What economics has to say about same-sex marriage

Image of a same sex couple If people want commodities like:  
love, company, doing tasks together, they are better off if marriage 
is permitted. David Crosling/AAP

Love and companionship make most people happy and generally represent two of the key reasons why couples marry.

In the economists’ view, love and companionship are a particular type of commodity: they cannot be purchased or traded on a market, but they can be produced by a household to generate happiness for its members.

There are potentially many other of these “household-produced” commodities, including raising children, preparing meals, caring for each other, and achieving economic stability.

The question is then how to produce these commodities more efficiently so that people are happier.

Efficiency in this case does not just mean “more”, but also “better quality” commodities. For instance, the happiness of a person is not just determined by the number of meals prepared and consumed, but also by their quality.

Economists look at marriage in this context. Examining the commodities marriage can produce helps us understand why people marry, how individuals sort each other into married couples, and what this means for society as a whole.

It turns out that economics does a pretty good job at explaining and predicting patterns in marriage that would otherwise appear irrational. For example economics can help explain why there is a difference between married and non-married people when it comes to if, and eventually how much, they want to work.

We marry because…

The fundamental economic view of marriage goes back to the theory of Nobel Laureate Gary Becker.

People can produce household commodities in some amount without necessarily having to marry. However, when people marry, they pool their resources together (the most important one being time) and can specialise in certain tasks. This allows them to produce more and better quality household commodities.

For instance, by sharing tasks such as shopping and cleaning, a married couple can produce better quality meals than two individuals that shop, clean and cook separately.

In principle, the same productivity gains could arise from a co-habitation or de facto relationship. However, in this case, the two people in the relationship would also have to set up contracts to figure out important arrangements like household finance and inheritance (among other things).

There also is some significant costs, not only in money but in time, in working all of this out. Whereas a marriage contract already embeds some of these aspects. That in itself is an efficiency gain associated with marriage over cohabitation or de facto relationship.

So, if people want the commodities we mentioned: love, company, doing tasks together, they are better off (i.e. happier) if marriage is permitted.

This whole framework doesn’t require people to be of the same or different sex. Heterosexual and homosexual couples will generate different patterns in terms of what commodities they produce. Still, marriage will generate some productivity and efficiency gains for couples, irrespective of their gender.

What economics has to say about the effect on the rest of society

From an economic perspective, the fact that same-sex marriage allows people to achieve some productivity and efficiency gains (which some of us might call happiness!) does not automatically mean that it should be established by law. For example, if same-sex marriage were to produce some negative effects on the rest of the society.

In this regard, the public debate has focused on how permitting same-sex marriage would (or would not) reduce overall marriage in society, increase divorce rates, or lessen the importance of having children in marriage.

In fact, there’s now a growing body of empirical research, published across various fields (from economics, to demography, sociology, and public policy), that estimates the impact of permitting same-sex marriage on marriage, abortion, and divorce rates (or couple stability).

A study in 2009, using US data, found no statistically significant adverse effect from allowing gay marriage. Another US study in 2014 found no evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry reduces the opposite-sex marriage rate.

One more study indicated that same-sex couples experience levels of stability similar to heterosexual couples. That study also found that for couples (both same-sex and different-sex) living in a state with a ban against same-sex marriage there was an associated instability.

To some extent, findings from this line of research are still preliminary and have to be taken with caution. This is because same-sex marriage, even where permitted, has been introduced only recently. Therefore only a relatively short time span is available to observe its effects. So the jury is still out.

However, my own reading of the research produced so far is that there is generally little evidence of significant negative societal effects of same-sex marriage.

Going forward, as more data becomes available, empirical research will allow for a more refined assessment of the impact of same-sex marriage on society and the extent to which permitting same-sex marriage could (or not) weaken the social purpose of traditional marriage.

This article was written by:
Image of Fabrizio CarmignaniFabrizio Carmignani – [Professor, Griffith Business School, Griffith University]







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Explainer: what legal benefits do married couples have that de facto couples do not?

 De facto couples still often have to go to great  
lengths to prove their relationship, unlike married couples, who need only 
furnish a marriage certificate.

Opponents of marriage equality often say that married and de facto couples already have the same rights. To what extent is this true? And, in legal terms, how much do the differences matter?

In an opinion piece last week, former prime minister Tony Abbott claimed:

Already, indeed, same-sex couples in a settled domestic relationship have exactly the same rights as people who are married.

This isn’t true.

At the most fundamental level, same-sex couples do not have the right to marry and therefore do not have “marriage equality”. While de facto couples may be able to assert some of the same rights as married couples, they often have to expend significant time, money and unnecessary heartache to do so.

