘em over!”

“Lock ‘em up!”

“Shoot the bastards!”

“Feed ‘em to the crocodiles”

There is very little interest here in the Territory to reduce or prevent crime and imprisonment. No surprise that we have the third highest incarceration rate in the world after China and the USA.

The Don Dale Kids

I go to a community centre in Darwin, various people of all ages come in. You can usually pick the Don Dale kids because they are wearing a tracking ankle bracelet, or they are with a minder or both.

I am sitting with three young aboriginal men who served time together in Don Dale.

“Cigarette” one says to me.

“My name is not cigarette” I say to him.

“May I have a cigarette Katherine?” he says, as he has known me for a while and is a regular.

“I will give you a cigarette if you read this,” I say.

“I can’t read,” he snarls at me.

“Yes you can,” I say, “I know you can read”.

I look him in the eye while I am saying this. This is to let him know that I am pissed off about him lying to me.

Reading the Letter

I look at his closed expression and say “It is a letter I have written to the Minister about people in jail, and I just want the opinion of someone who has been there”. “Don’t worry about it,” I say “I will give you a cigarette anyway.”

I gave him some tobacco and we yarn for a bit.

He then says “Ok, I will read your letter for you.”

I pass it across the table to him. He starts to read and the young man sitting next to him reads over his shoulder. The third sitting next to me is watching the other two do this and communicating with them and me using sign/body language.

They both read the whole thing from start to finish. (Asking questions throughout like “What’s recidivism?”) Two of them said I should turn it into a petition and that they would sign. The one reading over the shoulder of the other became visibly upset about my suggestion of compulsory family contact saying “families shouldn’t have contact at all – THESE are my brothers” (meaning his two companions sitting with me).  He then changed this to “Well, contact once a month then” when he saw the other two didn’t agree with him. I have no idea what the background is of him or the others or what their crimes were. I just know that they have been in Don Dale. Ankle bracelets advertise it to the whole community and they are pretty defensive as a result. Especially with middle aged white women like me.

A Letter to the NT Attorney General

Before sending this letter to Natasha Fyles NT Attorney General and Minister for Justice, I get one more person to read it. She is a friend of mine who was in jail for three years, is now out and never wants to go back. She read every word intensely, nodding throughout and saying yep, yep at intervals when she reads stuff that resonates with her.

The thing that stood out for her was that prisoners “feel the passing of time more keenly than the rest of us” and “the law of diminishing returns” when it comes to re- imprisoning people.

She knows full well about kids being abandoned once they are in Don Dale. She also requested that I take the points I made in my letter to Minister Fyles and turn them into a petition, so that she and other people can sign.

I guess what I am trying to do is to get people to realise from the above stories that those who commit crime, for whatever reason, are human just like you and me. Those who have been in prison aren’t necessarily bad people. A lot of them are people who made a bad decision when they were young with tragic outcomes for all involved. That jail is hell and they sure as shit have lost the desire to repeat the crimes that got them in there in the first place.

Conclusion

The courts refuse parole to those they consider likely to re-offend and they are still in jail. This is especially and specific to the Northern Territory.

Before his release, my friend went for parole eight times after the end of his sentence. He then managed to stay out of jail for five years under incredibly strict parole conditions, which is quite a feat in the Northern Territory. I think he is the only person who has managed this. He has not committed any kind of violent or property crime. He could hardly be described as a danger to the community anymore. There are still those in the community who call for him to be locked up for the rest of his life. To bill the taxpayer $300,000 pa to keep him in jail for the rest of his life because they don’t like him and haven’t forgiven him for his crime.

How does this benefit the rest of the community? I personally resent my taxes used to pay for a few individual’s need for revenge. We need to create the conditions that make it more desirable and easier not to offend or re-offend. Jails are punishment but they shouldn’t be a form of torture as they are now. The conditions in Northern Territory Jails is a whole story in itself of which the 4 corners program showed us only a glimpse.

Manus Island: The door of death

By Abdul Aziz Adam (from Sudan, now a Manus Island detainee).

It will please me to let you know about our psychology in the prison camp of Manus island. The greatest faculty our minds possess is the ability of cope with pain. Classic thinking teaches us the four ways or steps of the minds which is everyone been through for the last three years under this cruel policy.

