By Lauren Nicholls:
The Western Sydney Community Forum launched its Q&A breakfast series at Penrith Council Chambers on Thursday, June 2nd. The panel was collated to discuss the impending federal election, and consisted of representatives from a wide variety of NGO’s and advocacy bodies including the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, DVNSW, NCOSS, WSCF, Youth Action, Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW, and the House of Welcome. Overall the feel was that of simmering collective outrage. Stories and experiences from audience members were recounted over and over about the apathy of the current federal government to the social services, and the consistent cutting of vital funds. The people from the audience were not speaking out for themselves, but the vulnerable people that they work with every day.
Domestic and family violence was discussed; Rosie Batty has attributed so much momentum to the cause, yet the government has been paying only lip service to the issue. How can a government say it has domestic violence on the agenda, when it is stripping funding from the front line services? Jane Gould, a representative from the Penrith Women’s Health Centre talked of domestic violence services and shelters often only having one funded DV worker. There was also talk about how the NewStart allowance is forcing people under the poverty line. Among other topics the discussion also ranged to the government’s effort to decrease the demonstration powers of the public, mental health and cuts to services such as Headspace which has proven effective, and how the wants and needs of the young voters are being ignored.
The convenor of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, Jozefa Sobski I believe borrowed from Whitlam, and urged everyone to ‘maintain your rage’. The panel encouraged the audience to think more creatively as a sector. Those that are working in industry have the power to educate and advocate to a wide range, and large amount of people and they should use that power. Western Sydney holds quite a few marginal seats, and three of them are considered keys to the election. This is where votes and voices could count, and where the election and the government agenda can be swung in favour of the people.