Welfare to work or punishing the poor?

As we continue the campaign for industrial and civil liberties, the Evatt Foundation is pleased to announce a Sunset Seminar on the Howard government's welfare-to-work changes.

The Howard government's welfare-to-work changes came into operation in July this year, and with them came tougher rules for unemployed people. If they fail to take up a job or don't meet contractual obligations three times in a year, they lose their unemployment benefits for eight weeks. The government says that the community welfare sector will provide a safety net for the 4,000 or 5,000 people each year, which it believes will be most vulnerable without their benefits.

The policy changes have provoked enormous criticism and Australia's major faith-based welfare organisations have turned away, including the Catholic Social Services, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the St Vincent de Paul Society, Anglicare, and the Uniting Church. In this public forum, we discuss the issues.

"The policy changes have provoked enormous criticism."


John Falzon

Dr John Falzon, a sociologist working in the area of social justice and social change, is Chief Executive Officer of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council. He has written and spoken broadly on the structural causes of marginalisation and inequality in Australia and has long been involved in advocacy campaigns in regard to Australia's welfare reform agenda. He has worked in academia, in research and advocacy with non-government organisations and in community development in large public housing estates.

Kathleen Swinbourne

In 1996 Kathleen Swinbourne got together with a few friends and formed the Sole Parents' Union in response to what they saw as a shift in policy and attitudes to sole parent families. She has been President since that time. The Sole Parents' Union acts as an advocacy agency for sole parent families, with government, bureaucracy and the media, to try to improve life for sole parents and their children - and despite appearances, they have had a few wins. Kathleen sits on the Registrar's Advisory Panel of the Child Support Agency, was involved with the Child Support Review Task Force, and is on the Centrelink advisory committee looking at the implementation of the Welfare to Work changes. Kathleen has three teenagers and has been a sole parent for 13 years.

Gerard Thomas

Gerard Thomas is policy and media officer for the Welfare Rights Centre in Sydney and is part of the National Welfare Rights Network. He has worked in his current position for four years, after having spent the previous 12 years working in policy-media research in relation to advocacy and policy affecting low income older people - until the Howard government removed federal funding for the Australian Pensioners' and Superannuants Federation in 1996. Gerard cooks a mean curry, is addicted to chilli and lives with a nine year-old cross between a Schnauser and a Dalmatian called Annie who, to his dismay, recently had to change her diet and was placed on 'Seniors' dog food.

Event date: 26 September 2006
Type: Evatt Sunset Seminar: Public Forum
Location: Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney
Time: 5.30 for 6.00 pm Tuesday 26th September
Cost: $10
RSVP: (02) 9385 7137, or evatt@unsw.edu.au