There are 116,427 Australians who are homeless in Australia
Most Australians are not aware that the homeless typically don’t vote and they are the only group exempt from voting. In 2019 the first Assistant Minister for Homelessness and Community Housing was appointed – MP Luke Howarth (Liberal) and his Labor counterpart is MP Jason Clare Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness.
I approached both via email to introduce myself, explain my situation and ask how I can advocate for those who are homeless. I wanted to understand the process of lobbying. I want to start Homeless Lives Matter to give a voice to homeless people as it is their lives that are impacted.
MP Howarth never responded which I believe is linked to my Senate report and vilification for speaking up and conscientious objection. No Minister’s in my experience go silent when the public write in, they typically send out standard letters as they represent the people. In the case of the homeless they have no representation. (Update: MP Howarth has since sent a letter about the funding of homeless services, my questions unanswered and my need for a meeting unmet).
It is noteworthy that the Homeless sector advocate for those on Centrelink (monied) as they are a market based system funded by the government. The predominant solution is Housing First which has commercial interests in building new housing. For those of us NOT on Centrelink we have ZERO voice in Parliament and ZERO advocacy. I have not felt I have a home in the sector where I can go to be heard and feel someone is in my corner. To-date I have felt very much alone. Perhaps that is why some are on the street or living in their cars trying to remain independent. Those of us who are self reliant do not want to become dependent on a system and lose our rights to say ‘no’ to any approach that is not in our interests or safe.
In the case of MP Jason Clare there was a response. I was advised I could talk to his advisor but I explained I want to speak directly to Jason as this matter is a national emergency and not understood from the perspective of those with lived experience. I was in Canberra for my father’s funeral and I have no income, so I can’t come when I like. I don’t have a phone as I can’t afford credit. My request was denied.
MP Howarth viewpoint: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/assistant-housing-minister-wants-to-put-a-positive-spin-on-homelessness-20190709-p525h6.html
MP Jason Clare: (2008) https://www.jasonclare.com.au/media/2318-homelessness
MY STORY OF HOMELESSNESS
My story was given to Homelessness Australia at the Homelessness Conference in 2017.
I would like to start by saying homelessness is not about a house. It is an impact of structural violence (refer Johann Galtung). This has many manifestations in respect of: economic downturns, impossibility of full employment, poor management, rigid human resource criteria, inequality, status, inconsistent continuity, gender bias, ageism, discrimination, technology replacing people, training transferred to individuals, education, power imbalance, poverty trap, set up to fail, inequality before the law and bullying given perceived vulnerability etc. The pain experienced translates into: uncertainty, stress, sadness, rejection, disempowerment, demoralisation, discarded, value-less, hope-less, social isolation, salient exclusion from access, depression, psychological injury, cancer, dis-ease, suicidal and trapped. I myself have desired to suicide hundreds of times and recently had cancer of which I am now clear.
On June 14, 2017 I was evicted from my home in Macleod, Melbourne. It was a converted garage that was deemed by the Council as uninhabitable. Rent was $150 per week which was the cheapest price I could hope for. Reflectively, I contrast this with a three bedroom home I rented with a partner in Brisbane in 1989 for $150 per week. The standard of living has fallen despite technology, housing prices have risen (speculators) and housing stock sold off as government ideologies increasingly privatised to pay debt and respond to business interests. I had no money to store my belongings. I was suicidal given a long term dispute with a public institution and a legal case suppressing my rights to a fair hearing and resolution of a conflict. I was extremely anxious as I felt unsafe and monitored. I packed all my things into a small Suzuki Baleno and travelled to my mother’s place in Canberra to recover and regain my strength. There is conflict in my family and some members hold attitudes of myself as a failure and have no empathy or understanding of the bullying I experienced nor my chosen pathway in life, so I cannot stay. I was on Centrelink and actioned a Mental Health Plan to enable an opt-out of activities for 7 weeks. I then drove to Brisbane to find solutions. I have been in this situation many times where I have no idea what next?
