Surviving on Newstart: life below the poverty line

When we think of poverty, often images of global crisis, starvation and sleeping rough on the streets come to mind. For many of us here in Australia these images are of the ‘other’ – people elsewhere in the world. But poverty is a lot closer than we think. Poverty can look like having to choose between paying the mortgage or the kids’ much needed school uniform; paying the electricity bill or doing a full week’s worth of food shopping.

In Australia, 13.3% of people and 17.4% of children are living in poverty. This equates to nearly three million people Australia wide, according to the 2016 Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Poverty in Australia report. The report found that 57.4% of those living in poverty relied on social security payments as their main income and 32% received wages as their main income.

It is probably not surprising to many of us that Centrelink’s Newstart payment, a fortnightly payment described as a ‘jobseeker allowance,’ is levelled at well below Australia’s poverty line. A single  adult with no dependent children can receive a maximum of $535.60 a fortnight on Newstart; a single adult with dependent children can receive $579.30. ACOSS reports that an Australian single adult earning less than $426.30 per week, or $852.60 a fortnight, is living under the poverty line. Continue Reading

Fashion forward: people over profit

In April 2013, the western world was shocked as images of the Rana Plaza building collapse began to circulate. Over 1 100 people died and around 2 500 people were injured in the tragedy. The building, in Bangladesh, mostly housed garment workers, and the collapse highlighted just how bad western greed in the fashion industry has become.

While here in the west we can enjoy $10 jeans, people – men, women and children – are being exploited in a range of ways in the countries that produce them, from the women who construct the garment, right down to cotton farmers. Lack of occupational safety, unliveable wages, long hours and high-burden contracts are just some of the ways our fashion is hurting some of our most  vulnerable neighbours.

The Rana Plaza collapse inspired a number of global initiatives to try and change the system. One of them is the Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Report. The fourth report was released in April, and claims that a number of companies have stepped up their game to do more towards providing fairness for workers in the fashion industry.

Gershon Nimbalker, one of the authors of the report, said that they look at four pillars for each company they research: policies; knowing suppliers and transparency; auditing and supplier relationships; and worker empowerment, which includes whether workers receive a living wage. Continue Reading

Imagine a rainbow

According to Rabbi Dovid Freilich, ‘tolerance’ is a bad word.

“There’s been so much conflict, sadly, in the world because of religion. The world creates something in order to stop this conflict: a word being ‘tolerance’,” he said. “Tolerance means agreeing to sit together; you really can’t stand the fellow you’re sitting with, but you’ll tolerate them. It’s not a good word.”

For 30 years, Rabbi Freilich has been the Chief Rabbi of the Perth Hebrew Congregation, a Jewish Synagogue in Menora, Perth. He has also been the Chief Rabbi of WA and one of the Presidents  of the Council of Christians and Jews WA. Preferring not to use the term ‘retire’, Rabbi Freilich left the Rabbinate in July to take-up other interests after 45 years of service.

The Rabbi believes that rather than tolerance, respect should be our priority.

“We should respect each other,” he continued. “Respect involves two things. One definition of respect is you actually feel happy in another person’s happiness. So, respect implies that even though you might be one religion and you see somebody happy and contented in another religion, you’re happy for them. Continue Reading

Making a bold statement

It is forty years this month since the Uniting Church in Australia was formed. The coming together, on 22 June 1977, of three denominations (Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian) was  the culmination of many years of prayer and hard work. Rev Dr John Squires, Director of Education and Formation at the Uniting Church WA, celebrates this union and explores some of the Uniting Church’s founding documents.

The Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches joined together as one Uniting Church in response to the prayer of Jesus, which is reported biblically in John 17: “May they be one.” There, Jesus prays for his earliest disciples, and then he prays for those followers who come after them, “that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me  and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

The unity of the church gives expression to this final prayer of Jesus and bears witness, to all people, of God’s love for the world. This prayer is also important for the international ecumenical  movement around the world. Not only was the Uniting Church formed in Australia in 1977, but last century also saw the formation of the United Church of Canada (1925), then the Church of   South India (1947) and the Church of North India (1970), the Church of Pakistan (1970), the United Reformed Church in the UK (1972) and the Indonesian Christian Church (1988).

The worldwide umbrella organisation for churches, the World Council of Churches (WCC), was formed in 1948, and this body includes churches from the Anglican Communion, many Orthodox  churches, the Lutheran Church and many other Protestant Churches (including the Uniting Church). The Roman Catholic Church is not an official member, but sends observers to each meeting of  the WCC.Continue Reading

Amanda Hunt: Connecting passions and building potential

Amanda Hunt has always been passionate about community services. As a 16-year-old, she volunteered with a Catholic agency providing care for people living with an intellectual disability. From there began a lifelong passion for creating difference in people’s lives; a passion which has led her to become the new CEO of UnitingCare West, the Uniting Church WA’s community services provider.

Following a career in arts management, Amanda has 20 years of experience working in the community sector, having come to UnitingCare West from the role of State Director at Mission Australia  for WA and SA. She has also been CEO of Gowrie WA, an early childhood organisation, and the Recreation and Sport Network, now known as Inclusion WA.

Amanda’s passion became cemented further when family illness showed her the importance of community care. While working with Recreation Network, Amanda’s dad became unwell with Parkinson’s disease, a battle which lasted 12 years. After an accident resulting in a head injury, he became frail and the family rallied around to support him. Continue Reading

Crafting for the greater good


Once upon a time, crafting and mending was a necessity for many women. These days it can be a pleasant hobby – but for some it is so much more.

Creating a connection between women and their ancestors, there is a new generation of crafters who use their heritage to fight for what they believe in. While not necessarily a new phenomenon,  mixing craft with social activism has recently hit the spotlight in a big way. Inspired by the rise of the Pussyhat, Heather Dowling explores the world of ‘craftivism’.

In the United States of America (USA), a sea of pink could be seen at women’s marches all over the country following the announcement that Donald Trump would be their next President. In  response to Trump’s “Grab them by the pussy” line, thousands of people around the world have bonded, marched, sang, laughed and yelled to get the message across that women are not objects.

A simple pattern, written by Kat Coyle, the Pussyhat is a hot pink beanie with little cat ears. It may be cute, but its message is fierce: don’t mess with a woman who knits.

In the lead-up to womens’ rights marches in Washington and across America in January, and the global International Women’s Day in March, knitting groups around the world have been meeting for the sole purpose of creating the hats to pass on to others, so that as many women, and men, as possible could wear one at these events. An image of a lonely hat even made the cover of Time  Magazine.

While the campaign originated in the USA, co-founded by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, the concept has resonated with people around the world, including in Australia. Continue Reading

A home away from home

During Easter, we often reflect on ‘new life’ or ‘new beginnings.’ At Trinity Residential College, a Uniting Church WA college for university students in Perth, staff and students are all too familiar with the stress and excitement that a new beginning can offer.

Trinity Residential College is located across the road from the University of Western Australia, and provides accommodation for students studying at any university in Perth.

Hayley Winchcombe and Ben Perry are resident advisors at Trinity College. This means they live and study at the college and, having spent a few years there, are now working as advisors to new   students who are just coming in. They help new residents with any queries that might come up, from how to use the airconditioner, to where they can buy a sim card for their phones. They know  all too well how hard it can be to adjust to this kind of change; moving away from home, family, friends and high school, to a new city and a new self-determined study routine.

Hayley moved to Trinity from Dunsborough to study French, and politics and international relations. Ben hails from Albany and is studying psychology. They both said that activities organised  during ‘O Week’ or Orientation Week, were important for building their new life at Trinity. Continue Reading