Marriage allows people to access a complete package of rights simply by showing their marriage certificate or ticking a box, and is based on their mutual promises to one another rather than proving their relationship meets particular interdependency criteria.

Unlike de facto relationships, marriage is recognised nationally and internationally.

Differences under law

The laws regarding de facto couples differ between states and the Commonwealth, and from one right to another.

For Centrelink purposes, you are a de facto couple from the moment you start living together; for migration law it is after 12 months of cohabiting (unless you have a child together or de facto relationships are illegal in your country of origin).

Under family law it is different again: a minimum of two years (unless you have a child together, have registered your relationship, or have made significant contributions to the relationship).

Where married couples use IVF, both spouses are automatically legal parents. But for de facto couples using reproductive technologies, their child’s parentage depends on whether a de facto relationship is proven to exist.

Couples who are or were married must file for property and/or spousal maintenance proceedings in the Family Court within one year of finalising a divorce, but have the option to agree to an extension of time in which to file. No such provision exists for de facto couples; they must file proceedings within two years.

In many states, a new marriage nullifies an existing will, unless that will was quite specifically worded. This is not the case when you enter a new de facto relationship. In the latter situation, if you die before making a new will, a court might need to decide how your assets are allocated (with costs borne by your estate).

In all contexts, de facto relationships require significant proof, which means partners may have to provide evidence about their living and child care arrangements, sexual relationship, finances, ownership of property, commitment to a shared life and how they present as a couple in public. These criteria can be absent from a heterosexual marriage, but it is still deemed a marriage.

Despite the wording in the marriage ceremony that marriage “is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”, it is up to married partners whether or not they share their finances, their housework, their childcare responsibilities, their homes or their beds, and how long they want to stay married.

‘Registered relationships’ – separate but equal?

Many states and territories have legislation permitting couples to register their domestic relationships – the exceptions are the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

To register, you first need to prove that you meet the criteria – for example, providing “personal or financial commitment and support of a domestic nature for the material benefit of the other”. Where marriage delivers rights based on a couple’s promises to one another, registered relationships still require proof that a relationship meeting the criteria already exists.

Such registered relationships are not reliably recognised overseas.

When does it matter?

While married and de facto relationships largely have equal standing before the law, only marriage is immediate and incontrovertible.

Difficulties for de facto couples arise from the complex inter-relationship between the “burden of proof”, institutionalised homophobia, and the sticky situations that can often arise in interpersonal or family conflict.

For example, a person in a de facto relationship might need to prove their relationship:

  • if their partner is very ill, in order to make decisions about their care and treatment (this can be prevented by having another piece of paper – a medical enduring power of attorney equivalent document depending on your state or territory);
  • if their partner who has died, in order to be listed as their spouse on a death certificate or to be involved in funeral planning (being listed on a death certificate is critically important when it comes to claiming superannuation payouts and myriad other issues); or
  • if their partner has died without leaving a will.

Sadly, the times when marital status matters most are likely to be times of grief, or high stress. To compound this, there are many examples of a couple’s “de facto” status being challenged by one partner’s family of origin. Marriage, on the other hand, is undeniable.

Unmarried de facto couples often experience difficulties attaining residency and/or working rights overseas. Married couples rarely experience these problems.

Same obligations, without the same right to wed

Same-sex couples have all the same obligations as married couples – to pay taxes, child support and so on. But they don’t have the ability to marry – to enjoy the symbolic and emotional effects of entering into a legal union with their partners before friends and family, or enjoy the legal security of having one document to confirm the legal status of their relationship.

Many heterosexual couples in Australia choose to live in de facto relationships. This is their right. Same-sex couples do not get to choose – they have no alternative.

Marriage equality is about giving couples genuine choice about how they structure their relationships.

This article was co-authored by:

Hannah Robert – [Lecturer in Law, La Trobe University]


Fiona Kelly – [ Associate Professor, Law School, La Trobe University]





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Marriage Equality – Why a YES vote is important