On route I was contacted by a Centrelink officer who encouraged me to go to a populated area. An extraordinary statement given I have no place to go. The mindset was to maximise work opportunities not wellbeing recovery from suicidal trauma. There was no offer of emergency help or empathy conveyed, albeit indifference. I was informed I would not be able to put in a second medical certificate after this period expired. In a workplace no-one would deny a medical certificate.
It appeared the attitude was one on assuming dishonesty, not a healthy mutual concern based on trust. In the conversation I was told I was not in an equal partnership within Centrelink but outside I was equal. I told her I am a citizen and I am equal. Inequality is the basis of this contractual relationship. This underlies a toxic culture. In Brisbane another officer rang me requesting my address. I informed him I am truly homeless. He said he has to have an address to send letters under legislation. I indicated he could email a pdf. He asked again and paused a long time as if I was not telling the truth. I waited and observed. I was amazed at the insensitivity and the inability to understand the reality of homeless. It is evident there is a housing crisis and when you have no-where to go you will accept shelter anywhere. The compliance mentality only responds to legislation, departmental guidelines and the current ethos of the government of the day. The need for an address is central to control paradigms without any understanding of social or psychological needs in a representative capacity.
I managed to find a house-sit in the Hawkesbury region. I spent this time trying to figure out where I could live and release my trauma and manage suicidal feelings. I made a decision to confront the injustice of the legal situation requesting an Appeal from the court. I returned to Melbourne and on route I receive a text from Job Prospects in Heidelberg, a Job Service Provider I was not registered with. They gave me one day’s notice to come to a appointment. It was Sunday, I rang and left a message stating I had not agreed to join Job Prospects and that I have issues with the rorting in the system and the ineffectiveness of the service. I received 13 text messages from Job Prospects, one email asking me to reengage. This is a form of harassment given I am a conscientious objector to the rorting of Job Service Providers as evidenced by ABC 7.30 Report. I emailed Job Prospects explaining this, he replied and when I wrote again my email was bounced. This appeared a tactic to force a call. I noted my side was ignored in a compliance framework. Yet if a job seeker was rorting, making false claims or earning money deceptively Human Services would track and breach a person and likely cut them off. It was evident there are different rules for private companies contrasted with welfare recipients. This is discriminatory and clearly unequal power and rights.
I spoke with a representative from Human Services (now Services Australia) who indicated I had to re-engage. I requested a review and noted it was not independent and I was denied conscientious objector status. I spoke with a social worker who also encouraged re-engagement and options in relation to activities. I explained I just can’t go against what I feel is important. Ethically I can’t. I am a peace educator having taught values, principled nonviolence and conflict resolution. It is not possible for me to comply. I have issues with compliance approaches as inappropriate in the social welfare area. Therapeutic interventions are effective in dealing with social problems as healing is required. Psychological abuse is a result of toxic cultures of bullying and policing/compliance models.
I wrote a letter to Centrelink Head Office and I outlined my situation, my eviction, communications with officers, rorting of job providers, my background, intentions and contentious statements. I questioned the diminishment of government responsibility for social security and no accountability. I objected to privatisation of social security and my right to not place myself in a system of abuse or comply if it runs against my ethics and values. I considered it non-democratic. I explained my belief that privatisation uses contract law and questioned obligations under the Australian Constitution in respect of government duty to provide unemployment benefits. I note there is no mutual obligation as it is a Liberal Government philosophy and raises issues of exploitation. I submitted my report ‘Compliance or Democracy’ in 2016 questioning Work for the Dole. I have grave concerns about the system of compliance affecting mental health and impacts of coercion, harassment and bullying. In Victoria bullying is against the law. I also raised issues of business abuse and dismantling rights in the workplace and declining ethics. A key issue I raised was being contacted repeatedly by the Probe Group (debt recovery) to the point of harassment and then a car turning up in my friend’s driveway filming. I raised this issue and noted in a Human Services report that debt recovery and ASIO surveillance can track movements digitally. I was overpaid rent assistance and have a $200 debt. It seems I was being investigated but not to find me a place to live but to catch me out as if I am lying. I am not on Centrelink at this stage as I had been cut off a week earlier. I requested debt relief and have had no response yet. (Note: update the debt was removed earlier on then reapplied and removed again, cited it was a administrative error [on behalf of Minister Keenan].
