Treasury released their Measuring What Matters framework Friday morning with press release and interviews, buzzwords and smiling photos. I admit to having bad feelings towards the word wellbeing. It’s so often used along with things like self-care to put personal responsibility front and centre of your ills, and that your own failings and failure to address them in an acceptable way are why you continue to suffer. The wellness industry is designed to make healthy people that little bit healthier, and the neoliberal economy of hours to for people to make more (money usually) with what they already have.
Stats are great, I love a good statistic that shows whether there’s any measurable change over time in something. The government already has many statistics at its fingers. from job numbers, to how many children are living in poverty, to food waste, to koalas numbers and more.
(not that they care to include poverty or child poverty as wellbeing measures)
They have committees and qualitative research. They the Closing the Gap reports for Indigenous people that are announced and seem to change very little. They have ignored stark recommendations from royal commissions, from committees they commissioned themselves with their preferred contributors. They have us writing letters and sharing our stories every day. But the people on the ground are disappointed and don’t really feel like another way of looking at things will offer any change on the ground.
How’s the wellbeing is going in relation to the “five key wellbeing themes”?
- Healthy: A society in which people feel well and are in good physical and mental health, can access services when they need, and have the information they require to take action to improve their health.
“Feel Well” gotta love the nerfing of it already. Not be well, don’t be sick, don’t have longterm chronic pain that they can’t get medication for. But then, if you could get the medications best suited to your pain you may actually get to feel well. Let’s do that! Drugs for the masses! At least then it’s a bearable existence, masking the existential dread and foreboding planetary death from climate change. What? The planet will still be here but humans will get wiped out? even better, We suck. Let the orcas take over.
Good physical and mental health: My friends over on JobSeeker are eating one meal a day, getting scurvy, diabetes has spiked after repeated Covid infections. Nobody can get in to see a psych, and if they can there’s only 10 subsidised Medicare sessions now so you can only deal with things for an hour, once a month, ignoring school holidays. And don’t waste those sessions trying to get someone who fits and offers the sort of therapy that works for you. In and out. A dabble of CBT to dull the mild anxiety. Anything more, well that’s too complax, maybe you should access community or NDIS? lol nah. Not likely, and not without a costly diagnosis. I was saying the other day I just need a cool $10k so I can get the adults in my life long overdue ADHD/Autism assessments, because we all have some sort of spicy brain divergency, it’d just be nice to know what type and mix and whether there’s a chance very expensive stimulant medications might make us more productive members of society.
Have the information they need to improve their health: back once more on the individual to use their own choices to improve their health while government deliberately holds back the resources to do that in the name of austerity and continue to approve coal mines. But sure I can fix myself if I make the right choices. Personal responsibility….
- Secure: A society where people live peacefully, feel safe, have financial security and access to housing.
Apparently “live peacefully” means no peaceful protesting of the destruction of the planet. Be polite, don’t kick up a fuss, accept what Master says what is best for you. While Europe floods and burns simultaneously, we’re locking up people for disrupting traffic. While governments talk climate, they approve more coal mines and still don’t find a good way to tax them to high heaven so if they’re going to raise the temperature another 2 degrees they could at lease pay for us to put in air conditioning.
Who has financial security? The go got their 19 Billion dollar buffer, so maybe it’s theirs that matters. There’s no guarantee of stable housing at the rental level, and even home owners – double incomes, kids or no kids, are stretching and stretching to make their mortgages, with the Great Australian Dream of home ownership passing many by. We have a central bank that states it want 1% more of the population to lose their jobs to stop inflation, but no word from the government from how those people are supposed to survive until they’re needed again, since the JobSeeker payment remains, by choice, below half the poverty line.
So the wanna be homeowners, the ones that in previous generations would be in their houses establishing life, and feeling settled, are still in the rental market. Rental properties are being hoarded, it’s not the people with the second house for retirement security we’re talking about here, it’s the multi-generational property hoarders, where Billy gets 10 houses by the time he’s finished uni on the back of Mum and Dad’s equity and the rent paid by tennants. They’re the ones raising the rents and colluding with the property managers to keep the game running. They’re the ones, along with the investment funds, calling in towards the end of the auction to outbid the young professional couple with a baby on the way.
Public housing is an endangered commodity, being demolished around the country as we speak, being replaced to social and affordable housing, being privatised, but made into something for someone else to profit off. Housing waiting lists are a decade long, and emergency accommodation is capped. Again, people are left to fend for themselves, off the gerousity of others, from family and friends, leaving those who are disconnected and isolated already with nowhere to to and those others stressed about outstaying their welcome.
My grandparents were given a fishing shack across the creek from where I live now by family when they got married because they had nothing. But from there they were able to raise a family and live a stable life there. My mother was able to save a deposit for a house before she got married and she and Dad paid that off. But my generation is a generation of renters and the next generation is one of couch surfers.
