Compare and contrast:

1. The federal government steadfastly refuses to raise the rate of Newstart (Australia’s unemployment benefits) to a rate that is even close to a living wage. 

2. The Australian federal government, with bipartisan support, just passed a $158bn tax cut, which will have the most impact on people earning above $180,000, and will likely lead to further cuts in social services as tax revenue decreases

By denying unemployed people the money needed for basic survival, Australia is actively forcing people into homelessness. This becomes a self-reinforcing cycle: people without a permanent residence find it hard to apply for work, have trouble accessing services, and are increasingly likely to end up in prison. People with a criminal record face even more challenges finding work. Women are increasingly overrepresented in this cycle. 

Paper Giant has been doing work in sectors such as criminal justice, social services, and disability services in Victoria for a few years now, and every time we attempt to look at where we might have some impact, we come up against these self-reinforcing cycles of poverty. 

The most frustrating part of this is, if you talk to anyone who works in social services, they already know the solution! Raise Newstart. Fund housing. Offer support without judgement.   

But to make a change to a system like this obviously requires more than just knowing a solution. It requires a change in mindset across the system: an orientation towards care, support and recovery; not blame and punishment. 

There are great examples of this out there. Two that spring to mind are Dandenong’s drug court (where the focus is on treatment and recovery, not punishment), and a newly revamped Ozanam House (where an understanding of trauma as both a cause and effect of homelessness underpins their work). Our recent StreamlineFines project is a smaller example of work that aims for a holistic approach to intertwined social and health outcomes.  

I feel like every newsletter that I write ends up being about transformative systems change in some way, but I realise that’s for good reason – the systems that make up our society are not working equally, fairly or sustainably for everyone. But they were made by people, so they can be changed by people.

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #38 here.