Since this time I have sought to access my superannuation as I refuse to re-engage with Centrelink. I have contacted AMP and Ausfund and both have refused compassionate grounds (and severe hardship) for a homeless person to access early release of superannuation. I am told I have to be on Centrelink for 26 consecutive weeks (I was on Centrelink for many years until I conscientiously objected). I’ve contacted MP Michael Sukker in the local area I was staying seeking advocacy on accessing super, homelessness, help from Human Services, the right to conscientious objection and Probe Group surveillance (on behalf of Human Services). I contacted the Prime Minister twice explaining the matter and concerns without resolution. MP Michael Keenan (Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation) wrote me a letter indicating my objection with Service Providers which was not accurate. I am a conscientious objector to rorting in the system. He did not answer any of my questions in my previous letter, he advised re-engagement and could not provide a letter indicating my eligibility given my desperate need to access $1,500 in super to live on. He advised that the Superfunds have the final say, AMP says the ATO does, Ausfund read the Ministers letter and refused release. Minister Keenan and Michael Sukker are well aware I am genuinely in hardship, I’ve been in contact since March 2018.
I realised no-one seems to care. I believe there are powerful prejudices against homelessness as economically unviable, victim blaming, punishment for non-compliance, potentially political given peace and anti-bullying work and freedom of speech raising sensitive questions. Not one of my questions was answered and I am clear I have no representation or advocacy. I felt isolated and disempowered.
It is clear people are homeless because they cannot or choose not to comply with the system and they are cut off citing breach of contract. In my case, I didn’t breach any contract, thus revealing indifference to suffering and no right to say ‘no’ to corruption and abuse. The lack of empathy reflects a disconnected psychology that cannot feel for the ‘other’. They are objectified. This is a pattern I have experienced before in senior management. It is rewarded as strong management but is actually poor leadership in toxic cultures unable to respond to humanitarian issues. This is evident in the refugee detention centres where rights are revoked and an intimidating/bullying mentality acceptable. My research revealed multinational companies are penetrating the Australian public sector market as Government contracts out services and responsibilities. In the case of Serco they manage prisons, detentions centres etc. and are positioned to run public sector activities. The public sector is being privatised using government funding cuts to orchestrate inefficiency as a justification for privatisation as more efficient. The welfare sector is a test case for privatised, cashless, digitised, profiled and compliance systems with vulnerable persons who cannot defend themselves or protest. This repressive system is to be rolled out to the broader community through Smart Cities, NBN and Future Ready plans imported from the USA. This has real implications for the non-profit and community services sector. Not only the lack of accountability of private entities but the pulling out of government which effectively null and voids rights, FOI, privacy, protects trade secret and signatory to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The TPPA enables private companies to sue governments if contracts are cancelled or economic profits affected. It has implications for protest, freedom of speech and human rights. Refer GetUp! and MP Andrew Wilkie’s message on a police state.
Let’s change this paradigm. I have produced a YouTube video inviting people to join me in developing solutions. I have titled it Let’s Resolve Homelessness Together!
I have many solutions Refer websites:
Worldpeacefull: www.worldpeacefull.com (children’s education and empowerment)
Worldpeacefull Empowerment website: http://biz.worldpeacefull.com (bullying)
Happiness Australia: https://ha.worldpeacefull.com (emotional intelligence)
Happiness Australia: https://ha.worldpeacefull.com/homeless-lives/courtneys-patch-ecovillage/
I can be contacted on email firstname.lastname@example.org
I am seeking to work for the homeless, to empower conflict resolution, anti-bullying and happiness. I am available as a trainer and coach. This will assist me in exiting homelessness, for good.