- Sustainable: A society that sustainably uses natural and financial resources, protects and repairs the environment and builds resilience to combat challenges.
“Sustainable” you say? This is again where the governments say they can’t raise welfare because they need to have money for the future. This is where climate policy gets muddled once more with the financial outlays of equipping people to deal with the now inevitable climate-related disasters. Where politicians can promise more fire trucks while approving more coal mines and say they have a balance. Where they can encourage and financially incentivise homeowners to switch from gas to electricity and solar, while leaving public housing uninsulated and reliant on grid power.
Sustainable for me is budgeting my spoons for the day the week or the month. Where I budget how I can with the money I get from the DSP, to make sure I pay my regular bills, to make sure while my balance may be zero on pension eve, it hopefully doesn’t get overdrawn, and I can start the next fortnight afresh. Resilience for me is getting my morning chores done so I can be free to help others with the rest of my day. Sustainable is what they want from the NDIS, and that gets sustained by them not approving or being difficult about plans, discouraging people from applying or asking for what they need, and having others pick up the gaps. Sustained by the labours of love others can provide, and if you don’t have those supports you go back to missing out.
- Cohesive: A society that supports connections with family, friends and the community, values diversity, and promotes belonging and culture.
Cohesion. Getting along. Mateship? Inclusion, acceptance, tolerance. Throw some more words in there, but hopefully we’re honouring people’s cultures and individuality, but also not letting an obsessive minority run wild, endagering the safety of others. Extremisim in all its forms in a danger and the sensible centre needs to use caution about how much both-sidesing they allow, especially when one side merely believes the other side are less than human and need to be eliminated. TERFs and Nazis, Islamists and Christianist, Zionists and Nationalists have found their little niche of identify built on their own feelings of superiority and need to claim that right at all costs.
Media needs to be aware of their role in platforming hate speech or unscientific arguments that put feelings ahead of rights. Publications need to recall the sub editors and fact checkers from the cull and put them to work ensuring that what they are scaring the public this week is actually accurate and not just repeating rumours and hate. They need to check the backgrounds of who they’re getting quote from, and remember that having Dr or Professor as their title doesn’t mean any expertise in the field being discussed.
The party that promised that the lions will eat the faces of those you fear with not hesitate to et them on you when you outlive your usefulness – queer people aligning themselves with anti-trans hate groups shouldn’t be surprised when their hard fought rights are struck down next and they are not longer loved by the right.
- Prosperous: A society that has a dynamic, strong economy, invests in people’s skills and education, and provides broad opportunities for employment and well-paid, secure jobs.
Prosperity gospel is something that was talked about a lot in the dying days of the Morrison government. While the Pentecostal types have their own ways of profiting from it, the notions that acquiring wealth and property as a moral good seems to permeate the landlord class of Australia. The rest of us are filthy renters, welfare cheats and ne’er do-wells. We may be worthy of the charity of welfare if we come on hard times, or we may not be if we’re Dole Bludgers or Welfare Queens. We are assumed to be cheating the system and bending or breaking the rules because politicians do it all the time so why wouldn’t we? Sure, break the rules to get your sub-poverty dole check, I’ve said it before I don’t care if Gina Reinhardt’s latest boy toy gets JobSeeker, so long as someone who is a payment away from starving or losing their kids and house doesn’t get cutoff because of a quirk in the system, Services Australia not answering the phone or a job Provider who is trigger happy on the suspension of payments. You can’t prosper when you can’t afford to survive. You can’t thrive when you’re looking over your shoulder.
You also can’t take advantage of any of the “opportunities” that come up to study at TAFE for free if your payment doesn’t cover your rent and food, and your job provider is pushing you to apply for work that isn’t compatible with your timetable. People drop out every day because they need to take on a shift and can’t attend enough uni to graduate. They still end up with unpayable HECS debts that go up by more than people can repay even when they do have a steady graduate job. There’s no rooms for special intests or diabilities, or learning that your own pace. You can’t participate in a way that works for you, that is sustainable for you, the computer will say no.
Do I look like I’m despairing for the future? Well I am, but also for the present. It’s my birthday today, and while I’m getting too old for it to be a thing, it’s always a good time to reflect. I’m okay with my day to day life, I love helping my friends and my family, looking after myself and my partner, pottering around with my dog in the morning, I just wish and hope to help push for the government to do more to help everyone, and to not makes things worse.
You have all your numbers, your recommendations, your experts and your committees. They all point to investing more in your people directly, by Raising the Rate of welfare, but building more public housing, by letting people get on their days because you know what, most people know what they are good at and what works for them? We want government support because you have to money to help us, and the responsibility to ensure your citizens survive and thrive.
People want to feel like they matter. “No-one left behind” is YOUR slogan Jim. You all seemed so promising from opposition, well you at least you said the right things. People matter, no corporations. Voter, not donors. Please listen to us.