An Editorial

Now the papers for the non-binding vote on marriage equality have started to be delivered and with them, comes a very important decision.
Do you vote YES to the right of people to marry regardless of gender, or do you vote NO to maintain the status quo.
The federal government would have us believe that there are far more important issues to deal with than this issue. Are there?
There is no denying that national security, education, welfare, energy provision and a long list of issues aren’t critical and demand our attention.
But what of marriage equality?
In an article written by George Rennie, Lecturer in American Politics and Lobbying Strategies, University of Melbourne and published yesterday in the Toorak Times, Rennie wrote,
the No campaign has distinct advantages when it advertises. These primarily relate to status-quo bias. Research shows that political actors often have an aversion to change, and will disproportionately focus on perceived losses relative to perceived gains. 
As such, advocacy campaigns that focus on losses tend to do better than those focused on gains. On same-sex marriage, the gain is clear for some (such as those seeking to marry, and the rights this affords), but it is more reliant on more abstract notions like “fairness” for those not directly affected.
To that end, a campaign that suggests same-sex marriage will somehow erode many people’s rights (or those of their children) has an advantage over a campaign focused on establishing new rights.
Does voting YES erode people’s rights? We would argue that not only does it not erode rights; it is quite the opposite as it provides rights to those who currently are denied them. It would be the NO vote that erodes rights through its denial of allowing choice.
In regard to spurious arguments being made by some sections of the community, marriage equality will take nothing away from the religious freedom of those who oppose it; it will restore and uphold the religious freedom of those in favour.
Now should the YES vote prevail and should the federal government allow a free vote and should that vote support the YES vote by the people and that is a lot of “should”, then those who wish to marry a person of the opposite sex will have lost no rights whatsoever, while, those who wish to marry someone of the same sex will have gained that important right.
It is our belief that the NO campaign is largely upon claims and statements that have no empirical evidence to support them. The NO campaign is based upon fear and misinformation and plays upon the concerns of people who either resist change, for in these people’s minds change takes us out of the comfort of the status quo and into the fearful unknown or, have strong sometimes-extremist religious points of view.
This does not mean these citizens do not have the right to practice those beliefs and hold the sanctity of marriage to be between a man and a woman.
However the NO vote does deny those who do not hold those strong religious beliefs, of which according to the last census is a growing percentage of the population, the right to make a choice based upon their beliefs. Those who support the YES vote are expressing beliefs that are no less valid than those supporting a NO vote.
In our opinion a YES vote is imperative. It sends a strong message that we believe that marriage equality is a right that all Australians should have. We support the contention that Australian’s have a right to choose a partner to spend their life with regardless of what other Australian’s might.
We believe a YES vote makes a declaration that this nation has both a strong and healthy heart and, a strong and healthy soul. Further we believe that it shows that this country is prepared to move forward with confidence that it can recognise and appreciate the past but is ready to move forward into a future where all really can have a “fair go”!
By saying YES to marriage equality we affirm that this country has at its core the value that says everyone has the right to be treated equally and has the right to find happiness in marriage with a partner of choice.
It makes not just a declaration regarding equality of choice but where and who we are as a nation.
Let’s move forward together – we support a vote of YES!

Rob Greaves
Senior Editor – Toorak Times

Marriage vote : how advocacy ads exploit our emotions in divisive debates

 The ‘Yes’ campaign’s first ad focused 
on the evidential flaws with the ‘No’ campaign’s ads.

The same-sex marriage debate in Australia was always bound to be divisive and emotive. And as a public vote on whether it should be legalised nears, the role of advocacy advertisements will become increasingly important in swaying the opinion of undecided voters.

While polls show strong support for marriage equality at present, the history of widespread advocacy campaigns shows that the “No” campaign has many unfair advantages – especially when it uses ads to make its point.

The No campaign’s natural advantage

The efficacy of both the “Yes” and “No” arguments can be related to Mill’s “harm principle”: one side believes the only harm being done is to those who happen to be attracted to those of the same sex; the other side believes harm is being done to religious and moral values. How they present these ideas will dramatically affect the outcome of the vote.

However, the No campaign has distinct advantages when it advertises. These primarily relate to status-quo bias. Research shows that political actors often have an aversion to change, and will disproportionately focus on perceived losses relative to perceived gains.

As such, advocacy campaigns that focus on losses tend to do better than those focused on gains. On same-sex marriage, the gain is clear for some (such as those seeking to marry, and the rights this affords), but it is more reliant on more abstract notions like “fairness” for those not directly affected.

To that end, a campaign that suggests same-sex marriage will somehow erode many people’s rights (or those of their children) has an advantage over a campaign focused on establishing new rights.

The No campaign’s second advantage comes with its ability to muddy the waters and associate as many negatives with same-sex marriage as it can. Again, this uses status-quo bias: when in doubt, people typically vote no.

And “facts” play an almost negligible role in changing voter behaviour in the face of strong emotionally based arguments.

The ad campaigns so far

So far, the ads for and against same-sex marriage have been intelligently made.

Polls have consistently shown that as the religiosity of Australians has declined, support for gay rights has grown. This bodes poorly for the No campaign, and it knows it. As a result, the Australian Christian Lobby has focused more on the idea that same-sex marriage will lead to a sort of social, moral decline.

An Australian Christian Lobby ‘No’ ad.