Fist is the door of sleep. Sleep offers us a retreat from the world and all its pain, giving us distance from the things that have hurt us. When the a person is wounded they will often fall unconscious, or you hear traumatic news will often swoon or faint. This is the minds way of protecting itself from pain. But for us is not exciting any more, hard for us to sleep without pills or drugs, hard for us to distinguish between traumatic news or good once. Our sleeping experience during the night we shared rooms with rats, cockroaches, lizards, spiders and crabs. whats a nice experienced.

Second is the door of forgetting. Some wounds are too deep to heal, or too deep to heal quickly, all our memories are simply painful. They saying time heals most wounds is false, the wounds remain in time the mind protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessons. But it’s never gone.

Third is the door of madness. We have been through this way many time, many people feel happy to talk with their body by cutting or harm.

There are a times when the reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.

Last is the door of death, the final resort. Nothing can hurt us after we are dead or so we have been told. Must of us were waiting for this moment which is three of our best went through. We are jealous the way they are happy without us. We are jealous the way they are reached their final destination without us, we have came together and they left us behind.

Rest Rest Rest in peace brothers …

Manus prison camp
Aziz

 

Men, women . . . and Trump

The media, social, mainstream and everything in between, have been flooded with justifications, discussions, jibes, insults and everything in between over the proven (by his own words and voice) predatory behaviour of Trump towards women. There are a string of labels attached and debate over the legal definition. I’ve no idea what “skeezing” means, but I can guess: the latest release is a video of Trump “skeezing” on a 10 year-old-girl.

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The NSW parliament have labelled Trump “a revolting slug” unfit for public office. I almost agree, although I think slugs are being insulted by the comparison. I won’t insult the many fine men I have known in my life by calling Trump a man – he isn’t a man. Of the male gender he may be, a man he is not.

My concern is not actually with Trump himself – he will get taken care of in due course, I hope. My concern is the fact Trump is not alone.

As unscientific as the numbers may be, a Trump supporter issued forecasts that allege if women did not have the vote, Trump would win the election. Within a very short space of time Twitter was awash with #repealthe19th. The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote.

The Nineteenth Amendment is identical to the Fifteenth Amendment, except that the Nineteenth prohibits the denial of suffrage because of sex and the Fifteenth because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”

Then we have the right-wing pastor Dave Daubenmire terrified of a woman becoming the President because according to him the “immorality of a sinful man” is not as bad as breaking the biblical principle that “when a woman rules over a man …. it’s a sign of the judgement of the Lord”. May I suggest to Dear Dave that perhaps that’s precisely what IS going to happen, because his Lord has judged men like Trump are not fit to rule and when the Lord sees other men supporting Trump, the Lord has decided enough is enough.

More than 3,000 sexual assault survivors have taken out an ad pleading with the Republicans to dump Trump. Author Kelly Oxford took to Twitter encouraging women to share their sexual assault stories. Over a million women answered her call. I read some of those tweets. Girls being groped on public transport at ages as young as nine and ten. For a million women to have been sexually assaulted, there have to have been a fair number of perpetrators. One man alone does not manage that many assaults.

I’ve been pleased to see athletes come out saying the sort of talk Trump claims is “locker room banter” is actually not what constitutes locker room banter in their experience. We need more men to stand up and be counted. To denounce Trump’s behaviour.

When I was young, forty years ago, I believed the genders were equal. It never occurred to me there were men like Trump or the pastor in existence. Then again, I am still stunned over Abbott and his “when they are doing the ironing” nonsense. My initial awakening came during my first management tenure. My female staff asked if they could wear tailored trousers to work. I saw absolutely no reason why not, yet the human resources department ruled only if the women wore a trouser SUIT. Back then, trouser suits were inordinately expensive. It was economically unrealistic to expect my staff to buy trouser suits. I saw nothing wrong with tailored trousers and a nice shirt or (as it was winter) a nice jumper. At the time male staff DID NOT have to wear suits unless they were management. Yes, I won the battle, but the fact the battle even had to be fought opened my eyes a little.

Some time later, at a business women’s networking lunch, a speaker outlined how not so many years before, women had been required to give up work once they married. How had I got to adulthood without knowing any of this stuff, I wondered.

