From Sausages to the Poor

Poor child stairsAfter a day selling sausages at my children’s primary school, I smell like fat and meat, and bear little resemblance to the sassy chick who a few short years ago, was strutting podiums in short-shorts in the nightclubs that then hummed with an electronic heartbeat, but now lay boarded up, dark and silent. It’s a cycle.

For the last few months I have been completing my small research project into child poverty. As it’s such a broad topic and I am one person with so little time, I narrowed my focus. The project focused how child poverty effected  future employment and earning outcomes.

There were many epiphical  moments as my own family history started to reveal the logic of its bones. Born into an Irish-catholic Australian family, my mother is the eldest of nine. They were poor. They are working-poor. In my mother’s generation the family has met with low to middle class financial gains, but has yet to break through any real class or financial ceiling. Being the curious soul that I am, my question was how much of this barrier was the residue of growing up poor? Turns out the connection is solid and well documented over time. Most interesting to me is the neuroscientific angle that speaks of how brain development is affected by poor parental relationships in the 0-5yr range.

I have detailed my findings in my report titled ‘A Poor Excuse’.
Poverty research report FINAL
Intending to write more about my findings I thought I’ll just put the report up here for your perusal. And talk about it when it’s not 12am and I’ve had a shower to de-sausage myself from a very busy election day BBQ.

So What. Now What?

occupation-jpeg-860x860_q85_upscaleSo, whilst using the bathroom about 30 minutes ago (too much information, I understand), my beige vision of the cubicle door was interrupted by a wordy poster asking for participants for a research project.  It’s not unusual to find such a poster in a university campus cubicle, I guess they figure they have a captive audience. Due to a recent discussion re: ethics and methodologies around research, this one caught my eye.

According to to the poster, the research team (with ethics approval) are studying dietary habits and will require you to take a 30-45 minute questionnaire and an interview of the same length.  There was no reward or outcome stated, no clue as to what the research could be used for. So as far as I know it could be used to improve the lifestyle and eating habits for the good of all mankind OR it could be used to give McDonalds a new angle for marketing their latest an greatest to an unsuspecting population, already plagued with obesity and other malnutrition related disease. Unmoved to record the details of the project I politely flushed and went on my way.

This happy accident (I’m referring to seeing the poster) came immediately after my finishing ABC’s Four Corners documentary Growing Up Poor.  I had never seen the documentary but, as a resident of Campbelltown LGA, I have sat in courses with women from the community of Claymore NSW, the area which was the topic of the documentary.  These women over the years, have spoken at length about the media coverage that their area has received, and how they felt that it had added to their struggle as well as to their children’s perception of their own disadvantage. And was not a balanced portrayal of their community.

2015-09-17 11.11.27-2Both these encounters have made me think hard about the liberties that we as researchers and journalists take with other peoples time and/or lives. Sometimes quite irresponsibly not taking into account the value of other peoples time. And the possible fall out into the lives of people, not only those we are engaging with but the wider community. A ripple effect if you please, that may not be what was intended, but never the less is coke bottle that we leave behind for someone else to swallow.

It should be a matter of vigilance and consciousness of those who dare to act on another’s behalf without be asked by the party being acted upon. Let us not forget all those children seized from their parents across the world. The stolen generations who were ‘better off’ not being left with their indigenous community. So much of what we do including small projects on weight gain, are birthed through the eye glass of privilege and/or power. Isn’t it time that we put down the eye glass and just sat together in the grass with our shoes off, ready to listen and grow?

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The Anvil of Socio-Economics

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I wished for things but instead got anvil dropped on my head by Craig Freeman 2013

My family is brilliant.  I say that without vanity or ego. I am speaking of my mother’s family who are placed quite firmly in the middle of my research proposal. This is not out of any misguided sense of pride, as many don’t speak to each other or to me. They are quite simply intellectually brilliant.  My mother is the eldest of nine children, herself a teacher; among the rest are an engineer; a nurse; a policeman; an accountant; a scientist; a priest, a finance executive and an electrician.  All of them grew up poor and today none of them are wealthy by Australian standards.  They have never been able to translate their superior intellect to financial success.  When I questioned my uncle today at Easter lunch, his thoughtful answer cited factors such as a lack of confidence and ‘that we just don’t speak their language’.  These are very loose but valid ideas. What happens when we push the idea further?  Is the inability to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ of financial success after being raised in poverty, an Australian experience? The idea inspired me to look further into, how influential is childhood poverty as a predictor of future financial success?

