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Social justice update – September 2012

Committee finds in sole parents favour 

Sole parents expecting to be unduly affected by proposed changes in their support payments had more to cheer about this month when the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights reported in their favour. The committee found the changes to certain sole parent payments that were announced in the 2012-13 Budget may be incompatible with Australia’s human rights obligations. In a report released on September 20 the committee recommended that the government defer these measures until the outcome of the Senate inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart is finalised. The findings of that inquiry are due to be released on November 29. The St Vincent de Paul Society welcomed the findings of the human rights committee. In a media release Chief Executive Dr John Falzon described the findings “as a significant step in our battle to protect the human rights of the people who have been left out and pushed out.”

Acknowledging Indigenous Australians

Plans to hold a referendum on Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians have been put on hold with the federal government now planning to introduce an Act of Recognition to Parliament acknowledging our First Peoples in coming months. The response from Indigenous leaders to the government decisionannounced on September 20 has been mixed. Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda welcomed the proposed legislation but said Constitutional recognition must remain the ultimate goal. He said it was critical that a referendum be held when it had the best chance of succeeding.Research conducted by Reconciliation Australia at the direction of the government, found that only 39 per cent of the non-Indigenous community had heard about a proposed referendum. The Act of Recognition legislation will have a two-year sunset clause designed to ensure that following the 2013 election the future Government reassess the referendum campaign.The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples called on both major parties and the Greens to make serious commitments as to the timing of the referendum. The St Vincent de Paul Society President, Tony Thornton, said: “We respectfully acknowledge and support the voices of the First Peoples. Many feel that they are unheard by both Government and Opposition.”

Gonski reforms progress

The St Vincent de Paul Society supports education reform as a means to build a world standard public education system that guarantees the highest quality education especially for those students experiencing disadvantage. Earlier this year the Society welcomed the release of David Gonski’s independent report on school funding and awaited the government’s response for several months. In July St Vincent de Paul Society CEO, Dr Falzon told The Australian: “We need to bite the bullet and commit ourselves to the Gonski Reforms on education.” On September 3 the federal government announced its support for the reforms and commenced ongoing negotiations with state premiers on exactly how the $6.5 billion bill for implementing the wide scale reforms would be split. Dr Falzon maintains that spending to address inequality in our schools would be one of the smartest investments Australia could make to prevent youth homelessness.

The Record is out now

Young people feature prominently in the spring issue of the Record. The front cover shows the smiling faces of those who attended the Vinnies National Youth Congress held in Melbourne in early August. On Friday, August 3 one-hundred and forty young adult and young at heart Vincentians gathered in Melbourne for the inaugural Congress. The theme for the event was ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ and the aim was to inspire, support and form the Society’s young adult members. The spring issue of the Record will soon be distributed to the states and territories. Digital versions of the Record will be made available on the Social Justice Blog and on the Society’s website.

Submissions in the pipeline
The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council is preparing submissions to the following inquiries:

  • The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs is holding an inquiry into Australia’s domestic response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health report ‘Closing the gap within a generation’. The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is October 4 and the reporting date is 27 March, 2013. · Senate Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform is holding an inquiryinto the Poker Machine Harm Reducation ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012. Submissions are due by the end of October.

Upcoming events

  • VinniesSouptember is being conducted in South Australia from September 1 to 30.
  • Anti-Poverty Week 2012 – Sunday, 14 October to Monday, 20 October
  • The 5thannual Gerald Ward Lecture – November 16 at the National Library of Australia. Delivered by Fr Robert McCulloch and Helen Watchirs OAM, ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner. For more information contact the National Council office on (02) 6202 1200.

From @VinniesSA – Poh’s Kitchen @ Fred’s Van, our mobile food service, feeding the homeless & hungry #adelaide http://bit.ly/RSWvd6

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