Here we are forty years later and we have a predator running for the most powerful position in the world (some other world leaders might of course dispute the most powerful bit). We have people spouting the Bible and others (or many of the same) wanting women to lose the vote.

This is 2016 – or did I get caught in a time warp?

There is absolutely NO justification in 2016 for Trump’s behaviour. The is absolutely NO justification in 2016 for gender inequality.

In case it has escaped the notice of some members of the male gender, you are only on this planet because a FEMALE gave birth to you. Carried you and protected you in her body for nine months. Fed you from her breasts. How DARE you, those of you who are so inclined, demand that women be second class citizens? How dare you support Trump’s (and those like him) treatment of women? The women who support such nonsense: I have no words at all for you.

Having read as much as I have read over the past few days, I consider myself lucky. I have never been subjected to sexual abuse or assault. The closest I ever came was when I was propositioned by the CEO of the company I worked for many years ago. He assured me he and his wife had an open marriage. I told him I’d believe that when his wife told me, but the answer would still be thanks, but no thanks, I wasn’t interested. I did advise him I did not expect to be fired on Monday for refusing. I wasn’t. End of story. Not all female members of my extended family have been so lucky. While I have seen their pain and know it is real, while I have witnessed the health and psychological aftermath, I can’t feel it myself.

All I can do is say Trump is not a man. A real man doesn’t need to grab women’s parts uninvited. What, I wonder, is the underlying inadequacy of this individual that fuels his behaviour? What then leads him to try to incriminate all other men? His son got in on the act saying it was typical of alpha males. He thinks his father is an alpha male? Heaven forbid! Even his suits fit badly.

New York Magazine has a very informative and detailed article about this, but the take-home message is that before the 1960s there were barely any examples of humans being described as alpha males, the term was restricted to fields like primatology research. Species like chimps and gorillas do have social structures and hierarchies with a dominant individual at the top, typically a male who has achieved that positon via displays of strength and physical prowess. The fact that alpha males exist isn’t disputed, it’s whether humans can actually be such a thing.

Source: The Guardian

An alpha male in the primate world is the pack leader – and pack leaders don’t get that position easily, they have to prove their worth. As leaders and protectors.

Trump refuses to protect 50% of the population, believing that 50% are there for his personal gratification and pleasure.

There are many wonderful men in this world: men who treat women with respect and as equals. May those men flourish and prosper and raise their sons in their image and raise their daughters to have no qualms about placing a knee strategically and forcefully when required.

Don’t anyone come bleating to me about how Islam treats women while the western world even considers making Trump POTUS.

A final word to Dear Pastor Dave. Dave, in all of my life there has been only one man that I ever felt like submitting to and I still have no explanation for that. However, don’t confuse the often inexplicable dynamics of personal relationships on the one hand and how a healthy society should function on the other hand. Oh, and if Hillary wins? Well, I guess your Lord passed judgement.

Edited to Add: I have recalled another incident when I was 15. After my parents passed, I was in a foster home. I asked my foster father to cash a cheque for me. It was a Saturday, before ATMs. He suggested if I sat on the bed with him, he’d give me the money and I didn’t need to give him the cheque. I declined and moved out about a week later. The executor of my father’s will sent me to a psychologist as he didn’t believe me. I still consider myself fortunate – neither incidents involved physical contact of any sort.

Weighing up the Welfare Card

By Kathryn Wilkes

For anyone who has always been a law-abiding citizen, who was a very hard worker for many years and who has slogged it out “alone” to raise a teenage daughter, the welfare debit card feels like the lowest insult to their sense of personhood and belonging within our lovely country.

Like many, I did not ask to be on Income Support payments. A work injury and then other health issues meant I simply could not return to work, despite repeated attempts.

A system which (at that time) did not cover any other supports had me placed onto a “grandfathered” Disability Support Pension.

Told to make do on the DSP, I was initially given to believe that my poor health did not make me a lesser person.

I was permitted to supplement the DSP with smallish self-employment projects. I did not feel judged for doing so. It was once policy to let pensioners “have a go”. I managed until worsening health got in the way. I felt proud of my efforts. At least I had tried to make it.

The DSP “safety net” was intended to be enough to get by.

