Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Unintended consequences

Policy changes in government can sometimes communicate a more general message to the community.

Australia has just emerged from 11 years of conservative government and the policies enacted by that government have had a broader impact than intended.

Take for example the policy towards refugees. It was touted as a way of protecting the country and all statements to the contrary it also communicated an attitude of ‘we don’t care’ and if even we did actually care, it has been interpreted by some Australians as meaning just that.

Other areas of social justice have also been ‘harder’ – the approach towards the unemployed and the ‘tough love’ strategies in dealing with indigenous issues are some examples of where policy, with probably good intent, and even with good interventions in some cases can be misinterpreted.

I work with people with disabilities – probably the easiest group to defend in terms of justifiable need and yet there has been a hardening towards funding for the disability sector that parallels the situation in other sectors. This has occurred even while the rhetoric has been directly contradictory to the funding situation.

Everyone agrees that funding should be increased, that people with disabilities should be included and that families and carers should be supported – this is bipartisan politically and yet. . .

Australia has been conditioned not to care. 11 years of being told to put ourselves first and that security is the most important national priority has resulted in behavioural change at the social, cultural and political levels and acculturated a nation that no longer has the capacity to care.

The greatest task facing this nation today is to restore compassion as a central core of policy, practice and belief.

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