The Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Australia released its interim report this week. Many of the recommendations support the pleas of crisis accommodation services, women’s groups and welfare organisations for reinstatement of funding cut in last year’s budget. Although the final report is not due to be released until July, the current volatile political situation (with the possibility of a double dissolution looming) and the extreme severity of the situation, costing nearly $14 billion in 2008-9 (report p.2), was felt to justify the release of the interim report now.
Here is some food for thought for those of us in this little pocket of the world – Tweed Shire, Northern NSW – as we consider the theme of National Families Week and reflect on global trends in family-related policy this year, the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
On April 30th, Anglicare Australia launched its annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, highlighting the difficulties that low-income households face in securing affordable housing. Low-income families in regional areas were found to be virtually unable to find suitable housing on their budget, especially if they were single parents receiving Newstart Allowance. Anglicare Australia’s first key priority was “recognition of income inadequacy as a barrier to secure housing and meaningful social participation” (page. 5).
Caring about caring is a feminist issue.
Proceeding from the Harvester Judgement of 1907, basic working wages in Australia were essentially constructed to cover the reasonable needs of a family. This placed women and children in a position of dependence and women’s work was relegated to a space outside national productivity accounting. Working women were not offered the basic wage as social norms at that time expected that this was supplementing the husband’s already adequate wage. Women were actively prevented from many higher paid jobs, and maternity leave was irrelevant as women were expected to cease working once pregnant. In 1919, women’s wages were set at 54% of the male basic wage which only rose to 75% in the 1950s (Hearn 2006).