At the same time, I was raising my daughter and trying to also provide care for my extremely ill mother until her passing.

Today, it feels like everyone like me will be branded by their use of the welfare card. Members of the general public will see it and know that I am on Centrelink payment. Although my illness is not always visible, I will now have strangers judging me. They may even be looking at what food I am buying, what items I am buying with “their tax dollars”.

(How would it make you feel to be exposed to judgements like “You shouldn’t be allowed to buy that with MY Tax Dollars” at the community supermarket? We “bludgers” must grow thick skins, but this is so invasive!)

It makes me question what my life is for. What is the point? If the Coalition Federal Government gets away with this policy, almost every aspect of my life will be scrutinised and every financial decision will be publicly monitored or judged.

Card recipients may need permission just to pay individual bills. My entire financial and private life will be shared with partner organisations connected to the company operating the card, Indue. That’s everything: my money, my health (me!) sold out to some data collection agency.

This sounds like something straight out of 1984, but for nearly 5 million people on any payment between the age of 16-64 this craziness could become reality. It is a reality I don’t want for me, nor my daughter, nor for the majority of others in this country.

Tell me why my daughter should automatically be deemed unable to manage money, why she should be restricted as to where she can buy things? She is not incompetent simply because she is the child of a pensioner!

I survive and have survived by being able to buy secondhand goods. I use the freedom to choose where I shop to get the most out of every dollar possible.

My fixed income does not allow for emergencies or sudden costs.

When the car died, there was no magic pot of savings to delve into. Finance and credit are not an option for me. I tried to borrow money from the ex to replace the car. This loan further burdened an already very strained situation.

The welfare debit card will not provide me with sufficient cash to repay any such loan. Private debts are not considered when involved with financial matters.

The welfare card will make me feel like I am now a lesser person, unequal to the working guy next door or my other neighbour, a self-funded retiree that owns investment property.

Thanks to a victim-blaming media, “welfare bludgers” like me already live with challenging levels of stigma. People have no idea of how the Centrelink system works, the tight regulations and pressures of this impoverished life cycle. Yet all feel entitled to make critical assumptions.

The media have painted a picture of people milking the system and living it up.

This is very remote from the reality of 800,000 people on DSP, who at this time are frightened of being cut off and placed onto Newstart.

As for the poor buggers losing their jobs and trying to survive on Newstart, nearly 3 million are now looking and fighting for work. Any that cannot get more than a few hours a week are treated as “bludgers”.

Sole parents trying to raise the next generation all feel the boot being stuck in. The government’s latest insult, the “welfare card” will crush us.

I don’t do drugs, never have and never will. I don’t even like prescribed medicines. I have consumed just one single alcoholic drink, just the once, in 7 years. I rarely buy a lotto ticket. Given the 14 day gap until there is any income again, I must use every dollar carefully.

Yet, I must still be condemned and processed like any chronic addict with proven money management issues.

Our dreams fade too. I once hoped to be able to save enough to be able to take my daughter to meet my relatives in the UK before they die, and for her to see where I grew up. (Recent travel restrictions on DSP recipients mean they are only allowed outside the country for 28 days).

Were there no loan to repay, were there enough for bills, were there ways to save, were lottery tickets afforded and were miracles to occur: any proper journey back to explore my birthplace would remain outside the rules.

The card does not allow for even some types of basic domestic travel. Whenever it is necessary to drive to a city hospital, you can’t even pay the hospital parking with the card. Overnight hotel or motel accommodation nearby is also vetoed. So much for the “Healthy” card spin.

Folk on DSP did not commit a crime.

Dependence on DSP instantly stopped my life, it put an end to home ownership. Without enough income to maintain the mortgage payments, I also lost the house once I had to rely solely on DSP. Isn’t that huge loss punishment enough?

Goals are replaced with lost confidence. There is no living it up on Centrelink.

I am left with a life of isolation. The collapse of my health would have been restriction enough, but strong friendships founder and invitations dry up faster when you cannot afford to reciprocate hospitality or participate in events.

An impoverished environment and lifestyle is already riven with instability and trauma. This welfare card imposes further controls over my life that could cause extra stress.

Relinquishing this last bit of self-determination seems too much. What is the price of personhood?

