Last week, on July 10, we attended a wonderful conference !! Many thanks especially to Lew Wheeler from Fair Go For Pensioners for all her hard work and dedication. I will tell you more about this conference soon, but first we have a guest-post from Radical Women. This is an organisation that have been allies with FOPHV from the start. Their post highlights some very important statistics.
A recent graph of government spending gives new meaning to “secure housing.” From 2011 to 2018, funding for prisons went up 90%, compared to 1% for public and social housing. While jaw-dropping, it’s not a surprise. There’s no profit in public housing, and governments serve the profit makers.
As wealth inequality keeps widening, destitution keeps spreading and the pressure on public housing is beyond breaking point. Victoria has 80,000, including 25,000 children, on its waiting list. Prisons are also full, because governments (not just Victoria’s) are in a “tough-on-crime” frenzy. What’s this government’s solution? Privatise public housing out of existence and spend $2 billion on a new mega prison.
The fight now for public housing is a fight against poverty and its criminalisation. It’s a struggle for the rights of those hit the hardest.
Women are facing the brunt of public housing’s decimation and the law-and-order crackdown. Most public tenants are women. ( 61% ) Over the past decade, as we’ve watched this housing sector being dismantled, women’s imprisonment increased 77% — mostly for poverty-related crimes like drug offences, fraud and theft or traffic incidents.
Aboriginal women — who are 21 times more likely to be jailed than non-Indigenous women — are 34% of Australia’s female prison population. Although the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended that prison be used as a last resort, Aboriginal women’s incarceration has increased 148%. Eighty percent are mothers. They are the fastest growing section of the prison population.
Poverty and abuse overwhelmingly account for the soaring rate of women’s imprisonment. In a society so sexist, heterosexist, transphobic, racist and disability-phobic, it follows (to its shame) that 70-90% of women in prison have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused. Legal advocates point to homelessness and having to use “violence” as the only means of self-defence as major factors behind the criminal convictions. Yet women’s refuges have been savagely cut over years, and support services overstretched and stressed. And each news headline of a woman’s murder is a terrible reminder that violence against women is escalating.
For so many people, a long waiting list for housing means homelessness. Forty percent of homeless youth in Australia are from the LGBTIQ community. On census night in 2016, one in 28 Indigenous people were homeless. The fastest growing group of people with no home are women over 55. From 2011 to 2016 their number increased by 31%.
Emergency accommodation gives no relief to transgender and gender diverse young people, who are at high risk of violence, especially trans women forced into male-only housing.
The only solution is an economic system based on equal sharing of wealth, where profit can’t exist: socialism. Right now, we can fight to massively expand public housing by linking this to struggles interwoven with it. We could start with these demands:
· Quality, comfortable, permanent housing is a right! Public housing, free from coercive restrictions, for all who choose it.
· Secure, well-resourced accommodation for everyone fleeing danger.
· Free, quality, coordinated healthcare, including mental healthcare, for all.
· Substance use is a health issue, not a crime, and must be integral to public healthcare.
· A living income for all, free from risk of poverty, homelessness and unsafe, unwanted relationships.
· Free education for everyone, from early childhood through tertiary levels.
· End unpaid, underpaid exploitation. Equal employment opportunity, with free, top quality training. Wage justice and equal pay now!
· Reproductive freedom for all women. Full, freely accessible supports for every woman to make genuine, independent decisions about having children or not, when to have a child and how many, raising her children, terminating a pregnancy. Housing is a reproductive right!
· Full citizenship rights for immigrants and refugees: End all racist barriers to permanent residency and citizenship.
· End sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist, xenophobic, anti-disability discrimination. No exemptions, religious or otherwise!
There is untapped wealth to fund all of this:
· Tax the rich! Make corporations pay their taxes!