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grandchildren than the other way around; far from being a burden on us, they help out.

From where I stand

The third reason we should be happy about population and workforce ageing is that it will help us solve some of the most deep-rooted and serious problems we have in our society. In the first place, it will solve unemployment. The whole ageing workforce scare is based around the idea that the ageing of the workforce will lead to labour shortages. So what will happen then? Employers will give jobs to the 100,000 young Australians aged between 15 and 24 who dropped out of the workforce last year. A lot of people who are on the Disability Support Pension will find there are jobs for them. And our attempts to address aboriginal unemployment will suddenly become a whole lot more successful. And it will also be the case that older people themselves will be more active in the workforce. We are not just ageing; we are ageing healthier as well. You’ve heard about 40 as the new 30, well 70 is the new 60. Older people have a great experience, and keeping their hand in through part-time, flexible, working arrangements will be good for them and good for the community.

by Bernadette Smith

Furthermore, solving unemployment will also take us a long way down the road of solving critical social ills- drugs, crime and indigenous disadvantage. Another 14 million people will not give us a richer country, it will spread our mineral wealth more thinly and give us a poorer one. It will make a mockery of our obligation to pass onto our children and our parents and grandchildren a world in as good a condition as the one our grandparents gave to us. Kelvin Thomson is the Federal Member for the electorate of Wills in the Australian Parliament.

Work and worklessness

For over two decades I’ve been a casual, visual art teacher in Newcastle in high schools, TAFE and universities. In addition I have practised as a visual artist. My paid employment history is not continuous; partly due to life circumstances, but also to the undoubted impact of the casualisation of the workforce.

Are you well connected? Work in Australia outside of capital cities, and especially in the arts, is precarious for anyone without formidable networks. Success most often depends on who you know or who you can turn to for a favour. Now add to this, the fact that there is simply not enough: • government funding for the arts, or • broad based community support to adequately employ the majority of people who are talented and qualified in the arts. The result: a surplus of talent coexisting, predictably with insufficient accountability for those selecting from the talent pool.

Keeping an eye on the game Add to this heady mix, decision-making that can seem, fairly opaque. For instance, many government funded art institutions provide little or no: • public access to curatorial criteria, and/or • peer review or accountability to the arts community. It is for this reason that the funding system often lacks integrity and there is scope for conflict of interest.

What price integrity? Insecure employment flows into all levels of our society, not just the arts. It can induce a moral vacuum. Those affected are less likely to speak out against unethical practices in the workplace (and wider society) for fear of the consequences of being blacklisted from sources of potential employment. In the case of artists, from exhibition or performance spaces, and the income those opportunities can generate. Unlike the paid workforce where union membership can provide some measure of defence for worker conditions, there is no redress for the unconnected.

So, what can be done? Enshrine the economic recognition of qualified practising Australian artists through a transparent system of support at all levels.


Australian Fabian News  

Vol 50 No 2-3 2010

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