I prefer to make decisions for myself and don’t want a random private company taking over that slender safety net and telling me how and where I can use it. While it will be detrimental to my financial and mental health; their shareholders will profit through my struggle and further loss of self worth.

Purchasing newish or hardly used items at markets, garage sales and op shops helps me afford basic essentials for my daughter. I once found her a pair of unworn Converse sneakers for $5 at a garage sale. The card would eliminate this sort of saving.

The Welfare Card only gives you the choice of relatively expensive retail shopping. New appliances are now way beyond budget.

The card would stop me from being able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at markets, but permit trips to McDonalds. (“Healthy”? Really?)

I feel that at nearly 50 years of age, my worth as a citizen is being thrown to the gutter. We are no longer viable, as we are not big “Income Tax” payers. We don’t generate enough profit for others. So they re-engineer the “free” market and take away freedom of choice.

When the boss says, “Sorry we have no more work for you”, aversive and dehumanising policies from Centrelink will not get us back in the game.

When work dries up, you are shifted from “valued” to “burden”. Within hours, the very low “safety net” begins to separate you from your hard earned savings and assets, reducing you to a stressed out mess and dumps you into poverty.

Redefined as a bludger/rorter/lazy, you find yourself being attacked by media and people you don’t know. They don’t know how hard you have worked, what you achieved, (buying a house, owning a car, being able to pay bills as they came in. Remember shopping when you want? Going out with family and friends to socialise?)

It all disappears as you struggle to re-organize your life, desperately trying to keep that house or pay the rent to keep a roof over your head.

Once unemployed, life as a person knows it is gone. Naturally, people try to get another job, albeit with lowered self esteem. Further dignity may be stripped from you as a job agency treats you as “waste of space loser who wants to sponge off the system”.

Yesterday you had a job, a future, friends, dreams for the future.

Today you are branded a “waster”, no longer valued, and you must join the 3 million other people struggling to survive the brutal punitive system that has sprung up around us to make profits for private business whose CEOs and managements are living well, while their “clients are starving and becoming homeless “and generally struggling not to drown in the inequality of the modern world”.

Where is our nation’s humanity and compassion when human worth is reduced to dollar productivity?

Where are the politicians standing up for the rights of all? Where are your MPs and Senators standing up for the rights of the 5 Million on every Centrelink payment aged 16-64? I know in my electorate not one of our members actually stands up for me and everyone like me? Why not, is it not the duty of our members of parliament to actually stand up for the people, all of the people, not just the “income tax payers” of this country.  We all pay our taxes and our dues too.

Last but not least, I do know people out there that may be in need of such a card, or a service, those that either volunteer or are referred through a court order etc, as in the cases for children at risk.

One is not blind to the devastation, poverty, alcoholism and addictions can cause havoc within poor families.

However, disempowering a person and thrusting their family into still more stressful situations, is not the way to fix all their problems.

Solving complex addiction and social problems requires expert professionals, compassionate caring supports, investment in the appropriate facilities, drug rehabs and properly funded support services. Many of the best support services have had their funding cut or been closed down by this Government.

Real investment in people is required. No mere card can suddenly cure addicts in a “one size fits all” or cookie cutter approach. Paternalism should have limits.

We are not all “one size fits all” and neither should this card be!

Kathryn Wilkes is a progressive humanist who has joined the Anti Poverty Network campaign against the Basics Card and Welfare Debit Card in the past 12 months. Her work follows on the 5 year campaign against the Basics Card by the SA Anti Poverty Network. She convenes related groups on Facebook (Say No to Cashless Welfare and We Don’t Need Income Management) and is a committee member for the March Australia Activists Exchange. She is based in Hervey Bay.

Between a rock and a judgemental place

Today is Equal Pay Day. This event was celebrated yesterday by former Liberal PM John Howard’s observation that women won’t ever achieve equal representation in parliament because women stay at home with children. Thanks Johnny!

The fact is, modern mothers (as opposed to Howard’s 1950’s view of the world) are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to navigating the daily compromise between motherhood and paid employment. The problem is, there is no right answer in our society, because society doesn’t know what on earth they want us to do.

