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Queen Vic newsletter – Issue #18

July 2017

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    Getting the help you really need when you need it

    A new, free online tool, Gather My Crew was launched at the QVWC last week. It has been designed to help people through times of crisis by linking them to their support networks. It helps those who are having difficult times ask for the help they need and it makes it easy for their friends, family, colleagues and networks to provide practical support.

    When a crisis hits, normal life gets turned upside down, and coordinating offers to help into practical support can be overwhelming.

    Psychologist Dr Susan Palmer experienced this firsthand when a friend was dealing with health issues. A mother of primary school age twins, she faced a six-week period of being bed-ridden. Her solution to managing the day-to-day was for her partner to take time off work. But with no holiday or sick pay, this would have left them in severe financial distress, creating long-term consequences way beyond the outcomes of surgery.

    Once Susan realised her friend needed help, she offered to co-ordinate it. And while there were many friends and colleagues who offered to help, it took hours to coordinate and manage them to get the help delivered when, where and how it was needed. It became a gargantuan organisational task.

    Realising that this was a day-to-day reality for many people experiencing crisis and those who wanted to help them, Susan drew on her clinical knowledge and developed Gather My Crew, a free online platform linking people in crisis with their support networks in a coordinated and manageable way.

    Karen McIvor, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in September last year, was the first official user of Gather My Crew. She’s been a single mother since her husband passed away from cancer five years ago.

    Karen said that Gather My Crew helped her keep life as normal as possible for her children while she was going through chemotherapy.

    “I’m lucky to be surrounded by a network of wonderful friends and a lot of school parents wanted to help, but they didn’t really know what to do. I found it difficult to ask for help and express exactly what I needed. Getting a meal on the table each night was really important, but it was more than just a meal roster. I needed help getting my boys to and from school and sporting activities as well as general household chores. Things I simply couldn’t do because I was so sick from chemotherapy,” said Karen.

    Gather My Crew allowed Karen to schedule in her needs from bed and then her crew of 30 helpers could pick when it fit in with their busy schedules.

    “The tool did all the hard work for me and all of a sudden I had a full calendar,” said Karen.

    Gather My Crew guides people in crisis through the process of asking for the help they require with a list of common needs and inviting friends, family and colleagues via email to be part of their support ‘crew’. The crew then logs onto Gather My Crew and picks the tasks that fit within their schedules.

    For more information visit www.gathermycrew.org

    Gather My Crew is a not for profit organisation that relies on the support of generous pro bono providers, corporate partners, donations and philanthropic funding. It has recently received a grant from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

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      Digilantism: when women refuse to play nice

      By Amy Gray

      Back in the day, I had in-laws who were confounded by my love of having a barney over women’s rights and the troubling realisation I didn’t consider men supreme. They’d whisper to friends and family “Amy is a career woman”. It was a polite euphemism to hide the real obscenity they saw: I was a feminist.

      This goes to the heart of conditional non-liberation: it’s ok to have some views, but to go full liberation is messy melodrama. “She’s taking it too far” – something else I would hear from people who I thought didn’t take it far enough.

      This was on display when I attended a secret symposium about Cyberhate organised by academics Drs Emma Kate and Nicole Vincent. The event paired academics with people who live through constant cyberhate – online abuse which is often gendered, racial and ableist, among others – to talk through the issues and find actions that could create lasting change. To describe the event as a life-changing conversation is an understatement.

      Digilantism was a running theme: a word to describes a spectrum of behaviour spanning from Reddit’s failed attempts to locate the Boston Marathon bombers to feminists fighting against the voluminous and organised online attacks.

      In one group after everyone agreed that online abuse has real physical effects on the abused, a person softly decried digilantism. They used a feminist as an example, a person who repeatedly displays the abuse they receive and acts on it, contact abuser’s employers and deliberately not hiding the abusers’ names. The group member’s assessment was that this was a step too far.

      They need to think this through.

