Message from the CEO, Dr John Falzon

It was disconcerting to learn the review of homelessness policy has been shelved. An article published on the Pro Bono Australia news website reported the development, which was confirmed by the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews. Earlier this year Vinnies joined a host of other NFPs calling on the Minister to announce concrete dates for the review. We are disappointed the long-awaited review has been axed, but what concerns us most is the future of homelessness services funding. We once again call on the Minister to commit to a long-term National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness before the current agreement expires mid next year.

The inadequacy of income support payments was a major topic of discussion when I attended the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) board meeting in Melbourne on 10 November, 2014. We are eagerly awaiting the final report on the Review of Australia’s welfare system and while the Society is not opposed to the Welfare Review’s suggestion that income support payments be streamlined (providing they are not reduced), we think the elephant in the room is the inadequacy of the payments themselves. The fact is no matter how much the Government streamlines our welfare system; people are still going to be poor, due to the paltry level of the payments. That is why we are committed to calling for a $50 per week minimum increase in the Newstart Allowance.

On 18 November, 2014 I addressed the National Carer Conference in the Gold Coast and I was reminded of the vital and, largely unrecognised role, that carers play in our community.  There are 2.7 million carers in Australia and the national Conference gives carers the opportunity to voice what is important to them and to have input into national issues.

Christmas Appeal 2014

On 1 November we launched the Vinnies Christmas Appeal for 2014. This Christmas, we will provide people across Australia with financial assistance, clothing, utilities, food hampers and gifts for children. National President, Anthony Thornton said most people are turning to us for the basics such as food, paying a bill and keeping a roof over their head.  “The reality is that for many people Christmas is a stressful time and far from the joyous celebration it is for most Australians. These people will struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table let alone dream of buying gifts for their children or preparing a special Christmas meal,” Mr Thornton said.  Vinnies needs the support of those Australians who can afford to do so, to dig deep and make a generous donation to the Vinnies Christmas Appeal. People can donate by visiting or calling 13 18 12 .

Parliamentary News

Anticipation has been building over the proposed legislation to change the Migration Act and Asylum Legacy Bill, including the re-introduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) which leave refugees in a state of uncertainty about their futures. Many community-based campaigners petitioned Labor and Cross-bench senators and highlighting the major flaws in the proposals.  It is not yet known whether the legislation will be heard by the Senate in before the end of the year.

Vinnies has prepared a submission to the Refugee Council of Australia’s Annual Consultations outlining its concerns about TPVs and we continue to await the Human Rights Commission’s Report on Children in Detention to which we made a submission.

Yet another disappointing development in Australia’s immigration policy was announced on 19 November, 2014 when Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would no longer resettle asylum seekers who registered with the United Nations in Indonesia after 1 July, 2014. The Society believes this is a dangerous step in terms of Australia’s commitment to the Refugee Convention and urges the government to immediately increase its humanitarian refugee intake, which has fallen from 20,000 to 13,750 under Minister Morrison.  

In other Parliamentary News, the Senate Inquiry into the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia is due to report on 26 November and  the report into ‘Strengthening the Job Seeker Requirements’ is due on 24 November.  The Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC) replacement bill inquiry is also due to report before the end of the year.

Vinnies in the news

  • On 19 November, 2014 Vinnies CEO, Dr John Falzon, was announced as one of four finalists for the Australian Human Rights Medal as part of the annual awards held by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Dr Falzon was shortlisted for the award along with Dorothy Hoddinott AO, Noel Tovey and Michael Traill AM. Dr Falzon’s advocacy efforts to address the structural courses of poverty and inequality did not go unnoticed by the judges. The winner of the Australian Human Rights Medal will be announced at an award ceremony held in Sydney on 10 December, 2014.
  • On 14 November, 2014 the St Vincent de Paul Society held a successful Community Sleepout event in Canberra. The event was held in conjunction with Communities at Work, a Canberra-based NFP. Seven hundred people slept out in wet conditions in order to raise money to combat homelessness.

Coming up