Shedding this Well-meaning White Woman Persona

7 white women in formal wear

Mother knows best, they say. But sometimes mother takes too much time considering Father’s feelings and need for things to remain the same forever and bites her tongue at the key moment to keep the peace, and nothing changes, or, it gets worse.

Why yes, I am a well-meaning white woman. And *gasp* I used to be a lady who lunched, flying to different capital cities, but mostly Melbourne, to discuss the future of that well know white woman profession, Speech Pathology. (I was ACT Branch president of Speech Pathology Australia for 4 years, and there were many white woman lunches). I’m white, university educated and if I didn’t have all this anxiety I’d probably exude a little more authority on topics I may speak on, even if I speak over someone with better ideas and more experience. But does this actually help the situation? Do we achieve the incremental change that was probably coming anyway, thank the bread givers for the crumbs and wait for the next convenient time to ask for a little more? Or do we push harder, and make people uncomfortable, and make them question their priorities. Is my priority the seat at the table or making sure there’s more diversity at the table, or is it flipping the kitchen table and finding a new way to have this conversation?

Well meaning student speech pathologists

Well-meaning white women are well skilled in trying to achieve what is important FOR the people they advocate for. I’ll go back to speech pathology because it’s where I’ve been for an example. It’s important that Grandad doesn’t aspirate on liquids after his stroke right, because this might lead to a chest infection and aspiration pneumonia can lead to death. So it’s important FOR Grandpa that, since there’s evidence he aspirates on his beer with his mates (some goes into his lungs rather than being swallowed cleanly), he is advised that he mustn’t drink beer any more, or perhaps have it thickened to a safer consistency. Grandpa smiles and nods at the young lady offering this advice and thickener samples, but then has a beer anyway, dealing with the coughing and the risk this yeasty treat might cause him.

But what’s important TO Grandpa here is the ritual of having his beer. It’s being able to have that normality after other aspects of his life have been taken away from him after the stroke. He may not have his license any more so has lost that independence, or he takes his other beverages thickened when at home – his wife thickens his tea and he reluctantly sips from a thickened bottle of cordial to stay hydrated in summer. But he knows the risks he takes, he’s read the brochures from the health service, he’s discussed it with his wife. So there’s duty of care and dignity of risk.

Another classic well meaning white woman is the child protection worker, who of course has a myriad of factors to take into account for a child’s safety, but may not consider that cultural safety is just as important as not being exposed to certain dangers. It’s a fine line that the well-meaning white woman walks, with policies and procedures, her own experiences and ideas of what’s right, and the threats to the status quo of trying things a different way. I don’t envy those roles, I probably could work in them and then find myself burnt out so fast from trying to just get it right.

But it’s when there’s not an imminent danger when the well-meaning white woman’s reluctance to ask for, or to DEMAND more, from those running the show or holding the purse strings needs to be examined, picked apart and thrown out. She needs to be willing to stop playing nice, stop upholding her place at the table, stop being so deferent and polite about it all. You need to start pulling your support when they just keep pretending to listen to you but then give nothing.

Lidia Thorpe at the Midwinter Ball

I’m referring here to all the committees and consultations that have come and gone over the first two years of Labor in the disability and welfare spheres. The Voice referendum and how quickly nothing came of that once the no vote was clear. How Lidia Thorpe and other Blak women who pointed out the obvious flaws of the Voice as it stood were thrown under the bus to keep things nice within their parties and organisations. How the Economic Inclusion Committee, run by well meaning white woman Jenny Macklin, put their evidence based arguments for significant increases to welfare to the Labor party that neat two weeks before budgets TWICE, in order to there be nothing done, and for ACOSS and other saying Thank you for $20 here and there, and more money for Commonwealth Rent Assistance that just pushes rents along their merry way and doesn’t achieve change in the lives of people who don’t have a roof over their head or if they do can’t afford the other necessities in life.

How you can have another post-budget lunch with the treasurer and listen to his spiel on “responsible” measures that don’t impact inflation, but don’t impact anything else really. Jim Chalmers refers to the conversations Australian families are having around their kitchen tables, about what he thinks they are talking about anyway. If you have a kitchen table, what are your conversations about? The people who are left behind are still left behind, and fall even further behind if you don’t even let them catch up.

