The relationship between government and citizens is a relationship of power, like any other. In some cases, it is explicit power, but often the power is implicit and informal, shaping the agenda out of plain sight. The vast resources of government amplify the power differentials within society in the relationship between government and citizens.
Democracies ostensibly position government as subordinate to its people and the Australian government has a well-established rhetoric of equality and social justice. In practice, however, power discrepancies and oppressions based on any one or any combination of race, sex, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and other characteristics are replicated and magnified by processes of government and law. In Australia, the recent Robodebt disaster demonstrates the power of government to criminalise, alienate and marginalise its most vulnerable citizens. There are examples, over recent decades, of government providing leadership and incentives to create more equal societies. For example, the Australian government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has recently announced its Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda.
The question is whether governments have the will, incentive and capacity seriously to address deeply embedded systemic inequalities and advance intersectional equalities.
Is it possible for government to contribute to an equal future, or will we achieve it despite government and how do these challenges play out in the context of climate change, COVID and the calls for more socially just futures prompted by movements like #BlackLivesMatter and the protests that have taken place in the wake of Brittany Higgins and other #me too movements. What do intersectional approaches have to offer in these spaces in terms of achieving a more equal future?
- Sheena Graham
- Melanie Poole
- Dr Siobhan McDonnell
- Dr Anu Mundkur
Chaired by Honorary Associate Professor Sally Moyle