There is so much pressure on women to uphold the ideals of feminism, where our education, our careers, our professional achievements are equally important to us (and the family income!) as our male counterparts. But, when motherhood comes along, as it did for me a year ago, there is just as much pressure, if not more from some quarters, for mothers to put our own needs and wants aside and to focus solely on caregiving to children.

The problem is, this predicament ignores the fundamental realities of the constant tug-of-war between what a mother wants for herself and what society expects of her. An obvious one is that each mother wants different things. Take, for instance, that I would prefer to work than stay home with my child. Even writing that sentence, I can feel the hot eyes of judgement from the keyboard warriors yelling at me ‘YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE HAD CHILDREN IF YOU DON’T WANT TO STAY HOME TO LOOK AFTER THEM!!!’ My daughter loves childcare and I couldn’t be happier with the level of care she receives. Thanks for asking.

For many people, wants are beside the point. Sometimes, financially, there is no decision because mother has to work to pay the mortgage, the rent, to put food on the table and to give the family the standard of living she chooses. So we’re stuck between judgements from society about what makes a ‘good mother’ and what makes a ‘good worker’ or ‘good provider’. It is no wonder this situation puts so much pressure on mothers, right at a time in our lives when we’re vulnerable, tired and frankly just don’t need any more crap.

The four big picture decisions in the motherhood and career game, which each family must make work for their circumstances are: 1) mother* leaves or stays out of paid employment while raising children, 2) mother works in paid employment even though she would prefer to stay home because her family needs her income, 3) mother works in paid employment even though she can afford to stay home; she chooses to work because she enjoys it 4) mother works in paid employment because she has to and because she wants to (the category, by the way, I fall into). *The vast majority of parents who stay home to care for children are mothers.

Let’s just get one thing straight and confirm that all four categories of woman are full time mothers and all four are working. Mothers who stay home work incredibly hard. On the flipside, just because a woman is in paid employment, doesn’t mean she isn’t a mother when her child is being cared for by someone else; whether at childcare, kindergarten, or in that messy 90 minute period between the end of the school day and the end of an eight hour work day.

A friend of a friend toured their local primary school and asked about after-school care facilities. The tour-guiding-principal responded ‘we offer after-school care, but we don’t recommend it for the little kids in reception and year one – they’re a bit young to be at school for so long’. Well-meaning or not, this comment is eye-roll-inducing judgemental. What the women on the tour in categories 2, 3 and 4 heard, who low-and-behold probably don’t have the flexibility to leave work in the middle of the afternoon, who already leave work earlier than they would like to, who race to pick up their children so they can get home in a reasonable time for dinner, is that they are bad mothers for expecting their children to be stuck in after-school-care while they selfishly work until 5pm.

So here we have a perfect example of how women can’t win and how the guilt-police get us either way. We are expected to live up to society’s expectation that we work just as hard as men at earning a living, contributing to the economy, being productive members of society in both a paid and unpaid capacity, and living up to our own measures of career success, while also being available as mothers. There is an expectation, a judgement made, that good mothers pick their children up directly after school, help with reading in the classroom and volunteer at the tuck-shop. In the case of working mothers like me with younger children, we are told by psychologists like Steve Biddulph that child care is bad for children or scientists tell us childcare causes respiratory illness, obesity, aggression and hyperactivity. Thanks for the helpful advice! Then there’s the everyday garden variety of unhelpful labels such as ‘full time mother’ to describe stay at home mothers, as if mothers in paid employment are only part-time parents. And of course stay at home mothers get judged for not ‘working’, when every mother knows how hard work it is looking after children at home.

So back to my idea about there being no single best-fit for every family. All the mothers of small children want and need something slightly different in their tailored career and motherhood mix. We all build a patchwork of support and compromise to make our choices happen. That often means putting careers on hold for a period, or paying a huge amount for childcare or a nanny, or calling on the help of grandparents, finding a more flexible or part time job and sometimes fathers making career sacrifices too. But society seems hell-bent on making us guilty for whatever choice we make. So we should ignore judgey mc-judgey society. The phrase ‘happy wife, happy life’ might seem trite, but instead we can extend it to ‘happy mother, happy family’. It’s hard enough being stuck between the rock of motherhood and the hard place of a career, but it’s even harder when you’re being judged for it. Whatever choice you make, bringing up small children is hard work; there is constant compromise, exhaustion and stress on both parents, along with a lot of joy which thankfully makes it all worthwhile. So we should be proud of our choices, and then get on with our lives, without looking back over our shoulder to check what everyone else judges as ok.