      This is something that is often encountered within feminism, because it is a collective action and personal realisation that takes time to develop. A growing awareness of inequality that matures as more experiences lived, reflections considered, resources are read and actions made. The person who discovered feminism however many years ago isn’t the same as the feminist sitting next to you today.

      That’s because hopefully people realise that what they might consider ‘gut instinct’ is actually social conditioning. The reaction that something is ‘just wrong’ without reflection is often dangerous or illusory. Women as the main breadwinners: not wrong. Women breastfeeding in restaurants, parliament or anywhere they goddamn choose: not wrong. Making sure feminist spaces are more inclusive: not wrong.

      But these are all gut reactions people have without fully thinking through the issue and spotting the social rules with which we’ve been raised – to be an activist is to continually reassess everything society tells you is normal and natural, only to find it’s neither.

      Is a feminist taking it too far or have we not examined our internal sexism enough, especially the part where women are expected to play nice?

      Because Feminist digilantism is a reaction against the sexism that refuses to protect us. Digilantism is a damning judgement against abusers and a society that wilfully refuses to protect the abused.

      As someone who lives first and second hand through cyberhate: it’s pretty hard to go too far in the face of abuse. Digilantism is often a series of dead ends: the ISPs who won’t take down defamatory hate sites they host; or the police who don’t understand cyberhate and won’t investigate; or the social media platforms that barely moderate because online abuse adds to their profitable traffic.

      But for a society that refuses to take our abuse seriously, we’ve still built something – our tenacity that sees feminists support one another during hate campaigns, hold symposiums that treat cyberhate as a serious issue of academic research or build resources like Crash Override.

      Feminist digilantism is built on the reasonable notion women can and will fight back when society fails them. Worse than that: women will get loud and angry. Unless you’re relying on silence, there’s no polite way to react against death and rape threats. Society has relied on people quietly accepting abuse to remind them of their reduced importance to those in power.

      As activists, this is the moment of opportunity – the gurgle in your stomach that something is troubling is the moment to explore your reaction to see what you’re really up against.

      So, are we fighting abuse or the women who refuse to play nice in a game that hates them?

       

       

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        There is power in a Union

        By Nayuka Gorrie

        For a long time I didn’t feel so good about unions but not because I was conservative.

        My Mum was a police officer with the Queensland Police Service from 2002 until 2012. Only a few years into her time as a police officer, Chris Hurley killed Mulrunji Doomagee except we aren’t allowed to say that so maybe I’ll just say Doomadgee died in the same room as Hurley.

        There is a line I remember reading about his death that will stay with me until my own. They said that his liver was pretty much cleaved in two. Now, as we know, police officers are protected when they kill (black) people in custody. Hurley was the only person who went to court for killing a black person and he was found not guilty. He then appealed the coroner’s report stating that Hurley had killed Doomadgee.

        It was an interesting time to be a black cop then. What stuck with me was the Queensland Police Union’s response to Doomadgee’s death. They completely and wholeheartedly supported Hurley. This always seemed interesting – the choice to protect someone who killed instead of the person actually killed.

        The police were initially established as a way to control the native population. To help protect “landowners”. This history informs our relationship with the police now. It shouldn’t be surprising or shocking that we are the most incarcerated people on the planet.

        The Union protecting Hurley was neither brave nor just. Hurley would always have been protected. All police forces and services have interpersonal and structural methods for protecting those who kill people while on duty. They make sure their stories stack up, they call people who make internal complaints ‘dogs’. On at least one occasion they tried to make my black mother work at the black protests against deaths in custody, which in my mind is some bizarre psychological torture. With the Queensland Police Service backing him, Hurley was always going to be fine and certainly didn’t need a union to protect him.

        I recently shared the above at a conference organised by the ACTU. Like I told them, it was weird that I was there. Since the age of 14 I’d felt weird about unions but also, as you may have gathered, I am cynical and spend most of my time anxious and depressed. I didn’t consider myself the best person to talk about the future. I often wonder if our species is worth saving and I am currently writing a book about why we should lean in to the apocalypse.

