The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many pre-existing social and economic issues in Australia to the fore, from housing stress, to poverty, family violence, and insecure employment. As an organisation working with some of the most disadvantaged members of the community, we have witnessed firsthand the disproportionate impact of this crisis on already marginalised people and communities.
However, responses to the pandemic have also proven that while these issues are complex, they are not beyond resolution. For example, the increase to JobSeeker meant that some of our participants for the first time were able to afford necessities such as medication and warm clothes. We have witnessed the collaboration of private and public sectors to implement evidence-informed measures that increased the level of mental health support, boosted income, and provided housing for people experiencing vulnerabilities. While these measures show that a more just and humane society is possible, many of these them have been temporary and only provided short-term relief.
Much like COVID-19, climate change is disproportionately impacting marginalised people and communities including the people we work with. Our participants are more at risk of bearing the brunt of the current and long-term impacts of climate change because of where they live, their income, their age, health conditions, disabilities, or where they work. As we look to recover from the pandemic, it is therefore critical that we do not lose sight of the co-occurring climate crisis by ensuring our response is grounded in principles of ecological justice and equity.
At election times, familiar themes often dominate the political spectrum: tax cuts, the economy, national security, infrastructure, among others. These are important issues, but all too often the needs of those on the margins of society are overlooked during election time. We need to ensure that our political leaders commit to policies, practices and investment that allows everybody the opportunity to reach their full potential.
There is a mood for change amongst the Australian public. We have seen this through community solidarity with women standing up for gender equity; calls for genuine action on climate change; and advocacy to raise income and support payments so that those with the least can live a better life.
Elections are times for reflecting on what kind of society we want to live in. Drawing on 45 years of advocacy and action, this document outlines Jesuit Social Services’ vision for a just society across a range of interconnected social policy areas, from climate change to Aboriginal self-determination, youth justice, mental health and affordable housing.
Jesuit Social Services calls for resources, policies, practices and ideas that reduce inequality, prejudice and exclusion and that, ultimately, reflect a more compassionate and just Australia.