Entries by

Augustine Zycher

Australia’s Ominous Social Crisis

Australia has never before witnessed the sort of ominous social crisis that is unfolding now.
Australia has never before had a demographic defined by age and gender, plunged into poverty and homelessness on a mass scale.

There are already more than 400,000 women over the age of 50 for whom this is a reality. It is a outcome of government policies, gender inequality and social prejudice.

Poverty is essentially a choice made by the Government. We saw this during Covid when people were raised from below the poverty line & the homeless were housed. If Budget 2021 fails to address the economic, social and housing disaster faced by older women then the Government bears direct responsibility for this escalating social crisis.

Christine Holgate, Australia Post and the Federal Government

Appearing before a special Senate inquiry, Christine Holgate presented a powerful and meticulously documented expose of the role of the Australia Post Board and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in her removal from her position as CEO of Australia Post. So convincing was her testimony, that she was able to do the unthinkable. She was able to unite Pauline Hanson, Bridget McKenzie, Sarah Hanson-Young and the rest of the committee behind her in exposing the duplicity and bullying that led to her removal.

Ms.Holgate has managed to energise a groundswell of public support for her position, particularly amongst women.
They recognise that despite being remarkably successful in her leadership role, a female CEO is still treated very differently to the way a male leader is treated.

When Women Roar

The March4Justice movement has achieved something remarkable for Australian women. It has transformed decades of private suffering into mass solidarity. 

For the first time, tens of thousands of women ended their silence about sexual abuse and injustice.

The ‘I’ has become the ‘We’.

The March4Justice protests that saw 110,000 people in 42 marches around the nation have not dissipated into silence. 

Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins and Katherine Thornton together ignited this explosion of rage. Their courage set off a spontaneous combustion of deep reserves of trauma, shame and frustration buried beneath silence. Women have had enough.

The events of the last month drove home to them that it’s not an individual problem, but a society-wide bias against women seeking justice and equality. The system is rigged against women and girls. 

The misogyny is institutionalised.

Women journalists and social media have given a platform to the voiceless and powerless.

999 Ways to Describe an Older Woman

The media attacks on Dr. Jill Biden remind us just how many people are offended by an older woman holding public office and not acting ‘her age’, even if she is the First Lady of the United States.

When Dr.Biden recently appeared in patterned tights and boots she was instantly condemned. Twitter users hurled sexist and ageist jokes at the 69-year-old educator. Numerous tweets called her names like “hag,” “hooker”, “trash and “witch”. One tweet advised that ” For an additional $29.99 Jill Biden could have accessorized her Halloween costume with the optional broom.”

In a society that values women primarily for their youthful beauty, sexual and reproductive powers, the more we age, the more our currency as women is devalued. 

And it is reflected in the language.

Some common names for women over 50 – old bag, granny, biddy, crone, hag, witch, harridan, bedlam, old bat, old boiler – are just some of the names we hear.

Google offers over 999+ adjectives to describe an older or old woman. They are uniformly pejorative.

Open Letter to Premier Daniel Andrews

Don’t fail Victorian women in the upcoming State Budget. The Federal Budget failed Australian women.

It is illusory to think that there can be economic recovery without the full participation of women of all ages.

Affordable childcare has to be a cornerstone of Victoria’s Budget.
Policies targeted at older women are another cornerstone.
So too is social housing.

The progressive exclusion of women 50+ from the workforce is one of the most serious violations of women’s rights in Australia & it is happening on a mass scale. As a result these women constitute the majority of unemployed, those on welfare and the homeless. The Victorian Budget can halt this process of impoverishment with incentives for employment instead of age discrimination policies such as JobMaker.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Shattering The Age Barrier

In all the tributes to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for shattering the barriers denying her and other women justice and equality, haven’t we overlooked what was staring us in the face? Justice Ginsburg was an old woman aged 87 when she died. And the last barrier she shattered was the one erected in the path of women when they reach the age of 50. 

RBG was at the height of her power and influence in the 27 years between the ages of 60 and 87. She was 60, when she was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the age when most women are regarded as being way past their “use by” date.

But most probably, if Justice Ginsburg had taken off her robes and and unrecognised, applied for a job in Australia, she would be treated the same way other women her age are treated. Most employers would consider her unemployable and refuse to give her work, and Government would resent such an unproductive person as a drain on resources. In a pandemic they might readily agree that she be sacrificed on the altar of economic recovery.

The Impact of the Pandemic on Older Women

We need to look at ageing in Australia as a gender issue.

Australian women are ageing quite differently to the majority of men.

Covid19 has exacerbated the significant disadvantage older women experience on every measure of economic and social wellbeing compared to men.

It has also increased their social isolation and exacerbated their precarious financial position.

For women, ageing is a process of devaluation.

Corona & the Common Good

In the autumn of 2020, for two months, Australia united around the common good – “pro bono publico”.

When the scale of the approaching threat of coronavirus became evident, two unprecedented things happened.

First, Australian governments, federal and state, chose to put aside politics and ideology and based their policy on the advice of health experts.

Secondly, the Australian people trusted that our governments were actually acting to avoid a national catastrophe. So remarkably, a public consensus formed around the need to uphold the common good as a priority. What kept the vast majority of people in their homes was not the possibility of fines, it was this shared belief that our individual welfare depended on the welfare of others. And what kept us resolute were the images of mass graves in countries where there was no leadership and no consensus regarding the common good.

Indigenous women elders imprisoned for homelessness & poverty

” Janine (age 61) is one of a large and growing number of older women who are homeless. Five years ago, she was made redundant from her position as an Office Manager in Perth. Despite great effort she has been unable to find a job and ultimately couldn’t afford to continue paying rent. Since beginning to live in her car 8 months ago, Janine has tried to find relatively safe places to park at night. As a result, she has accumulated parking fines which she simply can’t afford to pay … particularly as these have compounded, had administrative fees added and now total over $3,000. When Janine was pulled over by police for allegedly speeding, she was immediately arrested for these outstanding fines and sent to prison. She doesn’t know what’s happened to her car, which contains all her worldly possessions.”

First Nations women elders are being imprisoned as a direct result of being impoverished and homeless.
Minor non-violent offences, such as not having enough money to pay parking fines, can land them in gaol, and this can turn out to be a death sentence for an older woman.

“Through no fault of their own”

“ Through no fault of their own”. This is the phrase that Prime Minister Morrison used when he announced the new Jobseeker payment that would replace Newstart for the coming 6 months. We were told that thousands of Australians would lose their jobs “ through no fault of their own”.  And since these people could not be expected to live on the Newstart payment of $40 a day, the Jobseeker payment would be doubled to $1,100 per fortnight.

Prior to Covid19, most people receiving the unemployment payment, Newstart, were actually women aged over 50. Many had been on Newstart for years, usually until they were old enough to qualify for the pension. Not once in the past did anyone in Government announce that these women were unemployed “through no fault of their own”.
Quite the opposite. 

There was a deliberate campaign to devalue and humiliate the people on Newstart as dole-bludgers who needed to be drug tested.