Julian Hill was in my dreams last night, I was remembering before the start of the most recent Workforce Australia enquiry he had a video call with some of use from AUWU and the Antipoverty Centre, telling us how much he looked forward to our input and how much he valued our lived experience. And then he proceeded to reaffirm the myth of the dole bludger and the value of work for the dole at any chance he got. And what did we get from that? More reassurance that better things aren’t possible and that the status quo must be maintained. And there’s still silence on what the government will do about the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People With Disability. So we see more puff pieces about scented candles being made for sub-minimum wage while their employers make money off their labour and have expenses covered by the NDIS but crickets on raising the wages of disabled people to the same level as everyone else. They’re supposed to go to half the minimum wage this year and to minimum wage by 2034, in case you were wondering what was recommended.

So, while these little committees and organisations may look nice, if you’re not working to include the voices of “others” – those actually affected by the policies you make you crust discussing day in day out, to actually listen to them, to amplify them, to give them prominence about your own, are you actually going to achieve change, or are you working to maintain the status quo, to ensure your organisation keeps getting a seat at the big boys table, the funding grant, because you tell them what they want to hear and let them make the bare minimum change. You get your car lease renewed for another year, your seat in parliament, and they system keeps ticking along while nothing really changes and people continue to suffer.

Palestinians don’t have ten years for nice little motions that maintain the status quo, that uphold apartheid Israel. Homeless people are dying in the cold, but, sure, worry about how raising welfare to the poverty line might affect inflation (when your committees say it won’t) and continue to cosplay homelessness in CEO sleepouts in secure underground carparks, while you have the power to legislate meaningful, immediate change.

So, as a well meaning white woman, I need to step back and reflect on how I’m enabling the status quo by allowing other voices to be silenced because they don’t use the right words or have the right educational background. Am I just paying lip service to lived experience or am I amplifying the knowledge and strengths of people whose voice may not be so polite and tidy, but have the knowledge and the experience to express the need for real reform.

Even if you think you can say it better, stand back, give someone else a chance. They may very well be better than you. Isn’t that scary?

 

Happy EOFYS! (Don’t let the tax cuts overwhelm you on the way out)

You can’t have missed it. EVERY AUSTRALIAN TAXPAYER IS GETTING A TAX CUT. Well, anyone earning above the tax free threshold is. Anyone paying GST or excise other other taxes that disproportionally impact the poorer peeps only isn’t.

Apparently, recipients of the age pension, a disability support pension and carer payments will be able to earn more before their payments are reduced. Singles can now earn $212 a fortnight (previously $204) and couples can earn $372 (previously $360). Let’s ignore the face that those people are currently on sub-poverty level payments because they’re supposed to be caring for themselves or others full time and really shouldn’t have to go out to work for that elusive block of cheese. Aspirational cheese.

I’m still slightly bitter that the energy rebate is less, even though it was just stupid to begin with. Also jelly of those states going to elections getting extra from their state labor where GST splits have allowed it. My bill is only going up, and here I am hoping my stepson’s JobSeeker application gets approved before the next bill so we can use his backpay to pay that. Waiting time for Jobseeker is still about 12 weeks I hear, so it lines up.

I’ll be relieved when tomorrow comes and the mailing lists I’m signed up for for various organisations with charitable status will stop asking for end-of financial year contributions. Though I have shared this one for Southlakes, the local community support organisaion near me that’s run on the smell of an oily rag, feeding families each week after Centrelink refers them their way rather then government deigning it time to Raise the Rate above the poverty line.

$12 bag of expired food items from a foodbank

I’ve starting attending rental inspections for the step-kid and bub to mover back to Newcastle, there’s so little out there and so many families at each inspection. At least we all have housing, it’s not ideal but it’s shelter.

I’m tired, sore and disappointed. Happy Budget Hangover day

This but it’s May 2024:

A couple of days ago we heard that there was gonna be some sort of increase to the useless rent assistance payment in this budget. That turned out to be 10% from September 20’s next indexation, up to $9/week depending on how much you already get, if you’re one of people who can actually access it. If my rent goes up less than $10/week at the end of the year (if I’m lucky enough to get a renewed lease hey) I’ll be shocked. Shocked.

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5000 people on JobSeeker who have assessed work capacity of <15 hours (and by all rights should be on DSP if the rules for that weren’t so restrictive) will get a slightly higher rate of Jobseeker, like the over 55s who have been on Jobseeker for 9 months or more. I guess it’s their substitute for not having a sickness benefit – so Cancer patients can afford to pay for parking at the hospital for treatment or something.

