The practical means for a decent life

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Throughout the process of creating Australia reMADE we heard many stories of hope, of pain, of camaraderie and of vision for a better future. We’re so pleased to share some of these with you and deeply appreciative for the thoughts and wisdom of those we spoke with.

This vignette was inspired by conversations with women from the Council of Single Mothers and their children.

Click to find out more about the Council of Single mothers and their children.

 
 
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The practical means for a decent life

Members of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children joined us in an online video conference. These women are articulate, passionate, energetic, active and angry. Their names are Mary, Tracey, Jeanne and Kathleen. Between them they are responsible for eight children aged 4 to 22, including one with multiple disabilities. Their professional backgrounds are in communication, counselling, and social policy research.

There is an intimacy in our online conversation, partly because we’re all visible in our domestic locations. There’s Jeanne’s daughter walking past and a toddler clattering in the background. We can see the artwork on Ann’s walls, the sunny light in Tracey’s living room and the knick-knacks on Mary’s shelves.

These women work tirelessly to support thousands of other women online to understand the Centrelink maze of paperwork and how on earth to subsist on such low benefits. They fight daily for access to services and support others to do the same. Some weeks they rely on charity hampers.

“We just need a bunch of single mothers to do the government budget - there’d be enough for everyone!”

Tracey tells the story of how her daughter once came home from school with a broken arm. When she asked her why she hadn’t called her, the daughter replied “cos mum, if you come home from work, we don’t get to eat.” None of the other women seemed particularly shocked by this. Their reality is likely to continue to be tough.

As Tracey says: “None of us married to become domestically violated and divorced, to be left running scared and picking up the pieces, losing everything you work hard for (including a relationship with a partner you thought you could trust to go the journey). Many of us have huge concerns for our wellbeing, safety and security in our ageing years…”

And yet despite the challenges these women power on. “Ha!” says Georgina, “We just need a bunch of single mothers to do the government budget - there’d be enough for everyone.”

 
 

As we talk all at once in Tasmania and Western Australia and New South Wales and Victoria and South Australia we hear visions for fairness and equity, a future where kids have secure housing, education and jobs, climate change is sorted, refugees are welcome and we have peace. The future holds overall affordable housing and a strong safety net where there is no difference between the ‘deserving’ and ‘underserving’ poor because we are all helped with our needs, no judgment. First Peoples are respected, their cultures are respected, and their needs are respected.

For these women, the future they want is one where every person living in Australia simply has, "the practical means for a decent life." Not a lavish life. Not even an easy life. Just a decent one.

In one of the richest countries on earth, at the richest time in human history, this feels like a goal that is not only doable, but worthy of us.

 
 
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