        But I also have worked in the last seven years with young blackfellas. I am an Aunty. I plan on having children. I guess on some level I have a biological imperative to make the world better for the little bloodsuckers yet to be born. I have a vested interest in making the world better/not as shit.

        I don’t think the world can get better without a stronger union movement and yet I don’t think any sustainable movement can be strong if it isn’t intersectional. What is intersectionality? Kimberle Crenshaw pioneered the term intersectional feminism and its theory, which is essentially about how different oppressions are compounded with the intersection with another. For example, for many black women, the racism we experience is often gendered.

        To me, intersectionality in movements is thinking about the people who get left behind and, as we try to shift the world to a fairer and more equitable place, we need to organise with them. Our shift to make the world better cannot replicate the structures that got us into this mess in the first place.

        Climate justice is a good example of this. We are a country that distances ourselves with climate change through space and time, assuming it’s a problem that affects other countries and will impact us in the future. Try telling that to the mob whose seasons are already changing or are already feeling the encroaching ocean. The way climate change is being fought is often with First Nations people as an after-thought.

        Around the world and in our own country coal-fired power stations are being shut down as they become economically unviable. On Gunai/Kurnai country Hazelwood Station was shut down by its French owned company with little thought of what would happen to those workers. We need unions to back a safe and just climate future.

        Unions, employers and governments need to prepare workers and communities for that future. As we make the necessary shift to renewable energy we need to consider exactly how we go about that shift. How the land required to go about that shift is acquired. There is no point in any movement that replicates colonisation.

        We need movements to not wait until something is trendy before it is backed. We need to get angry, hideously angry. The anger can’t and shouldn’t be pretty. The anger shouldn’t be Kendall Jenner in a Pepsi ad. When has the sanitisation and corporatisation of struggle served anyone well?

        When have the master’s tools ever dismantled the house?

        Nayuka is a Gunai/Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman working in the youth sector. Nayuka writes about black politics and feminism. She tweets at @nayukagorrie.

         

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          Queen Vic newsletter – Issue #17

          June 2017

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            Women of Colour are Superheroes Too

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

            By Yen-Rong Wong

            DC’s film Wonder Woman has been released, highly anticipated since DC announced it was in the works about a year ago. From all accounts, it seems to be doing quite well. I’ve seen photographs of mothers and daughters of all ages dressing up as Wonder Woman, getting involved in a culture that sometimes can seem reserved for ‘nerdy white boys’.

            It may have been this stereotype that pushed me away from comic books and superheroes in my childhood. It really should have been my cup of tea – I gobbled up fantasy novels like there was no tomorrow, and there was a while when I entertained the idea of having superpowers, even though my rational brain knew I probably couldn’t fly or move things with my mind. Now I’m a little older, and have become increasingly invested in many things superhero-related.

            I recently visited the Marvel exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, where costumes and props from all of the Marvel films are on display. While I admired the intricacy of the costume and set designs, and enjoyed seeing collections of comic books on display, I also came to realise why I probably didn’t like superheroes when I was younger. It was because I was unable to see myself in any of them – and even now, it seems as though we still have a fair way to go.

            While it is true that there are more women involved in and fronting shows about superheroes (see Jessica Jones, Agent Carter, Supergirl, to name a few) – they all white women. The word “woman” seems to only mean “white woman” – ethnically diverse women have to deal with the pleasure of having their ethnicity slapped on for good measure. The issue also goes far beyond physical representation. The way in which women of colour are portrayed or discussed in such shows – as sidekicks, followers, damsels in distress, or the “exotic” seductress – is problematic. Women of colour are more than just flat stereotypes and they deserve more than the lip service that seems to be paid to ethnic minorities in the name of “diversity”.

            Such a phrase has, in some instances, become almost tokenistic. Progress in this area is slow even though it has been proven, time and time again, that shows starring women (and people) of colour do quite well. Marvel’s Agents of Shield stars a bunch of women of colour, the most prominent being Melinda May, played by all round badass Ming-Na Wen, and Daisy Johnson, who eventually becomes Quake. Daisy is played by Chloe Bennet (born as Chloe Wang), who readily admits that once she changed her last name to something more “Western”, she started booking more jobs.

