Saturday, December 12, 2009

John Falzon and radical social justice agendas

"The history of social justice and social change has been written by social movements. Change does not come from above"

John Falzon
Among the large non-government organizations in this country that claim to work for social justice, there is little enthusiasm for radical social justice agendas. It is rare to hear any of them talk about the need to address the structural causes of poverty and social and economic injustice, to criticize the actions of corporate Australia, or to support radical solutions, such as massive redistribution of wealth.

One exception is the National Council of St Vincent De Paul Society. John Falzon, the CEO of the National Council of the St Vincent De Paul, continues to be an outspoken critic of contemporary social and economic policy in this country, and is often a lone voice for radical social justice agendas. Recently, Falzon has railed against the Rudd Government's policy of extending compulsory income management as a cynical effort to get around the Racial Discrimination Act and increase the "supervision" of people doing it tough. Falzon has also been highly critical of plans to embed private health insurance as a private tier for the wealthy, thereby undermining any sense of solidarity and equity in public provision of health care.

Falzon has also been one of the few NGO leaders willing to speak out on the increasing concentration of wealth among the rich and already wealthy and affluent, and has consistently called for policies of wealth re-distribution in Australia. Falzon also writes and speaks of the direct connection between social policy issues in this country and the great social and political movements for change.

As well as arguing that the NGO community services sector needs to reclaim social justice campaigning and advocacy as a legitimate strategy, Falzon has also publicly cautioned mainstream NGO's about their willingness to be "co-opted" by government and the corporate sector to work to preserve an unjust social and economic order.

Falzon and his agency suffered for their social and political advocacy during the Howard years. Three years ago he and his organization were labeled as Marxist and Communist by right wing think tanks and commentators unhappy with Falzon's stance and advocacy on poverty issues.

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