Vinnies' sad heart over Welfare to Work legislation


1. Australia at the dawn of the 21st century: More like the 19th? More divided than diverse?
• How many feel oppressed and blamed for their oppression?
• How many ask: What does it profit the country that we be pushed and shoved like this? Will anyone profit from us, pushed off income security and into low-paid jobs?
• In 1848 Ozanam, wrote of the burning need to take the side of “the people who have too many needs and not enough rights.”
• Australia 2006: unprecedented changes to our social security and industrial relations frameworks. Combined, these changes will supply cheap labour, driven by legislative sticks into the lowest and most insecure end of the labour market.
• How many of us would love the chance to connect? But this is not connection. How many of us will suffer and how many of our children will suffer? Not connection; catastrophe.

2. The prophets cry blue murder: “Woe betide those who enact unjust laws and draft oppressive legislation, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights, plundering the widow and despoiling the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10:1-3)
• Paul VI wrote of the mutilating effects of ‘oppressive social structures, whether due to abuses of ownership or to the abuses of power, to the exploitation of workers or to unjust transactions.”

3. Remember the story that Nathan told to David? (Samuel 12:1-7) The one about the poor man’s lamb that the rich man took possession of and slaughtered even though he had many flocks and herds of his own?
• Bewildered, we watch the little we have, we who survive on the margins, being taken away.
• We’re told that this is good for us; that it’s good for us to take care of ourselves even if this means being poorer and more crushed.
• Some of us live in cars or on the streets.
• Some of us are homeless - one in every three is a child.
• Two out of three children who seek assistance from a homelessness service are turned away each day…
• This is not good for us. This is not good for our children.

4. We feel like we’re pushed with sticks.
• As if this is all we understand.
• Our incomes have been lowered. What does this teach us? How are we to give our children breakfast, let alone birthday cakes? How should we explain this to our children, the flesh of our flesh?
How shall we sing…?” (Psalm 137:42)

5. We had no choice. We had to sign the contract. When we left work to help our children who were sick, we lost not only our jobs but 8 weeks of income from the Government.
• This is not good for our children.
• Centrelink sent us to a charity.
• It’s justice we’re after.

6. How’s our future going?
• We’re accused of “welfare dependency”. We’re told that “welfare dependency” is not benign. What do you call the cancer of poverty? Working poverty or the poverty that breaching brings: neither of these is benign. It is not good to jump out of the frying pan and

7. into the fire.

8. Are we the ones who must pay to make our country more competitive?

9. I feel like a dreadful mother when I say this, but I used to be out of the door at 6:00 am. I’d ring home at 7:00 am to wake [the children] up. They would get ready for school and I would meet them on the way home.” (Living Low Paid Report)
Are we wrong to feel that it is easier to exploit us than to house us or to enable us to claim the power that comes from learning?

10. This is our “struggle for justice and love in the world of today.” (Psalm 137:42)

"We won’t be silenced. We are desperate to “make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

On 1 July, the new Welfare to Work legislation was implemented. We at Vinnies marked this day with a sad heart. The new laws will see many people with disabilities and single mothers and their children pushed into greater poverty and indignity.

St Vincent de Paul Society - Welfare to Work

Our members feel a deep sense of compassion for the people who will suffer under these new laws. We will stand with them in their financial stress as well as their sense of despair.

We cannot understand why the people we assist should be further oppressed. The point of good government is to address our nation’s problems; not to create new ones.

St Vincent de Paul Society - Welfare to Work

We have consistently voiced our support for policies that enable people to move from welfare to work. We oppose, however, any moves that drive vulnerable people from one social security benefit to a lower benefit and then into jobs that actually keep them in poverty.

To expose sole parents and people with disabilities to the threat of eight weeks payment suspension is an example of the Government’s sticks rather than carrots’ approach.

St Vincent de Paul Society - Welfare to Work

To then refer some of these victims of breaching to charities is a further means of humiliating them rather than empowering them. We will not participate in this ill-conceived program.

We anticipate that our members will see a significant increase in the number of people seeking assistance due to the combination of these Welfare Laws and the Industrial Relations laws.

St Vincent de Paul Society - Welfare to Work

We will always provide whatever charitable assistance we can. In the words of Vinnies Founder Frederic Ozanam, these people deserve justice rather than charity.

Ozanam said: "Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on the wounds of the traveller who has been attacked. It is the role of justice to prevent the attack."

St Vincent de Paul Society - Welfare to Work




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Existing comments

I was intruiged by the layout of the ten responses. Was that John's or a Eureka Street format? I'm a past Vinnies National Council member and had the Justice Portfolio under Brian Murnane. I'd love to be put in contact with John. I'd love to talk about promoting the Ozanam social vision. Well done ES on going online.
Tony Brennan | 11 July 2006

The layout was by Mike, the Eureka Street editor, Tony, but the words belong to John. Thanks for the kind words. If you want to get in touch with John, email and I will forward the message on.
James Massola | 11 July 2006

The government does not care about the poor and oppressed. But the alternative has a policy of abortion-on-demand. Is it impossible to vote?
katrina haller | 12 July 2006

Thanks to John for this item; we need more voices of fairness and compassion speaking out against the cruel measures the Government in bent on imposing on the most vulnerable people in our society.
Recently, I heard Minister Joe Hockey on ABC Radio National criticising church charities for refusing to participate in the latest harsh scheme. He insisted that it is the job of charities to step in and help people when the government withdraws their benefits, implying that it would be the fault of those charities if some people ended up destitute after 'being breached'. I could scarcley belive my ears.
Let us hope many Australians will
myrna tonkinson | 13 July 2006

I and other Vinnies in our parish are thwarted in our efforts to support a mother and child who are being threatened with eviction from our 'church owned house' because our parish priest feels justified in his judgement of the woman's plight. Oh to walk in another's shoes! Yes I'm SAD!
Trish Taylor | 16 January 2010


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