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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. Mary, Tracey, Jeanne and Kathleen; between them responsible for 8 children between 4 and 22, one with multiple disabilities; with backgrounds 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, Tracey’s living room and the nick-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 people manage 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.

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 NSW 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. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are valued and their needs met according to their culture.

The future they want provides everyone with “the practical means for a decent life”.