Power to Persuade is a discussion blog and annual symposium focused on social policy, which aims to improve understanding and communication between the main groups involved in the policy process: government, academics and the community sector.
In the post below, republished here with permission, Power to Persuade editor and moderator Susan Maury highlights some of the outstanding posts published by the blog this year – they make for great reading, as the year ends or for during the festive season break if you get to have one.
(Declaration: Marie McInerney is also a moderator at Power to Persuade)
Susan Maury writes:
As the year winds down and the editorial team for the Power to Persuade and the Women’s Policy Action Tank take a little breather, we wanted to keep you in reading material over the holidays. Below are collected the most-read pieces from the year under both monikers. Additionally, we have thrown in a few pieces that we felt deserved a wider readership than they received.
Power to Persuade: High flyers
Early in the year we ran a series of pieces pulled from the Cashless Debit Card Symposium, which was held at the University of Melbourne in February. These pieces provided an overview, by Elise Klein, on the Cashless Debit Card, a review of the Cashless Debit Card system using a human rights framework by Shelly Bielefeld, an assessment by Susan Tilley of how the evaluation reports reflect partisan bias, how the Cashless Debit Card erodes financial inclusion by David Tennant and Susan Maury, a stellar analysis of Australia’s social security system using a trauma-informed lens by Katherine Curchin, and a first-person account of what it’s like to be on the Cashless Debit Card by Jocelyn Wighton. This series was extremely popular and if you missed some or all of it, we urge you to revisit them.
Lisa Carson wrote the extremely popular The politics of the problem: How to use Carol Bacchi’s work. Carol Bacchi is a feminist researcher who famously observed that the first step in interrogating an unfair system is to question how ‘the problem’ is framed. Lisa provided an example from her own work (along with Kathy Edwards) regarding how sex work is discussed in the policy space.
Wiradjuri woman Vanamali Hermans authored What’s limiting our mob from accessing the NDIS? Vanamali lives with disability and explains how the NDIS is another form of colonising; imposing culturally-incompetent solutions on Indigenous communities once again fails to address needs holistically.
Women’s Policy Action Tank: High flyers
By far and away the most popular blog on the Action Tank this year has been Vanessa Lee’s The political determinants of health must be recognised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, with over 6,000 reads since it was published in February. This importance piece argues that, beyond considering the social determinants of health, political systems and policies have an outsize impact on health and wellbeing as it is experienced both individually and collectively. This is particularly true for Indigenous people, who have been deliberately targeted with harmful government policy since the start of the colonisation project.
While written in 2017, the number two spot with over 4,000 reads this year is Parents Vexed? ParentsNext is poorly designed to support mothers into work, authored by Juanita McLaren and Susan Maury. With ParentsNext moving from a small pilot program to a much wider expansion in July of this year, many people who were impacted were scrambling to find information on this program which takes a compliance approach to ‘pre-employment activities’ for parents of very young children.
Popular commentator Juanita McLaren takes the next spot as well, with her Mother’s Day piece co-authored with Emily Wolfinger: No roses (or support) for the ‘undeserving’: Deconstructing how Australian policy punishes single mums.
The fifth spot is a 3-way tie. Sophie Yates’ brilliant analysis of the interplay between domestic and family violence and the gender pay gap was deservedly popular; be sure to give it a read if you missed it: How the ‘child penalty’ matters for domestic and family violence (and what we can do about it). Susan Maury hit a nerve with her piece which argues that the government has crafted welfare policies to create a form of systems abuse towards women in her piece Women, welfare, and a policy of economic abuse. And last but certainly not least, another piece from 2017 has had steady reads since it was first published, Azadeh Dastyari’s Refugee women on Nauru: The gendered effects of Australia’s asylum seeker detention policies. This important piece highlights one of the ways that Australian policy is deliberately placing women in its care in harm’s way – both unconscionable and a breach of our human rights commitments.
Power to Persuade: Under the radar
Some of the pieces that didn’t get the pick-up we had hoped include a highly polemical piece by Lanie Stockman entitled Australian Politics and Strategic Ignorance. In an age of ‘fake news’ and a highly selective use of evidence in policy formation, Lanie explains the phenomenon of purposeful ignorance and how this concept can help make sense of the policy machine.
Anecdotes of a disabled gay: Inclusion, advocacy and employment is an edited version of Wayne Herbert’s TedX Canberra (2017) talk. Wayne shares his experiences of exclusion and challenges ingrained attitudes and perceptions that he continually encounters.
For a break from reading about policy failings, spend a bit of time with Millie Rooney’s Making space for Utopia. Millie provides an inspiring reflection on the passion, enthusiasm and optimism of her students and the advocacy successes that can engender. This blog also has the best illustrations, bar none.
Work is currently being done on a draft Charter of Rights, so this is the perfect time to reread Sharynne Hamilton’s Justice, Parents and Child Protection: A role for a Charter of rights? She argues that a lack of human rights framework within the child protection space is damaging families unnecessarily.
Women’s Policy Action Tank: Under the radar
Here are the editor’s picks for Action Tank pieces which, for whatever reasons, failed to pick up the traction we had hoped. Make sure you don’t miss these gems.
The first three focus on voices and experiences which are often muted or silenced in the policy space. First up we have the important analysis from Stacey Batterham on how the deep cuts to the Australian aid budget is negatively impacting women, despite the government’s commitment to improving women’s lives via the aid budget. The gendered impacts of budgetary decisions can have far-reaching effects: Where’s the gender-osity? Women lose as the federal government reduces the aid budget to record lows.
Amy McQuire’s important piece for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based violence explains how ‘mainstream’ feminism too often shuts out the voices and unique experiences of Indigenous women; the interplay between interpersonal and systemic violence will be neither understood nor resolved until we learn to listen and acknowledge: We can’t dismantle systems of violence unless we centre Aboriginal women.
Catherine Hemingway shared findings from her research, which indicates that recently-arrived women experience extremely high levels of discriminatory actions at work, and seldom feel that they have any form of redress. A woman’s struggle: How our system fails to address discrimination at work.
It can be difficult to hear from female economists because there are so few in Australia. Leonora Risse contributed this fascinating piece which reports on her research into how ‘leaning in’ often works against women. Her findings indicate it’s time to stop blaming women for lack of career progression and instead work on fixing the biases that hold them back: Rewarding competence – not confidence – offers a step toward equality.
Last, but most certainly not least, is a piece which reports on research which finds that Research on gender bias receives less attention than research on other types of bias. A meta- research project by Magdalena Formanwicz, Aleksandra Cislak and Tamar Saguy found that there are barriers to even identifying the problems when research of this type cannot even get off the ground, or is undervalued.
Hopefully this keeps you in good reading material until we ramp back up for 2019 – an important year for policy advocacy with the looming federal election. In the meantime, enjoy a well-deserved rest and we will be back in this space with new thought pieces soon. Happy new year!