I won’t leave it there. Because it’s also up to all of us to stop judging other people’s parenting choices. We all know the judgers are just reaffirming their own decisions. It’s unnecessary. Be secure in your own choice, and accept that everything else is none of your business.

And one last comment to society as a whole; please work out what you want mothers to do and then make it a little easier to do that. If you want mothers to work, deliver childcare which is accessible, affordable and high quality. And schools have to stop expecting us to down-tools to pick up children at 3:30pm. Surely a highly productive, smart, innovative and agile society can sort this stuff out for everyone’s benefit.

Enough with the judging, Clementine

My favourite feminist, Clementine Ford, wrote this week about her experiences giving birth to her first child. I’m sorry to have to admit I was deeply disappointed with the way she framed her birthing decisions, and the sanctimonious judgement and culture of expert-doctor-mistrust which makes these decisions for all women, more difficult.

It’s worth describing my own experiences in this area. I am a twin and was born via caesarean, which is the safest way to deliver twins. When I gave birth to my daughter just over a year ago, I went into labour two and a half weeks early and, with the help of the blessed relief of an epidural, delivered my daughter after 16 hours of labour. My twin sister had her first baby 10 weeks before I gave birth. She was induced two days after her due date, and after 12 hours in labour, her obstetrician judged that the labour wasn’t progressing because her son’s head was too big to pass through her birth canal. So she was rushed into the operating suite and had an emergency caesarean. It did occur to us all that my sister and her baby would likely have contributed to the huge statistics of maternal and infant mortality had they been in the same circumstances 100 years ago. But of course, my twin sister and I might not have been alive ourselves had we not been born via caesarean 35 years ago. So all in all, the wonders of modern medicine get a big round of applause in our family.

What really upset me about Clementine’s description of her decision to reject an obstetrician’s advice to be induced soon after her due date, and instead to go into hospital on her own terms 36 hours after her water broke at 43 weeks, is that she is upholding a cultural expectation through her public telling of this story, that there is something wrong with ‘giving in’ to the advice of doctors. And that anything other than a natural birth is a failure.

To put it frankly, it is incredibly dangerous to have a child at 43 weeks. As an obstetrician commented below Clementine’s post, much more calmly than I feel able, the statistics, the science, is clear about this risk. One in 300 babies born at 43 weeks (3 weeks after their due date) are stillborn. So when a doctor advises that a woman who has seen her due date come and go consider an induction, it’s not because the doctor is trying to take away the woman’s right to choose the circumstances of her birth, it’s not because the doctor is trying to dictate the terms of the birth in order to advantage the doctor in some way, it’s not because they want to bully the woman by using words like ‘stillborn’ or force the woman to not have the natural birth experience they dreamed of having. The doctor advises an induction to minimise the risk of the baby not surviving. The doctor is doing their job to deliver a baby safely. This job, to again be blunt, is far more important than looking after the feelings of the mother. Full stop.

I find it hard to believe women in modern society, where we have so much scientific advantage over previous generations, who played Russian roulette during childbirth, aren’t more grateful for the advice and assistance they get from doctors. In fact, rather than be grateful, many women seem to instead mistrust the doctor’s advice and claim they, as the intuitive mother, know best. The anti-vax movement is caused by this exact same phenomena. Mother knows best. Intuition and ‘feels’, and an obsession with exerting full control over every medical decision, ahead of expert provided medical fact.

So back to cultural expectations. Why did Clementine choose not to be induced? Is it because she judges a natural birth as superior? Is it because she judges a woman who gives birth naturally to have done a better job of the birthing process? I find it hard to see anything else in her words, which are imbued with a sense of self-righteous post-justification of her decisions, and martyrdom in claiming to have waited for things to occur naturally, even if that made her difficult wait longer and harder.

