Pas Forgione

The Anti-Poverty Network South Australia hosted a conference, “Speak Out! Stand Up! Ideas, Stories, and Action Against Poverty” on October 16 and 17.

The event, part of the nation-wide anti-poverty week of activities from October 11 to 17, was a unique gathering of activists, community workers and welfare recipients who face constant attacks on their rights as they struggle with below-poverty-line incomes and few job openings.

Significantly, it was the only anti-poverty week event organised and run by low-income people.

"Another bloody bogan. Shows she can't manage her money", the Coles cashier said as Sally left the store. It was Sally's first time using the Basics Card, and things were not off to a good start.

Protesters rallied outside the South Australian Labor Party convention in Adelaide on November 15.

They were protesting against South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill's endorsement of mining magnate Andrew Forrest's controversial Indigenous Employment and Training Review.

The report's proposals went beyond the narrow terms of reference — employment and training for Aboriginal people — to include policy recommendations around welfare reform, school attendance, land rights, early childhood and prenatal services, and other areas.

One of the most striking features of the first year of Tony Abbott’s government is the sustained attacks on Centrelink clients.

These started with the federal budget and its proposed cuts to Newstart Allowance for those aged under 30, Family Tax Benefits for sole-parent and low-income families, and restricted access to Disability Support Pension.

These were followed by employment minister Eric Abetz announcing the expansion of Work for the Dole to all jobseekers under 50.

The recent Australian Council of Social Service report into poverty has found one third of sole parents live in poverty.

Many sole parents are suffering after being switched from Parenting Payment Single to the much lower Newstart Allowance. Under former prime minister Julia Gillard, about 100,000 sole parents were switched to the lower payment.

Last week the federal government released its first evaluation of how its controversial income management policy has fared in five locations where the scheme was introduced in July 2012.

This discriminatory government policy, which allows for Centrelink clients to have their payments quarantined and restricts how they can spend their money, has also been been explored in two recent government reports that have proposed extending the scheme.

Members of the Aboriginal community, faith-based groups, unionists, welfare activists, and others gathered at the State Administration Centre in Adelaide on September 9 to oppose a proposal to expand income management in South Australia.

Labor Premier Jay Weatherill has announced he would “offer the broadest possible support” to all 27 of billionaire Andrew Forrest's recommendations in his Indigenous Employment and Training Review. This would include Forrest's controversial proposal to dramatically expand income management to all working-age Centrelink clients, or 2.5 million people.

Recent months have seen repeated and unprecedented attacks on the unemployed and other income support recipients, with the federal budget and McLure and Forrest Reviews proposing cuts to payments for job-seekers, restricting access to the Disability Support Pension, and expanding Work for the Dole and income management.

But there are signs of resistance. Pas Forgione from the Anti-Poverty Network SA spoke to Owen Bennett, who set up the Australian Unemployment Union.

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What is the Australian Unemployment Union and what are its goals?

The federal government has plans to expand Work for the Dole. From July next year it will be compulsory for job-seekers aged 18-30 to do 25 hours of work a week.

The Anti-Poverty Network South Australia spoke to two former participants, Jarred Sferruzzi and John Murcott (not his real name) about their experiences on the scheme under the John Howard government.

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When were you on Work For The Dole?

In the same week that employment minister Eric Abetz announced the government would expand Work for the Dole to all job seekers under 50 and that job seekers would have to apply for double the number of jobs than previously, billionaire miner Andrew Forrest released his own recommendations for welfare reform — some of the most punitive ever proposed.

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