Late last year, I was admitted to RPA Hospital for treatment to allay oral pain and fever. I was in some distress – and very mindful of family and community support.
One upside was witnessing the healing work of public hospital staff, including nurses, of course, who perform astounding feats of expertise, dependability, kindness, day after day. I saw again their commitment to others, long shifts and double shifts – their calls for safe nurse-to-patient ratios (one-to-four, one-to-three in emergency) ignored.
In August 2022, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission increased midwives and nurses’ pay by just 3 per cent. There was also a one-off payment in recognition of astounding feats throughout many months of the pandemic.
Nurses have repeatedly called for unified action alongside workers engaged in industrial disputes, including other health workers, as well as teachers and rail workers.
For too long the base rate of the JobSeeker payment has been below the poverty line, with Youth Allowance even lower. In 2020, the coronavirus supplement temporarily increased income support above the poverty line and changed lives – people were able to keep up with rent and bills, and access essentials like prescription glasses, a working fridge and dental care.
For many people trying to survive on $48 a day means going without medication and medical care.
It can be difficult to endure illness of any kind but how much worse when our nurses are unsupported and feel unsafe at work. How much worse for people – waiting for hours in understaffed emergency departments – unable to afford medicines.
ACOSS (the Australian Council of Social Services) argues we need to “Raise the Rate for Good” so that everyone has enough to cover the basics of life.
Neoliberal social policy includes terms like “workfare”, “mutual obligation”, “help and hassle” – people feel blamed and shamed, punished for circumstances beyond their control.
Under free-market capitalism the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, as the poet Percy Shelley first astutely observed (1821). In our time and place, the average net worth of the top 20 per cent of households is more than 93 times that of the lowest 20 per cent – some $3.2 million compared to just $35,200. The gap continues to widen.
Calls for peace with justice reverberate … and how we demonstrate our values counts.
The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to peace, health and wellbeing, right relationship and community, and to re-imagine sharing life with others, holiness and country. To unite or set at one. To re-orient our lives.