            On the flip side, Marvel also came under intense criticism for casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, a character who originally hails from the Himalayas. When Swinton commented on the controversy, she lauded the director for “[deciding] to reimagine the Ancient One as a woman. People shouting loud and proud about needing more diversity in Hollywood cinema have got us right behind them.” This is all well and good, but feminism is intersectional – it has to be. Surely it would not have been a terrible shock to the system for the Ancient One to have been Asian and a woman?

            There are those who claim that films with people of colour as leads (let alone women of colour) would do poorly at the box office – and yet this has been disproven, time and time again. Jordan Peele’s satirical horror film, Get Out, has raked in US $241 million, blowing its US $4.5 million budget out of the water. In contrast, Matt Damon’s film, The Great Wall, which is set in China and plays right into the white saviour myth, was a relative flop at the box office. Additionally, the 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report, conducted by the Bunche Centre, offers more quantitative evidence that “increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse film and television content”. The report also found that “films with relatively diverse casts enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts and the highest median return on investment.” The evidence is there, if you bother to look for it. A film with a woman of colour superhero will sell.

            Interestingly, comic books themselves have become more ethnically diverse, with characters like Lunella Lafayette (Moon Girl), and the reintroduction of Iron Man as a young black girl. I can only hope this trend continues, and spreads to similar representations on screen. Marvel has recently announced that they will be making Captain Marvel, a film based on the comic book series, Ms Marvel. The current Ms Marvel series, written by G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim woman, features Kamala Khan, a teenage Muslim Pakistani American girl. I hope Marvel will see it fit to cast Ms Marvel in this iteration.

            It will be another step towards telling girls and women of colour around the world that they, too, can be superheroes.

            Yen-Rong is a Brisbane based writer, and the founding editor of Pencilled In, a magazine dedicated to showcasing the work of Asian Australian artists. Her work has been published in The Guardian, The Lifted Brow, Catalogue Magazine, and Djed Press. You can read more of her words at inexorablist.com.

             

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              Saving up for the cost of womanhood

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

              By Amy Gray

              Last month’s article “The Cost of Womanhood” by Jane Gilmore resonated with our readers and spread like wildfire across social media.

              It also prompted a lot of questions, like this letter we received from Zoe via our Facebook page.

              Hi, I just read the article on your page about ‘john and mary’, that showed the economic circumstances of a man and a woman through their lives. I am a 17 year old completing yr 12 at the moment, and a proud feminist, yet one planning on going into the low-paying area of social work and who plans to have kids one day. That article/story has made me feel rather hopeless, what can I do to avoid that situation? Do I need to ensure that I can be completely financially independent for my whole life? Do I need to not have children? To go into a higher paying job? It’s easy to feel financially doomed as a millennial, and though i work two jobs and am better off than many of my peers, my future seems bleak in that department. Any advice?

              This is something every feminist comes across in their struggle for equality – what can be done?

              QVWC contributor and editor Amy Gray shared a lengthy reply to Zoe. We want to share this with you, a reminder that for every problem a feminist finds, there is often a solution.

              Hi Zoe,

              Thank you so much for your message. I’m glad the story moved you but am sorry you’re feeling bad about it.

              You are not without hope and it sounds excellent you want to help others with social work. Things are hard as a millennial and even harder trying to pay off Uni but there is still a path.

              At the heart of QVWC is the mission to help women empower themselves economically. Part of that means becoming financially literate (you can get training for that and we will have some events coming up if you’re in Melbourne) and learning how to budget and manage your finances through to saving, responsible consumption, taxes, investments, etc.

              But the other part is realising how gender discrimination plays out financially. You’re on that path now thanks to Jane’s excellent article and once you know how discrimination works, it’s easier to resist or plan around.

              Thinking about Mary, how would she have done it differently? Central to this would be Mary deciding her economic stability was one she should shore up independently or negotiate with John to maintain greater autonomy.

