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.





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