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No actual JobSeeker or other welfare increases, despite the hopes and prayers of the community sector and the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee. Thoughts and prayers that I beg them to at least persist with for the next 12 months, because Labor can’t be re-electable without a plan to bring welfare payments to the poverty line in their 2025 election promises.

The $300 energy bill subsidy for all is less than pensioners and families got this financial year (you might be getting some extra in Qld or WA from their state labor governments going to elections this year), and won’t be felt by those who don’t need it and $50 less subsidy a quarter WILL be felt by me. So Yeah. Not impressed. Also, straight to the billing company, quarter by quarter no chance of using it in one hit to catch up or to use for something else. (or someone else if you want to spend your subsidies and tax cuts on Andrew Leigh’s dream of a doubled charity sector by 2030).

Medicines are being capped at their current top rates ($7.70 for pensioners, $31.60 for everyone else) for a few years. So that’ll mean getting less behind, something I yelled about them doing sooner, and yay they’ve done it. Which is great, cos I’ve been having health concerns, and having to pay upfront for the GP isn’t going anywhere for most of us as most GPs haven’t returned to bulk billing, and the average gap in $44 a session now. My scans and blood tests were bulk billed last week, but still need $76 upfront for an appointment for follow-up  so I’m going on Friday, pension day!

I’ll leave you with the darling Catherine Caine, brains behind Nobody Deserves Poverty, and her budget reaction from last night.

Love yas. xo

We’ll have our own committee #LeftBehindCommittee

With hookers and blackjack, because we don’t discriminate against sex workers and some of us are quite the card counters. I try to stick to gambling with virtual money, such as in Red Dead or GTA, as I’m sure I could fall down that addictive rabbit hold if I had the chance.

Oh, the Budget is coming up fast, 12 days to go!

Today, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union launched our response to the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, since it both won’t have any current welfare recipients on it nor be listened to by the government anyway. It’s called the “Left Behind Committee” and we’d love to have your submission about what it’s like to “live” off welfare in this country and what you’d like to see in the Budget and upcoming “announceables” since there’s an election in 12 months too.

Post your submission to Twitter with the hashtag #LeftBehindCommittee, or if you want to send something longer email it to media@auwu.org.au (with “Left Behind Committee” as the subject-line). The union is going to collate and print the submissions and take them to Canberra.

Greg Jericho posted a piece this morning calling the government out for not WANTING to Raise the Rate of jobseeker. For choosing to not fund it, for choosing to fund other things, because budgets are all about choices and it’s certainly a choice to have called for JobSeeker to remain above the poverty line post-covid supplement while you were the opposition but continue to think that celebrating the $20/wk raise last year for the lowest payments as having done your job and being enough to take you through the the next election? A twenty dollar a week increase that was absorbed before it even came in 6 months later. You honestly can’t believe that the average person believes that people are better off now than when you got into office?

The call for Jobseeker to be 90% of the pension is weak, but I was hoping you’d decide to do it, and then you’d be left alone by many for awhile. I mean it would make a HUGE difference to people’s lives, even if it’s still leaving everyone who relies of welfare as their main income below the poverty line. Yep, even pensioners and the like. Even most single parent pensioners even when you take into account their other family benefits and rent assistance, they’re still likely to be below the poverty line, and then their kid turns 14 they’re thrown onto Jobseeker again, a suddenly slashing of a family’s income.

As a disability pensioner, I lay low. I resent that aged pensioners got ore wiggle room with how much they can earn before their pension reduces, even though I’m not working currently myself. Giving people options to try to go into the workforce is one thing that being on DSP is meant to bring, without the hovering disability employment services telling you you’re doing it wrong, or transitioning to more hours too slow, or taking too many days off for your disability. The slight amount of more money also allows for a bit less stress when dialing up or down work hours. But, the truth is, on the partner rate I’m getting $60/day instead of $80 since I simply have a partner. “Fortunately” he earns too little for me to lose any pension, but isn’t that a whole issue in itself, that disabled people lose benefits because the state sees their partners as their carers and keepers? The same applies for the aged pension, based off the 80s single income family, buying a house, retiring having 1 or certainly probably not 2 full time wages leading up to retirement. Those who don’t own their own home by then are screwed, continuing to rent while rent assistance comes in as an afterthought.

I’d be curious to see what would happen to partner and pension rates if the JobSeeker single allowance went up to that 90% figure, or about $72/day. Where would that partnered rate go to? Would it be like when the covid supplement came in and people were getting more on Jobseeker than DSP? Weird times that I hope happen and create chaos and make people think about what the hell we’re doing to people in the name of a budget surplus.

