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My progress report
concerning my journey to the palace of wisdom
is discouraging.
I lack certain indispensable aptitudes.
Furthermore, it appears
that I packed the wrong things.
– Inventory / On Being 52 by James Baldwin

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This is so clever, but go read the whole thing. “Woman Facts” at McSweeney’s by Sandra Newman.

Once women who lived unconventional lives were seized as witches and burned. Now people just say to them, “You look tired.”

– – –

Large numbers of women can be caught by baiting a trap with a crying infant. Though only one woman may fall into the trap, hundreds of others will gather to criticize everything she does with the child.

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From the amazing David Pope

 

From the wonderful Cathy Wilcox.

Image result for unemployed bettong gets tudged

From First Dog on the Moon – see the whole thing here, it was brilliant.

 

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Let’s talk about discretion and trust.  And perhaps also the public interest.

These are not the usual words I would use when introducing a discussion of the Disclosure principles in privacy law, but right now they seem apt.  Because right now I am hopping mad about the disclosure by our government of one woman’s personal information to the media.

The matter I am talking about involves a single mother, but at a deeper level it involves all of us.  We are all citizens, we are all ‘clients’ of government agencies at various times throughout our lives, and we all entrust our personal information to those government agencies.  We expect that our privacy will be respected in return.  This is the story of what happens when it isn’t.  This is the story of Andie Fox, but it could just as easily be the story of you or me.

From Anna Johnston’s “Just because you can disclose, doesn’t mean you should”at Salinger Privacy. 

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This has been such a disturbing experience.

Recently, I wrote an article critical of Centrelink’s debt collection processes based on my personal experiences. That article is here. It was written with the intention of drawing people’s attention to how impenetrable the debt collection process can be and also, to encourage women to consider fighting against ‘sexually transmitted debt’.

Paul Malone, writing for Canberra Times, has since obtained personal information from my Centrelink file (I’m still not sure how privacy legislation allows this) in order to write an article about my story from the government’s perspective. The article is optimistically titled, “Centrelink is an easy target for complaints but there are two sides to every story”.

It seems the story most neglected is not the helpless ‘client’ of Centrelink, so often powerless in the face of an enormous bureaucratic machine, but the Centrelink machine, itself.

I am incredibly reluctant to go further into my personal details but here we are.

Among the problems I have with Malone’s article:

The agency says Ms Fox’s debt is a Family Tax Benefit (FTB) debt for the 2011-12 financial year which arose after she received more FTB than she was entitled to because she under-estimated her family income for that year.

As I outlined in my article, when your ex does not lodge his tax return for a year in which you received the Family Tax Benefit it seems your family income will be classified ‘under-estimated’, and consequently, you, who filed a tax return may be required to pay the tax benefit back. My article drew attention to the ways in which this can penalise women.

The original debt was raised because she and her ex-partner did not lodge a tax return or confirm their income information for 2011-12.

My tax returns were up to date before I learned of a Centrelink debt and said tax returns noted my new status as a single parent.

However, it is true that I filed my own tax return late that particular year, the circumstances behind this were subsequently shared fully with Centrelink. Given the nature of those circumstances, I am under the impression that my late tax return was forgiven. I will not be sharing those details, but I will note that the extreme sensitivity of factors considered by Centrelink for pardoning late returns includes such things as serious domestic violence and so, I would urge journalists to tread very carefully in this space.

Centrelink says that after Ms Fox notified the department that she had separated from her partner, the debt due to her partner’s non-lodgement was cancelled.

This feels somewhat disingenuous to me. The fine was finally cancelled by Centrelink after acknowledging that their previous decision to impose the debt on me had been a mistake. My notes indicate the process I had to go through took more than 12 months. That seems long to me, and arduous (it included insisting upon a review of my case) – it seems worthy of an article, which is why I wrote it.

But Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen says Centrelink made numerous attempts to get in touch with Ms Fox via phone and letter but many of these attempts were left unanswered.

During the process the department and I discovered they had old contact details for me. This has been a common story across many Centrelink debt stories with false debts escalating to debt collectors before people even realise they have a Centrelinke debt.

You would think a combination of my taking a day off work to visit Centrelink and following that, spending hours  on the phone with Centrelink, would be evidence of a desire to both understand the debts and to resolve them. That I remain, to this day, confused about elements of both is a sign not of my disengagement but of a very complicated, demoralising and problem-ridden process.

However, I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of a couple of individual Centrelink staff members. Due to an editorial decision about word length their supportive comments were not included in my article. But I would note that they sounded almost as sad about the frustrations I was experiencing with Centrelink as I was, and in the end I couldn’t help but think we were all trapped in a kind of maddening maze.

Thank you, also, to the lawyers who came forward with suggestions after reading my article. All my love to those who work in this system and who wish for the system to work justly.

Something is going very, very wrong in government policy at the moment. But I am filled with hope because it has also brought out some very, very good people.

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Whenever I see controversy over any ‘extended breastfeeding’ photos I think about the time I was breastfeeding my three year old and he came home from kindergarten saying he wanted to have his best mate for a sleep over and how it was going to be great because they could both have a breastfeed and then sleep in the bed with me …and, of course, it didn’t happen (are you mad?) but I laugh thinking about how much this conversation would kill the breastfeeding-haters dead. Dead.

Here’s poor old Tamara Ecclestone breastfeeding her daughter, like mammals do, and just blowing a whole bunch of tiny little minds in the process. Keep on keepin’ on.

(I wrote an article about my extreme breastfeeding days here, and also I used to collect glamorous breastfeeding photos here, and breastfeeding while getting shit done all over here).

(Thanks to Jane for the link).

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All They Want Is My Money My Pussy My Blood

I am free with the following conditions.

Give it up gimme gimme.

Okay so I’m Black in America right and I walk into a bar.

I drink a lot of wine and kiss a Black man on his beard.

I do whatever I want because I could die any minute.

I don’t mean YOLO I mean they are hunting me.

I know my pussy is real good because they said so.

I say to my friend I am broke as a joke.

I am Starvin’ Like Marvin Gaye.

I’m so hungry I could get it on.

There’s far too many of me dying.

The present is not so different.

Everybody looks like everybody I worked with.

Everybody looks like everybody I’ve kissed.

Men champion men and animals.

Everybody thinks I’m going to die.

At the museum I tell the school group about Black art.

I tell them the word contemporary.

I have a nose ring I forget about.

I have a brother and he is also Black.

I am a little modern to the fault.

I say this painting is contemporary like you and me.

They ask me about slavery. They say Martin Luther King.

At school they learned that Black people happened.

The present is not so different.

I’m looking into their Black faces.

They do not understand that they exist.

I’m Black in America and I walk

into a bar and drink a lot of wine, kiss a white man on his beard.

There is no indictment.

I could die any minute of depression.

I just want to have sex most of the time.

I just want my student loans to disappear.

I just want to understand my savings account.

What is happening to my five dollar one cent.

I am free with the following conditions.

What is happening to my brother.

What if I do something wrong.

My blood is so hot and wet right now.

I know they want it.

I do everything right just incase.

I don’t want to give away my money but here I am.

It’s so stupid I have to say here I am.

They like to be on top.

I am being set up.

I am a tree and some fruits are good and some are bad.

– Morgan Parker

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