Barry cuts we bleed: thoughts on community service cuts

August 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

I wrote this for the F Collective site yesterday, and while I’d like to have time to write a more nuanced analysis soon, I wanted to publish it here also.


It’s Monday morning and I wish I’d drafted this post last night, but I was drafting an email update instead; inevitable tension between running a website and doing the grunt work of activism.

I was drafting an email to the people who’ve signed a petition I started the Friday before last – NSW Premier: Don’t cut community organisations. I started it in response to this article by Adele Horin (who has since retired, and damn we’ll miss her), which said that:

An internal review by Community Services, part of the Department of Family and Community Services, has recommended reducing funding to at least seven organisations, including the Welfare Rights Centre, Lifeline (Sydney and Sutherland), Redfern Legal Centre’s financial counselling service and the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service.

Alternatively, they may be moved to the aegis of the Department of Health, or to Ageing Disability and Home Care without funding.

This should come as no big surprise to those who follow Australian politics. We’ve seen what has happened in Queensland to Sisters Inside amongst others in the wake of the QLD election of the CLP. And as feminists, we know that community services are not valued by neoliberals, anyway.

Such pretty scissors, such ugly cuts!

Community service workers don’t, after all, produce any commodity with a market value. They do, on the other hand, perform care work, work that would otherwise be done piecemeal and unpaid and often in the isolation of the home, by feminised individuals. Community services and the workers who run them (to ape the language of mainstream economics) produce cared-for human beings,  folks who might be hard-up but know that at least someone is there for them.

Feminists set up and won the funding for many of these sorts of community services. They wanted to create a world in which resources were available for care and care work was paid. This was an extension of a broader project of creating a social democratic State in which education and health was available to everyone as part of a social wage. While the State is often used to monitor and discipline people (as with income management), it has been concurrently used to break down oppression.

Cuts to services are about further dismantling the (never completed) social democratic project. While this dismantling has happened on both sides of politics, it is often starkest under Liberal governments. The results are not pretty. When Barry cuts, women, queers, poor folks, the homeless, people of colour and Indigenous people are the ones who are going to bleed.

Given that the State is so often used to oppress and discipline, why should we keep fighting for our services, those we use and work in? I think that in this fight there is hope to keep recreating and reclaiming the State as we want it to be. Broadly, I want services that are conducive to justice and equality, so I definitely want to keep those services that currently exist.  As Rosa Campbell said recently:

If service users and workers and teachers, parents, students and community members stood together to defend the welfare state, we would be best placed to re-imagine it.

Sign the petition: NSW Premier: Don’t cut community organisations. Tweet it under the hashtag #BOFcutswebleed and @BarryOfarrell. F is @the_fcollective. Send it to your family, friends and relevant e-lists – let’s start conversations.

This is just the start. We can fight for change in ways that create the world we want. I’m linking to this UK Uncut video as inspiration.

I’ll keep you updated on how you can get more involved as the campaign progresses.

The comment section is yours, so let’s brain storm: how would you like to fight to keep the services that care?

The beautiful featured image is by Amanda Parkinson, SMH aspiring photojournalist of the year. Used with permission.





F Collection: Fuck yeah, feminist reading group!

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

I want to be holding in my hand a concise, fairly easy to read and understand book; not a long book, not a book thick with hard to understand jargon and academic language, but a straightforward, clear book – easy to read without being simplistic. From the moment feminist thinking, politics, and practice changed my life, I have wanted this book. I have wanted to give it to the folk I love so that they can understand better this cause, this feminist politics I believe in so deeply, that is the foundation of my political life. (…) I have written this short handbook, the book I have spent more than 20 years longing for. I had to write it because I kept waiting for it to appear, and it did not (hooks, 2000).

Since you’ve read that quote now, I don’t need to tell you that bell hooks is awesome.

What I do need to tell you is that F is reading her handbook, which she called Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics.

Cover image

The F Collection: Women’s Abortion Action Campaign

April 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

From the WAAC facebook page

My latest on the F Collection is up. This week it’s on WAAC, the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign. They’ve been campaigning in Sydney for 40 years, and have had some incredible achievements.

My post also includes a brief intro to the politics and law of abortion.

An excerpt:

Though some women claim it is possible to be a feminist and to be anti-abortion, bell hooks, feminist, anti-racist activist and scholar, puts a counter argument:

The abortion issue… called the (US) nation’s attention to a woman’s body as no other issue could have done. It was a direct challenge to the church… While it is possible for women to individually choose never to have an abortion, allegiance to feminist politics means that they are still pro-choice, that they support the rights of females who need abortions to choose whether or not to have them.

This point was brought home to me when walking to an International Women’s Day event recently, I stumbled across a prayer circle chanting loudly outside the Preterm Foundation in Surry Hills. The prayer group held models of fetuses suspended in air, with no woman attached, as though these fetuses were somehow separate to the lives of the person bearing them.

Latest in the F Collection: Lady Sings it Better

February 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Maeve and Anna of Lady Sings it Better

F Collection: Feminist vignettes to inspire and ignite.

F collective is all about (re)creating and showcasing a movement that is alive and kicking patriarchy in the arse.

You can expect a new post from the F Collection every Monday.”

My latest at the F Collection is a post on the brilliant broads of Lady Sings it Better. It features an interview with founder and artistic director, Maeve Marsden.

An excerpt:

Who are Lady Sings it Better? They are a five woman, feminist, queer, singing cabaret act, performing songs usually done by men. Their performances are in turn beautiful, searing and hilarious.

You can buy tickets here.

Maeve Marsden, artistic director and founder of Lady Sings it Better, started Lady because she wanted a new way to sing about women:

“I  wanted to create a show which celebrated relationships between women.  At first, I was focused on romantic relationships, as a queer woman, so saw reclaiming songs written by men as a great avenue to sing passionately about other women. Beyond that, Lady is also about examining the male gaze through popular music; we love finding songs that are really misogynistic or sexist and turning them upside down!”

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