You can do it Jim, you can lift millions out of poverty this budget. I believe in you?

Ahh, Jimmy Jim Jim Jim Jim Jim, Muppet Treasure Island is such a amazing adaptation on the classic novel – pirates, romance, travel and song. Jim here is the kid, wishing for a better live beyond poverty and servitude, taking a risky opportunity to escape that and sail the seven seas.

Pirating is different these days in Australia, as a country we became quite adept at it before streaming services, and with their fragmentation and price rises it’s on the rise once more. I wonder if the average Jim would prefer to know of welfare recipients pirating their favourite shows or spending that $10 on Amazon Prime? Or, as is often the case, they’d rather neither and tell us to sell our PCs, cancel our internet, give up any entertainment and spend that time writing our resumes on the computer at the local library and applying for jobs that don’t want us.

It was quite a week for you numbers guys, Jim. You got your inflation figures in, and they weren’t great and weren’t bad. What stuck out for me is rent was still going up much more than other essentials, and essentials were still going up more than the less essential things in life.

The inflation figures and ensuing panic on HECS debts (though not as bad as last year!) got you to say you might do something about HECS indexation, oh and also about paying final year uni students for their labor on placements so they don’t have to waste the first three years of a degree because they can’t afford to live for those final subjects.

2024: Rental Affordability Snapshot Australians are facing a rental market that has never been less affordable. The 2024 Rental Affordability Snapshot surveyed rental listings across Australia and found that affordability has crashed to record lows. Out of 45,115 rental listings, we found that: 289 rentals (0.6%) were affordable for a person earning a full-time minimum wage 89 rentals (0.2%) were affordable for a person on the Age Pension 31 rentals (0.1%) were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension 3 rentals, (0%) all sharehouses, were affordable for a person on JobSeeker 0 rentals (0%) were affordable for a person on Youth Allowance. In response to the findings, Anglicare Australia is calling on the Government to return to directly funding and providing housing itself, instead of leaving housing to the private sector. Anglicare Australia is also calling on the Government to wind back landlord tax concessions.

Much needed, but of course they don’t solve the problem of all the people who can’t afford to live and rent while they study because Youth Allowance and Austudy are so low and there’s no affordable rentals for people trying to better their chances of employment as you keep asking us to do, through study.

Then there’s the “Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee” that you put together last year, asked them for their recommendation, a key one was raising JobSeeker and other related payments to 90% of the aged pension, which you said was too much so threw $20/week at those people, and they’ve come back with the same figure this year, to which you’ve replied that ppl should be happy about last year’s response and that you can’t find everything hey?

Of course you “can’t fund every good idea” but there’s a difference between saying you can’t fund a good idea and saying you don’t want to fund an increase to welfare payments above the poverty line that would see benefits for all in the community – from ensuring people can afford to feed themselves, to decreases in crime that was seen during the Covid supplements, and might help that “social cohesion” you keep banging on about.

It does sting when you boast about a surplus, or even if you don’t boast about it but just say that people’s health and welfare now is not as important as your other choices – to keep a surplus to later, or any time you announce money for submarines, or  we remember that the stage three tax cuts, while you modified them, still favour those on higher incomes to the tune of a quarter of a JobSeeker’s annual payment. An amount that they would have been better off by last year if you’d implemented your committee’s recommendations.

So Jim, you still have two weeks to play around with your numbers, and my people still have two weeks to try to get in your ears about welfare recipients lives and our ability to participate in society being worth funding. Maybe the image of the older lady being arrested over Canesten and frozen pizza is one that might make you think people being able to afford their groceries is a good thing?

Or Mel being reminded that your other lil numbers guy, Andrew Leigh of the gold plated cheese platter, used her story about not being able to afford to eat and getting scurvy while in opposition to call for a raise on Jobseeker, but then won’t do anything to help her now and instead posts cute cartoons about evidence based policy and scurvy on Twitter, while we try to remind him that there was a great experiment on a no-strings livable basic income here in Australia with the Covid supplement and the removal of obligations in 2020. A period that saw improvements in property crime rates, because people could afford to live.

So, you can do it, Jim. You can raise JobSeeker and other welfare payments. You can raise them above the poverty line, anything less is just a reminder that some people are worth leaving behind, and you don’t want to leave anyone behind do you Jim?