When looking at child poverty and its effect on upward mobility the research would have to establish a benchmark of what is classified poverty.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics discusses how the first systematic approach to classifying poverty was the Hendersen Poverty Line.  The Hendersen Line was created in the mid 1960’s by a group of researchers at the Institute for Applied Economic and Social research at Melbourne University. (ABS) (1996) Classifying poverty is always problematic due to the number of variables, such as cost of living.  As well as what the ‘normal’ standard of living is in a specific country. Hendersen scale is also created using a two adult, two child model with a fixed weekly income plus benefits (ABS) (1996) which is not necessarily relevant in a world where this family model does not form an unwavering majority.  So for the purposes of the proposed research report I will be using the Index of Socioeconomic Disadvantage as referred to by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. (ABS)(2006)

As we are bound by the rules of research as students of the University of Wollongong, I would be unable to engage in any methods for data collection such as surveys or focus groups.  My research on this matter will rely on a range of published papers for my research as well as data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations.  The United Nations formalised their interest in the children of developed countries in their Innocenti Report Card in the year 2000.  It gives an analysis of child poverty across industrialised nations.(UNICEF) (2000)

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Image from poverties.org photographer unknown

A great deal of academic research has been done on the topic of child poverty and it’s effects, from other countries such as the USA and the United Kingdom. In both cases the population is larger than Australia and the conditions will differ.  The positive side of using research from similarly industrialised countries of this size, is that the data is from a larger sample, and therefore possibly has a higher degree of accuracy, depending how the study was constructed. These papers are useful in gaining insight into the upward mobility of children who have grown up in poverty. An example of these papers are Childhood and Intergenerational Poverty: The Long-Term Consequences of Growing Up Poor by Robert Lee Wagmiller and Robert M Adelman published in 2009 for the National Center for Children in Poverty.

For my research I do intend to narrow my field to Australia or New South Wales.  As I am not a quantitative researcher, the research will be reliant on conclusions drawn by the Department of Housing NSW (FACS – Housing) and the Department of Community Services (FACS) which used Census information for the Bureau of Statistics for their data.  An example of this is the FACS Policy Research Paper No.20 , Child Poverty: a review.  This policy research document says in chapter 2.1 Does money matter for children’s outcomes?  ‘there is ample evidence that shows a strong association between childhood living standards and later outcomes,’. (FACS) (2003) The report goes on to explore the evidence regarding how influential is childhood poverty as a predictor of future financial success.

As I have personal connections inside of the Benevolent Society and Junctions Works, two local Non-Government Organisations. I will also try to see if these organisations who work within the welfare field gather any alternate insight and data about how influential childhood poverty in in predicting future financial success and if so, where I can access their data or the data that is used for their strategic models of tackling childhood poverty, and a clear answer to why they consider it a priority.

 

References
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 1996, Poverty and Deprivation in Australia 1996, cat. no.1301.0
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2006, Information Paper: An Introduction to Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), 2006, cat.2039.0
United Nations Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF) 2000, ‘A League Table of Child Poverty in Rich Nations’, Innocenti Report Card,2000, no. 1
Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) 2006, Child Poverty: a Review, Policy Research Paper No.20
Robert Lee Wagmiller, Robert M. Adelman 2009, ‘Childhood and Intergenerational Poverty: The Long-Term Consequences of Growing Up Poor’, Columbia University Academic Commons, http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:8870.
Freeman, Craig 2013, Image of I Wished for Things but Got Instead, an Anvil dropped Upon My Head Mr Fakie 3 February, view 27 March 2016, <http://veganskateblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Anvilsmall.jpg&gt;.

 

The Freedom to Question

Back for another serving of analysing with a licence, my 2016 university year has begun. Fresh from the world of breaking up fights between my 9 and 6 year old girls, and scrubbing the unfinished polished wood of my former abode in the most ferocious bond clean since G.I. Jane held a toothbrush, I am plunging into the world of research and enquiry for BCM210: Research Practices in Media and Communication.

Our first task is to ponder what curiosity has meant in my life.  So here I go…

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Curiosity to me is the right to question the world in which I live.  It’s the itch at the base of my spine that is not accepting what I see or hear as the only truth, demanding more information so that it may be satisfied.  Really I think I’m just looking for tangible proof of my own knowing. As we as inquire and start drawing lines around what is and what isn’t in the world, our identity changes and sharpens in a way that impacts how we move in the world as individuals, as a community and by extension as the human race.

In my younger life, curiosity got me into a lot of trouble,  apparently it was not acceptable for a bi-racial child, in an Irish-Australian Catholic family, to question their way of life or the religion that they had been heaped with at birth. This type of action was sacrilegious at best and saw me reddened with the back of a wooden spoon.  My Mother still says of me,”I never understood how young child could spend hours in those museums or art galleries, I was bored.” I held the same opinion then that I do now; if the knowledge, idea or experience that you hold so dear is true, I should be able to ask as many questions as I like, and my research will bring me back to your position.

In other countries such as North Korea or China as well as many of the smaller nations of the former USSR and Central America, curiosity is discouraged in matters of state, with many citizens who dare to question, particularly those in the media, finding themselves in jail or dead.

It is with some gratitude then that we undertake this subject where we take our very human tendency to be curious about our world and use it to inspire us as students to find methodology to create a practice of research that is effective, in depth and with a smaller chance of error.

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In her lecture Kate Bowles outlined research as ‘a way to persuade’. There also were a lot of terms such as ‘Qualitative Research’ and ‘Quantitative Research’, ‘Ontology’ and ‘Epistemology’.  Proud as I am to add new terms to my vocabulary, these words will still take some time to be imbued with the meaning I’m sure they deserve.  My very exhausted brain wasn’t accepting any updates last week, but I look forward to rewarding my now refreshed curious self with lots of cool stuff that is new to me.