In my editorial before Christmas last year, I hoped that we could designate 2017 the year of listening; and of reaching across the gaps before they become so big we no longer have a common language.
As we approach Christmas one year on, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on how much that’s proved true.
Much of the work we’ve done in the Canberra office has been in response to such things as Productivity Commission inquiries into the NDIS and human services, where we’ve tried to champion what people tell us makes a difference in their lives.
We’ve spoken to parliamentarians about proposed changes to the welfare laws because we hear, through you, that people doing it tough need a compassionate and individual responses rather than robo-letters and mandatory penalties. And we’ve championed the need to create jobs – where we need them – for the people who are trapped out of work, rather than doom them to an endless hamster wheel of meaningless training and pointless activity.
And we’ve provided the chance for people tell their own stories too. In The Meaning of Home, our 2017 State of the Family Report, we included portraits of people who use our services telling us what home means for them, and how the varied Anglicare services create a kind of home themselves. As part of our work on home, we ran a survey on home for people in general and another, with the National Union of Students, which gave students the chance to talk about hardship and accommodation and it affects their lives.
The inequity of Australia’s housing market is well understood. All the stories and all the evidence this year have made that clear. And governments are starting to take action – but not enough. That might be next year’s job.
The Royal Commission in to Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has just wrapped up. It is an extraordinary five year effort which has hinged on listening to and believing people who were abused, rejected and ignored. The first instinct of our institutions is to protect themselves, and for people to look out for their own interests. And it’s only through being forced to listen that as society we have started to accept responsibility for where we failed.
This is not a lesson we need to learn just once. The Royal Commission into Juvenile Justice in the Northern Territory, which also reported this year, has shown us that it’s often much easier to assume the worst of people, and so wash our hand of them, than it is to provide the care and support right at the start where it’s needed. You could say we have to see it to believe it. As the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru know only too well, out of sight is out of mind. Policy makers, and voters, might need a few more years of looking as well as listening, before that will change.
Across the Anglicare family we have worked well with each other throughout the year. We have done this through our advocacy, our collaboration and networks, and by in investing time with each other. We want to know that the care and support we deliver does make the difference people want in their lives. As a network, we are keen to learn from each other about how to do that best.
The Christmas story reminds us that people’s lives and situations are complicated. Everyone knows that when they think about themselves and their families, but this does not always translate to compassion when it comes to providing care or support for other. It’s perhaps too easy to not listen, and rush to judgement instead.
It is with these thoughts that I would like to pay special tribute to our members who are always looking out for those who have been left behind.
This year, once again, our Anglicare members have gone above and beyond the call of duty in providing services that each, in their own way, contribute to creating a more just society.
At the end of the year, and leading up to Christmas, our members often come up with creative and innovative ways to make the festive season a real time for celebration.
For many of the clients that we serve, this time of year can bring enormous pressure, and here in our final edition of Aspect for the year, we thank the network for all the hard work “at the coal face” that makes it a task of joy and pride to represent.