              Perhaps she could have insisted John reduce his hours at work because child rearing should not be the sole job of women. It’s the same with house chores, still overwhelmingly done by women, even when men are at-home caregivers.

              She could have insisted on going back to work full time to ensure her own career progression, or gone back part time and studied to give herself professional development, leading to promotions and higher pay (and thus superannuation). She could have developed her career into one that wasn’t subject to gendered economic penalty (i.e. admin is often considered a woman’s job and therefore not highly paid). She could have pushed for higher pay earlier on, something that statistically women find difficult, often due to cultural conditioning lest they be considered “bossy” or “demanding”.

              She could have increased her superannuation contributions (there are ways to do this before tax – accountants and financial consultants can help) or even looked for work at places that offer salary packaging (often non-profits) or higher super contributions (universities are one place but there are others).

              She could have saved a nest egg and invested it elsewhere. This is largely dependent on access to disposable income, which is an intersection of privilege that some don’t have, but still, every cent saved into a nest egg is a cent saved that can grab a scrap of interest.

              Many women are also developing what is known as a “fuck off fund” where they save anywhere from $2,000 and up so they always have access to emergency funds so they don’t have to endure abuse at home or unhappy jobs.

              Mary could have refused to quit her job and insisted that childcare was a joint expense between her and John (often it is assumed childcare is the mother’s expense). The unexpected loss from resigning to look after children full time is the loss of superannuation contributions and professional development that could lead to higher paying, secure and absorbing work.

              If childcare is too high a cost for John’s taste, then how much will he pay her to stay at home? A wage Mary can use to invest in her superannuation or other investments or savings funds. It’s a radical idea but so is the idea a woman earning money is too great an expense to the family.

              Home ownership is another thing – perhaps John and Mary could have held onto their flat and used it as collateral to move into a smaller second home, giving them an investment that would pay itself off before becoming an option for Mary’s accommodation when the divorce happened.

              But central to all of this is Mary considering her needs as well as her family’s and deeming them equally important. Women often submit themselves as less important – therefore the unpaid work – than their husband, which comes at a financial cost.

              This is then an area that can be open to abuse – financial abuse is part of the spectrum of relationship abuse. We’re sharing an article tomorrow with a link to resources that can help.

              The main thing to realise is that you are important. Your past, your present and your future is just as important as a man’s. So, your choices are important, as is your comfort and economic safety.

              Hopefully you’ve liked the QVWC page and have signed up for the newsletters. Keep on reading and get skilled up on how to look after yourself as you embark on your social work career and help look after others. But don’t be depressed about it all. You’ve got someone amazing in your corner: you.

              Best of luck.

              Amy Gray

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                Queen Vic newsletter – Issue #16

                May 2017

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                  Put a Feminist on it: why I’m sick of feminist fashion

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                  By Amy Gray

                  As a writer, I’m a huge fan of window shopping: it combines the thrill of looking at things you can’t afford with the excitement of not buying them.

                  One major clothing store has a range of t-shirts emblazoned with “feminist” and beanies embroidered with “Not Yours”, a cheeky defiance against entitlement. A bookstore promotes a new line of totes, again screaming out “FEMINIST” in bold capital letters. Another bag exhorts you to “Read. Resist. Repeat.”, while another utilises Trump’s dismissal of Hillary Clinton as a “Nasty Woman”.

                  Later online, looking at winter clothes for my daughter, she could buy shirts and jackets with “Not Your Baby” or “No Man’s Woman”. It was a nice distraction from all the men screaming abuse at me on Twitter at the time.

                  It’s reminiscent of a scene from comedy series Portlandia where they enter stores to “put birds on things” because they’re so damn popular. Nothing is safe from bird application.

                  Perhaps feminism is the new bird. If we believe in a free market economy where supply meets demand, then there is obviously demand for feminism. There must be so many feminists out there demanding more tshirts, jackets, hats, bags and ephemera. They’re demanding more feminism, so the market is bound to follow them. Simple.