The thing is, I’ve seen this attitude so many times before. I’ve seen the way society looks disappointed when mothers tell the story of ‘giving in’ to an emergency caesarean, or being embarrassed to admit they elected to have a caesarean because it was the safest way for them to give birth. I’ve heard about the birth plans that women make, to do it all naturally, to be at home, in water, and to not take drugs, which, whether they mean to or not, are automatic judgements of ‘weak’ women who have gone before them and had every drug the hospital offered to get rid of that god-damn-pain thank you very much. I remember the women in my pregnancy aqua-aerobics class who proudly announced they’d achieved their goal of a VBAC – a vaginal birth after caesarean. So they had to ‘give in’ the first time, but the second time, they did it naturally, and that apparently earns them even more bragging points than a natural attempt first time round.

This behaviour by mothers is the Mobius-loop of society judging mothers. Clementine’s piece surely wasn’t meant to judge, but it backs up the judgement, a judgement which in turn makes it hard for women to make smart, expert-informed decisions about the safest way to deliver their child.

The thing is, this judgement around childbirth is just the start of a judging journey for mothers which continues into every facet of parenthood. This judgement, the expectations of perfection in all things parenting, the ‘right’ way to do things, has a negative impact on a new mother’s confidence, security, faith in her own decisions, and her overall mental health at a time in her life when she is particularly vulnerable. From the breast-is-best breastfeeding brigade, to the organic foods only army, to cloth nappies versus disposable, to unpasteurized milk, to whether you choose childcare and a job over mother-of-earth stay-at-home sanctimonious ‘mamma bear’. Choose the wrong decision and the judgers’ judge you to have failed.

There is already enough judgement out there thanks Clementine, and I’m so disappointed you’ve added to it from your privileged position of popular feminist commentator. I wish you the best of luck with motherhood, which, as I’m finding after a year is so much more than the challenges of labour. All I ask of society is to celebrate childbirth, however it happens, and to minimise the risk of things going horribly wrong. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, is it?

Asian Australians need to unite and support the Safe Schools Program

By Erin Chew

Recently a petition was distributed, signed and tabled on behalf of various Asian community groups in NSW. According to media reports it was coordinated by the Chinese Australian community. The petition was urging the NSW State Government to scrap a program called the “Safe Schools Program”, which aims to support schools who, in community consultation, choose to make their school a safer, more inclusive space for all students. It teaches values that are core to all cultures, like respect and acceptance for all students, including LGBTIQ students.

This is an anti-bullying program that skills teachers to help students to understand what it feels like to be in another person’s shoes, experiencing discrimination. This program teaches techniques to minimise discrimination, improve students’ resilience and learn respect for each other. Currently the Safe Schools Program has been welcomed in over 500 schools all across Australia. The results from teachers, school psychologists and mental health professionals have provided solid evidence that this program produces healthy, positive results for the wellbeing of all students. In many cases, this program has been life-saving, especially in suicide prevention. While continuous, regular reviewing of all school programs is welcomed, no professional research has ever stated that the program be stopped or be defunded.

It’s odd that there are Asian Australian communities so hell bent against this anti-bullying program considering it is our moral imperative to ensure a more just Australia that celebrates differences and promotes a culture of diversity and inclusivity.

The Safe Schools Program is there to support all Australian students no matter what backgrounds they may come from or any other aspects of their identity. Homophobia and transphobia is as damaging as any other prejudicial attacks. When fear of difference is allowed to continue, all forms of phobia flourish, including racism and xenophobia. This is not what the Asian Australian community who has worked so hard to fight against injustice and discrimination wants. Racism, bullying, transphobia, are all based on the same ignorant attitudes and prejudices as each other.

Unchecked racism affects all Australians regardless of background, just as unchecked homophobic bullying affects all Australians. Many Australians have keenly experienced incidences of discrimination based on race. This discrimination shares the same roots of cultural misunderstanding, pressures to conform to institutional violence, ignorance and intolerance. Discrimination in any form leads to poor health outcomes, low productivity and social disenfranchisement.

The scare-campaign petition being tabled in the NSW Parliament in the name of the entire Chinese Australian community is outrageously presumptuous and does not represent the broader Asian community. Recent reports have unfortunately mislabelled the entire Chinese Australian community as being opposed to the Safe Schools Program. This reporting is inaccurate and false propaganda by individuals whose only wish is to incite fear and tear communities apart.

Erin Chew is Convener of the Asian Australian Alliance, and Asian Australian Alliance Women’s Forum.