Australians are largely a compassionate people, as evidenced by their generous support to victims of bushfires and floods and their willingness to take on injustice.
Christianity and Humanism are the dominant cultural foundations of our society, with First Nations cultures, Judaism and Islam making their own contributions, alongside others.
Mainstream Christianity is imbued with compassion.
“Christ spoke in terms of his own identification with the deprived and underprivileged: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me …” [29 January 1965 Christianity Today]
Similarly Judaism invokes compassion as a key value.
The root word of compassion “rahmanut” is from the Hebrew word “reḥem,” womb, which implies a deep and abiding love. All who are around us need our caring and compassion. [reconstructingjudaism.org]
In Islamic teaching the most used Names of Allah are Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim.
“The roots of both these names of Allah are made up of the same root letters from which is derived the word “rahmah” which conveys the meaning of mercy and compassion; a sense of loving tenderness and grace, which stimulates in one the urge to show kindness to others. [8 April 2016 Munawar Haque AMDA]
The approach of Humanism can be seen in similar light.
“I consider it my responsibility to not only help others who may need help, but also to recognize and help them change those structures that prevent them from becoming self-sufficient and having full upward mobility.” [22 February 2008 Armineh Noravian The Humanist]
Although there are hundreds of different cultures amongst the First Nations it is agreed that there are common foundations, one of which is the value placed upon people. [Aboriginal Culture and History Victorian Public Sector Commission]
Given these cultural foundations of compassion, how have we evolved into a society in which these values are increasingly ignored by our rulers?
Indigenous deaths in custody are a national disgrace thirty years after the royal commission. So are the incarceration rates of First Nations people, having increased by 100 percent in that time. [18 April 2021 ABC News]
We have witnessed an appalling death rate in private aged residential care from COVID-19.
According to Dr Sarah Russell, Director of Aged Care Matters:“ What’s driving it is simple: the marketisation … of aged care. Along with the entrance of private equity firms and superannuation and real estate investment trusts… came the casualisation of the workforce and a reliance on holders of 457 visas.” [24 July 2020 Michael West Media]
Another vulnerable community under attack by government was exposed by the Legal Aid Victoria robo-debt case.
Centrelink had used averaged Tax Office income, not how much the individual actually earned while receiving payments.
Admitted to be unlawful by the Australian Government, refunds had to me made to 470,000. [16 November 2020 The Conversation]
However the wealthy Harvey Norman corporation will not pay back the $6 million JobKeeper subsidy it received from the government despite more than doubling sales and profit for the first half of the year. [26 February 2021 Age]
Indications of danger ahead was revealed by Rick Morton who found two senior public servants involved in the establishment of the robo-debt program are now working in the compliance division of the National Disability Insurance Agency. [10 April 2021 The Saturday Paper]
The trajectory is clear.
This is a federal government which is attacking the poor and the vulnerable while indulging the super-rich.
It is increasingly out of touch with Australian culture.