Home' Aurora : Aurora March 2013 Contents The language of the unheard
When World Youth Day smiles at me I go to
Late last year Suzy Freeman-Greene
wrote in The Age on the inadequacy of
"A Senate committee investigating the
matter received moving submissions
on the dole's inadequacy but couldn't
bring itself to recommend an increase.
Chairman, Liberal senator Chris Back,
later told Age journalist Peter Martin there
was a ''compelling'' case for increasing
Newstart. But it seems that since his party
might be in government soon, he didn't
want to make it."
It was disgraceful that the Chair of this
Committee felt it wouldn't be right for
the Opposition to support a Newstart
increase since they might have to pay for
it if they were elected. It's also disgraceful
that the government has refused to
increase an unemployment benefit that
has become so low, even the Business
Council wants to see it increased as it has
become an actual barrier to participation.
It's time we turned our backs on a
paradigm that simply does not work,
namely the perverse notion that you can
help someone get a job by forcing them
The Society is deeply worried about
80,000 sole parents and their children
across Australia who have just been
forced onto the clearly inadequate
Newstart Allowance. Before Christmas,
Centrelink officers were already referring
some of them to us, acknowledging
that a loss of around $100 a week could
mean the difference between paying rent
and sleeping in a car. The government's
response has been: they should just
get jobs! We are hearing from many
courageous women explaining how
hard it is to find jobs that allow them to
balance their caring responsibilities with
It's time we turned our backs on the
notion that social policy is best devised
by those 'above' and imposed on those
It takes courage to admit we were wrong.
It takes real leadership from both sides
of politics to admit this approach to
disadvantage and inequality simply makes
It's time we stopped pathologising people
and places, blaming them for their own
exclusion and worrying more about the
cost of providing adequate resources than
about the long-term social and economic
costs of keeping people in a state of
We must eschew the patronising notion
that the local is somehow a world
unto itself, a little pocket of chaos or
excellence morally reflective of the
degree of cleverness and hard work of its
Government looks at the spectacle of
marginalisation only from the vantage
point of prosperity, so we end up
with policies built on compliance and
control instead of resources and self-
empowerment. Leaving someone out
is not addressed by pushing someone
in. Compliance does not equal inclusion.
Inclusion does not equal liberation, not
least because one has to ask whether the
'mainstream' that the 'dangerous classes'
are pushed into, is itself in dire need of
The place to start is by asking which
sections of society are regarded as
garbage. The only explanation for
the socio-political acceptance of the
incarceration of asylum-seeker children
or the degrading housing conditions
experienced in remote Aboriginal
communities is that these sections of
society are regarded as garbage.
Garbage is what you take out. You don't
particularly care what happens to it as
long as you don't have to deal with it.
The people treated like garbage are invited
to recycle themselves into something
socially useful; to go from being socially
nothing to being socially something, even
if that something is fairly low on the ladder
of social class and hierarchy.
The greatest power for progressive social
change lies precisely with this connection
between the excluded. It comes to
fruition in the consciousness of an 'us'
that firms up what is common between
these experiences of alienation and
exclusion, not by individually addressing
the atomised instances of exclusion as if
it were a private malady. As writer, Isabel
Allende, expressed it through the voice of
one of her characters:
"... it was not a question of changing our
personal situation, but that of society as a
Dr John Falzon is CEO of the St Vincent
de Paul Society's National Council. He
is speaking at East Maitland on 6 March.
For more information, please P Robert
Moore 4934 2905.
This article is an edited extract from
Falzon's The Language of the Unheard,
BY DR JOHN FALZON
Heard of Brazil? Of course you
have! Fancy a holiday there?
No can do but what about a
pilgrimage? Aurora spoke to Diocesan
World Youth Day Co-ordinator
Bernadette Gibson to learn more.
On one hand, there's soft white sand,
crystal blue water and hundreds of
Copacabana beachgoers. There's a
vibrancy and energy on the streets. But
turn around and you see shanty towns
known as favelas crawling up into the hills.
There are families crammed into homes
we'd think twice about for our beloved
pooch. Somewhere in the middle of this
confused world is the Christ the Redeemer
statue. It's the identifying feature in the
sprawling city of Rio de Janeiro, host city for
July 2013's World Youth Day (WYD).
To paint a picture for potential pilgrims,
Bernadette Gibson went to Brazil to see
where pilgrims would stay, what they'd do
and what to expect.
It won't be a holiday, so remove any
misconceptions involving deck chairs,
cocktails and listening to your iPod.
A pilgrimage is more of a reflective journey.
People join together to share in the same
faith, the same experience and grow
together as a community. You'll make new
friends, guaranteed. There will be plenty
of fun too; you'll sample South American
cuisine and sip the locals' favourite brew.
You'll meet people from around the world
and see natural beauty unlike anything
WYD Rio style has a twist. There's a focus
on mission. This means pilgrims will fly into
Buenos Aires, the Argentinian capital and
spend a few days in a local community. But,
we'll do more than that, we'll help them
out. So, we might build a path or help erect
some stairs. But don't worry; you won't
need to be a qualified tradesman, just have
a willing heart and an open mind.
We won't live it up in luxury, but we'll be
comfortable enough. In Argentina we're
likely to stay in a church community or
a school. In Rio we'll be in a shed with
thousands of enthusiastic Aussie pilgrims.
Don't fear, they'll have plenty of toilets and
There will be some respite. A trip to the
world famous Iguazu Falls, as we make our
way from Argentina into Brazil, should give
the group a chance to refresh, ahead of an
intense week in Rio.
Each morning, there'll be catechesis, which
is teaching by a Bishop. Then, a choice of
talks, musical worship, prayer and activities.
In the evening we're likely to come together,
pray and reflect on our day.
A word of warning for inexperienced
travellers: South America will be a cultural
shock. While there's wealth, most people
are poor by Western standards.
July's Rio WYD gives young people the
opportunity to experience the hardships
others go through and in our own way
make a small difference. It's a chance to
help us truly appreciate how fortunate we
are and to learn more about ourselves and
You can learn more about this year's
WYD at www.mn.catholic.org.au/
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Links Archive Aurora February 2013 Aurora April 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page