                  Yet reality is rarely simple. The market isn’t suddenly feminist: the market is selling feminism.

                  As Ruby Hamad noted in her keynote speech for QVWC on International Women’s Day and our interview, the craze for these clothes often masks the oppression of women in sweatshops, offering superficial representation instead of the complex work of structural change.

                  This was perfectly illustrated when collaboration between Elle UK and the Fawcett Society used sweatshop labour to produce their “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” tshirt. Women in Mauritius were paid lower than $1 per hour to make these tshirts. As Sam Maher from Labour Behind the Label says, “this is an entire system of exploitation”. In this case, a tshirt made by exploited women of colour to satisfy the whimsy of white people eager to make a statement but not make change.

                  Ruby’s point is as strong as it is ignored – our craze for superficial representation means nothing when it relies on the exploitation of other women. It’s ignored not because it is easier to wear a tshirt than actively lobby for structural change. Be a feminist, but don’t worry about doing feminist things.

                  I’m not perfect here – four years ago, I helped create a short release of feminist-themed tshirts. There were slogans, names and imagery so people could proclaim their feminism. We found a local printer so we could support Australian business and chose a tshirt manufacturer that appeared to have strong ethics and was a member of Fair Labour Association.

                  I later discovered that at the manufacturer’s factory in Haiti, workers earned $12 a day to make tshirts – it’s more than other factories on the island, but not enough to meet the average living wage of $28 per day. No matter the rate, it’s still small change to those running the billion dollar company.

                  I had treated human rights as a checklist on my way to making something to sell. They didn’t change anything but made people fleetingly happy instead of permanently secure. I hadn’t interrogated what I was doing and its impact.

                  In ‘No Logo’, Naomi Klein recounts talking with school students about sweatshop labour. Their response was direct – tell us where to shop instead. Klein reiterates it’s not about questioning where you shop but realising what we buy into sells out others.

                  A tshirt won’t liberate anyone and a jacket won’t break the male gaze of entitlement. That comes from structural change – constant, vigilant work to ensure women have the same political, social, economic, professional and legal opportunity as men. It’s not available in shops, but it fits like a dream.

                   

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                    The cost of womanhood

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                    By Jane Gilmore

                    The official gender pay gap in Australia is 16% (Workplace Gender Equality Agency). That seemingly small number adds up to a gigantic difference between men and women, especially as women age.

                    Instead of dry numbers and statistics, let’s apply them to the lives of two average, middle class, white Australians – John and Mary – to see how economic discrimination affects women’s lives.

                    John and Mary met at university and they quickly found work after graduating at 23. John’s accounting job paid $48,000 and Mary’s administration job $40,000. It’s a relatively small difference in wage so far.

                    At 28 they married and were both promoted. John’s salary increased to $62,000 – he’d put in a lot of overtime and got yearly bonuses worth $10,000 over five years. Mary’s salary was $49,000, but she didn’t receive any bonuses or overtime as they are rarely available to admin staff.

                    They bought a small two bedroom place close to the CBD, for $350,000 and, by the time Mary was pregnant, John got another promotion. His salary was now $68,000 with annual $5,000 performance bonus. Meanwhile, Mary’s employer offered her 6 weeks paid maternity leave and a guarantee that she could come back to her job after 12 months.

                    When it was time for Mary to return to work, they decided they didn’t want their toddler in full time childcare – Mary could work a part time job and look after the child because John didn’t want to reduce his working hours with a looming promotion. Mary didn’t have any real prospects for promotion after being away from work for a year, so she returned to work 2 days per week.

                    When the promotion finally came, John’s salary jumped to $90,000 per year with $20,000 worth of stock options. Meanwhile, Mary was earning $19,000 a year.

                    They sold their apartment and bought a house in the suburbs for $900,000 when Mary got pregnant again. When the baby arrived, they decided the cost of childcare for two children under five would be almost as much as she could earn working two days a week. John was spending so much time at work that Mary quit her job so she could do all the work needed to run a house and look after two children.

