Half a Citizen : Life on welfare in Australia book cover
1st Edition

Half a Citizen
Life on welfare in Australia

ISBN 9781742376059
Published July 1, 2011 by Routledge
252 Pages

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Book Description

'This important and illuminating book provides a powerful and harrowing depiction of the inadequacies of the Australian welfare system. Its findings challenge the foundations and direction of the welfare reform agenda.' - Professor Peter Saunders, University of New South Wales

'This major new study challenges many myths about life on welfare and in low paid work. It should be read by anyone concerned with welfare reform.' - Jane Millar, Professor of Social Policy, University of Bath

What is it really like to be unemployed and on welfare? How do you make ends meet? Does the welfare system actually help people get back into jobs?

Half a Citizen
draws on in-depth interviews with 150 welfare recipients to reveal people struggling to get by on a low income, the anxieties of balancing paid work with income support, and how unstable housing makes it difficult to get ahead.

By investigating the lives beyond the statistics, Half a Citizen also explodes powerful myths and assumptions on which welfare policy is based. The majority of welfare recipients interviewed are very active, in paid work, caring for children or for other family members, and they see themselves as contributing and participating citizens, even if they sometimes feel they are being treated as 'half a citizen'. These stories of resilience and passion bear no resemblance to the clich d images of dependence, laziness, and social isolation which underpin social policy and media debate.

Table of Contents


List of abbreviations

List of tables and figures

1. The receiving end of welfare

2. Poverty, deprivation, resilience

3. Housing

4. Social connections

5. Working lives

6. Barriers to and support for working

7. Welfare as work: Dealing with Centrelink

8. Values and ethics about income support

Afterword: In the no-standing zone

Appendix 1: The research project

Appendix 2: The characteristics of our participants




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JOHN MURPHY is Associate Professor in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. His most recent book is A Decent Provision: Australian welfare policy, 1870 to 1949 (Ashgate, 2011). SUELLEN MURRAY is Associate Professor in the Centre for Applied Social Research at RMIT University. Her most recent book, with John Murphy and others, is After the Orphanage: Beyond the children's home (UNSW Press, 2009). JENNY CHALMERS is Senior Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales. SONIA MARTIN is is Lecturer in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning at RMIT University. GREG MARSTON is Associate Professor in the School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland.