Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I didn't Shoot the Deputy

Dear Deputy Principal,

Thankyou for the letter home to all parents, encouraging them to volunteer their time at our primary school for activities such as library, computers or home reading.
I have many happy memories of being the regular 'home reading mum' at your school. We walked to school every morning with dogs, prams and bicycles, and spent at least an hour after that helping the year ones and twos read.
In 2006, the Howard government brought in 'Welfare to Work' and for myself and many other parents, the whole scenario changed forever.

Unless we work full time when our children turned seven, or we are married to someone earning enough money to give CentreLink the flick, we are now obliged to sign a contract stating that we will work a minimum of fifteen hours a week at or above the minimum wage of $14.23 an hour. If we earn less than the minimum wage, we are obliged to work more hours to make up that difference. If we do not qualify for either of these mandates, we are obliged to do 100 hours of Job Search training and be corralled into Intensive Assistance. The job search agencies whom we are unwittingly signed up to, garner a certain amount of federal funding per person that they have to 'process', and therefore they see each individual as a 'funding unit'.
If we do not comply with any of these options, we are considered breachers and bludgers who do not participate within our community in a productive manner.

However, we can do fifteen hours of volunteer work per week to make up for this personal shortfall.
Volunteer work includes most forms of government-sponsored altruism. Unfortunately, according to CentreLink and PVS Workfind, the definition of volunteer work does not include the following things:
* Looking after a friend who has cancer, including driving them to and from appointments, gardening, cleaning or shopping for them.
* Helping your elderly neighbour when they have to leave for six weeks to deal with funerals or births in another state.
* Painting your mate's house.
* Canteen Duty in primary schools.
* Home reading in primary schools.
* Helping kids in the library or the computer room in primary schools.

I don't know a parent who wasn't running around like a blue-arsed fly, before the Welfare to Work regime came in. I suggest that if you want parents to help our kids out in the lunch hour, in the canteen, in the library, in the computer room, then you approach the doctor's/lawyer's/miner's spouse who can afford not to work or queue in government orifices. The other option is a little more socially progressive. Approach PVS WorkFind and CentreLink. Impress on them the need to change their policy of devaluing the work of volunteers within the schools and the community.

I am terribly sorry that I can no longer spare an hour a week to help out with the kids at our school. These days I can barely make the Assembly.
I notice as well, that you are asking for more diverse services from parents, as your own resources are being squeezed. It was with a great sadness I read this letter from you today and realised how all of our resources and time are becoming collectively contracted into non-productive slots that no longer allow us the moments of unadulterated day dreaming and fun and unthinking philanthropy.

Yours sincerely, Sarah Toa

(Cartoon by The Boiling Point, )


  1. Alas - administrative stupidity is not limited to the States...

  2. Arrrgh! Infuriating, demeaning and idiotic.

  3. Oh and I have taken the liberty of sending a copy of this post to our revered national leader "The Honourable Kevin Rudd"

  4. I would start a protest out the front of Center link Darwin for you Sarah.. But alas, I would just get lost in the crowd who consume the front door.

    It's a pretty retarded system, but do we really want to get onto whipping the Howard government stuff here again? :)

    Come share some love miss!

  5. Well fucking said!!I hope you sent that letter to the Deputy...oh, but don't forget about the big push for big maternity leave rewards for people who have 'real jobs'.

    In the 'real working world'...we at TAFE are all having nervous breakdowns trying to keep up with the paperwork required to justify our jobs. We spend hours doing docs that have absolutely fuck all to do with teaching which we all love and why we signed up. When our director defends us because we got rapped over the knuckles by the wanker auditors for some minor dreaded 'non-compliance' issues, the pubic servants say 'too fucking bad - get on with it'. Oh, that is of course after our college wins some award for excellence in teaching in 2008. Priorities??

    Bring on the revolution...

  6. I'm over whipping the Howards too Juice, however this is a massive effort at social engineering and it hasn't changed with the new government!

  7. I'm with you Sarah. Although I initially liked some of Rudd's ideas, it is a very conservative and right wing Labor party with many of the fucked up economic and social attitudes of the old regime.

    At TAFE, funding per student per unit has dropped from $11.00 to $4.00 in the last 10 years courtesy of the Howard government BUT although costs have gone up and we are suffering already, good ol' Uncle Kevvy has just whacked another across the board 3% efficiency cut on top of that. But we are still expected to deliver quality education to students WITH all the ADDED duties like: growing amounts of paperwork since the 1990s, duty of care for under-aged students who can't be bothered getting out of bed but we have to notify someone to notify the parents who don't give a fuck anyway, 'counselling' to increasing numbers of people who are too academically, emotionally or socially fucked up to go anywhere else but need to get off social security benefits, accomodating students with 'special learning needs'courtesy of an education system that doesn't teach reading and writing any more...and on it goes.

  8. Bravo, Sarah!

    I got absolutely no help from PVS when I was unemployed. One time they wouldn't even let me use one of their computers to draft a CV, because I hadn't been unemployed "long enough" - meaning, they would not get enough of a kickback if I did happen to find a job, so it wasn't worth their while allowing me to use an unattended computer supposedly available for the use of the unemployed.

    When I did find myself a job, completely independently of all the crap suggestions they sent me, they got paid for helping me!


  9. You may find this an amusing read:

    Yes, ok - so i'm a known troublemaker.