                    By the time the third baby was born, they were both 35. John was earning $105,000 plus options and bonuses, while Mary had no income, no superannuation contributions and no career.

                    For the next five years Mary stayed home with the children. Because he had Mary at home to make sure all the daily tasks were managed, John could devote his energy into his job. He had a clean, comfortable home, good food, happy children and a fun social life.

                    John continued to work hard and was made a partner at his firm. His salary went up to $130,000 per year and they had paid off close to one third of their mortgage.

                    When they were both 42 and all the kids were in school, Mary got a casual job as a receptionist in the local medical centre for 20 hours per week with no paid holidays or sick leave. While her starting salary was $19,000, the same as it had been ten years before, John’s salary increased to $150,000 per year, plus bonuses and partnership equity.

                    By this time, John and Mary started drifting apart. They were fighting a lot and John was often absent. Mary thought he might be having an affair, she was lonely and felt that he didn’t notice how much work she did to care for him and their children. John felt that she had no understanding or appreciation for how hard he worked for the family.

                    Like one third of married couples in Australia, John and Mary eventually separated. John’s salary was $160,000 by then. Mary was still working 20 hours per week at the medical centre, but her salary hadn’t changed.

                    After selling their house for $1,200,000 and sorting out their remaining $550,000 mortgage, they both had $325,000. John’s superannuation balance at the time was $200,000, while Mary’s was $43,000. As part of the settlement, she received $80,000 of John’s super balance.

                    The children stayed with John one weeknight and every second weekend but stayed with Mary the rest of the time. John paid Mary $39,000 per year in child support.

                    Mary asked for more hours at the medical centre, which increased her salary to $25,000, but she still had no paid leave.

                    John used his share of the money from the sale of the house and bought another for $1,000,000. Mary couldn’t get a mortgage because she only had casual work and it didn’t pay well enough to make repayments on a house big enough for her and three children. She put the money in the bank, but often had to draw on it to pay living costs like rent, which was close to 40% of her total income.

                    At 50, John paid off most of his mortgage using bonuses from work and selling a few stocks. His salary had gone up to $180,000 and his expenses decreased considerably after divorce. He increased his super contributions to 15%.

                    Mary was still working at the medical centre, her salary had increased to $28,000 but her rent had gone up and she had had to move house twice. The money in the bank had gone down to $250,000.

                    Two years later the medical centre was sold and Mary lost her job. Her two youngest children were still living with her so she still needed to rent a two bedroom house. She drew the remaining money from the sale of the house for living costs.

                    Mary couldn’t get another permanent job. Despite having a degree, she had spent too long out of the workforce and her job at the medical centre didn’t offer any ability to increase her skills or get promoted. She got a few causal jobs through a temp agency, but most employers wanted younger worker for reception and admin jobs, which was the only work she knew how to do. She got around $350 a week from Centrelink, and John was still paying $30,000 per year in child support.

                    When they were both 55, John was earning $250,000 per year, and had increased his super contributions to 25%.  Mary still didn’t have a job and John no longer needed to pay child support because all their children were over 18. She moved to a one bedroom flat and continued to use the money left in the bank to cover the difference between Centrelink payments and living costs.

                    John retired at 65, he had paid off his house and his superannuation balance was $1,000,000.

                    Mary’s superannuation balance was $139,000, and she had nothing left from the sale of the house. She was still renting the one bedroom flat, but was struggling to pay rent on a pension of $400 per week. She was in housing stress and had no prospects of changing her finances.

                    She would live in hardship for the rest of her life.

                    But this is no story – it’s fact. John and Mary are typical Australians. Gendered roles and discrimination have a direct impact on women’s livelihood. It impacts on the employment we’re able to find, the wages we draw, job security, our level of superannuation, the unpaid labour expected from us…and then we’re told anyone who works hard enough can avoid this.

                    It’s time we stop avoiding the real cost of being a woman.

                    The numbers are drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Centrelink payment rates in 2017, Department of Social Services child support rates, and Australian Bureau of Statistics gender indicator data.

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