Its ad cites no evidence for the assertions in it, but facts and evidence are less relevant in political advertising than many might like to think.

It’s a smart ad: it builds an emotional connection with traditional family-oriented voters, based on fear. Importantly, it sows doubt in those it connects with, which can be hard to overcome.

Another ad designed to air on Father’s Day was blocked by Free TV Australia, which considered the ad political. The group behind it, Dads4Kids, neglected to attach an identification tag, which would have resolved the issue.

Dads4Kids’ Father’s Day ad.

The group denied the ad was either political or related to the marriage vote. But two lines in the 60-second spot appear designed for the debate: first, “Your mummy and I are a perfect team”, then “I can’t wait to … watch as you put on a wedding ring”. These are presented as positive messages, but reinforce existing ideals of parenting as between men and women.

These kinds of ads may be used again, but are less effective for the No campaign than the more overtly stress- or fear-inducing ones.

Experts assert there is no evidence to support the No campaign’s assertions. Its messaging is, in that strict sense, irrational.

But that’s the point: muddying the waters in advocacy advertising plays on the unquestioning parts of the brain. Fear of the unknown and unknowable can be baseless – even silly – but it works.

When Yes Equality launched its first TV ad, it was defensive, and focused on the evidence problems with the No ads.

A Yes campaign ad.

The latest ad from the Yes campaign doesn’t give viewers the time to build any connection: there are too many faces, too much going on.

Another ad from the Yes campaign.

Debunking and clearing up confusion is important, as is mobilising voters, but the most successful campaigns focus more on establishing emotive-empathetic links with viewers than rational ones

Such campaigns usually rely on stress or anger. The US campaign against “Hillarycare” did it in 1993; when unions fought the WorkChoices legislation, they did it too; and the mining industry did it in its battle against the Rudd-Gillard mining taxes in 2010.

A union anti-Workchoices ad.

Giving the same-sex marriage debate relatable, likeable faces, and building emotional narratives, will be critical to countering the fear-based charge of the “No” ads. This is especially the case if the campaign maintains or increases its advertising spending.

Lessons from Ireland

Ireland’s 2015 referendum on same-sex marriage offers compelling – if not completely analogous – examples of what might happen in Australia.

Ireland voted in favour of same-sex marriage, 62% to 38%. This was well down from pre-referendum opinion polls, where support was as high as 76%. Polling shows Australians’ support for marriage equality is similarly strong — as high as 76% – and it’s likely a charged debate will bring a similar drop.

However, there is a key difference. In Ireland, political ads are banned on broadcast media – so, no TV spots, nor radio. Australia has no such prohibition.

The complexity of an issue like same-sex marriage (or almost any political issue) is not well distilled into 30-second audio-visual pitches. Instead of through ads, the Irish debate largely took place on panel discussions, in parliament, and in public and private places around the country.

The closest ads Ireland ran to Australia’s TV spots were internet-based, such as those made by the Iona Institute and Mothers and Fathers Matter. These pushed the idea that both a mother and a father were necessary or ideal for bringing up children.

Mothers and Fathers Matter campaign ad.

Iona Institute ad.

Otherwise, the ads were made for billboards, newspapers and the internet, but their impact was likely to be lower than if TV spots were used. Internet ads generally have lower saturation and reach fewer demographics (including older voters, who are more likely to resist same-sex marriage).

And static, image-based ads don’t have the same efficacy as TV ones – especially in terms of emotive reactions, which lend themselves more to irrational associations.

What to expect as the vote nears

Ireland’s experience shows that even where ads are kept from broadcast media, there can be a dramatic drop in support for same-sex marriage after a prolonged, divisive debate. But throwing well-made TV and radio ads into the mix may well prove a critical distinction between Australia and Ireland.

The No campaign will continue to draw on as many negative associations as possible, especially related to children. Its campaign has been significantly dependent on fear, and shows no indication of changing.

Once the vote is properly underway, the intensity of the ads is likely to increase. Without an adequate counter from the Yes campaign – especially one offering more emotionally compelling messages – the advantages of the No campaign are likely to narrow the polling gap significantly.

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Are you part of a social group? Making sure you are will improve your health

Social Groups Social connectedness supports our  
physical and mental health. Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

It’s well established that people who feel socially isolated, or as though they don’t belong, have worse mental health than those who feel socially connected. But in a study recently published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, we’ve shown that increasing your level of social connection can protect your future mental health.

Previous research has found “social connectedness” is at least as good for your health as quitting smoking or exercise. It aids recovery from physical and mental illness, and provides resilience for stressful life events and transitions. So what is social connectedness, and how can we get more of it?

What is social connectedness?

Social connectedness isn’t about being popular, or having a lot of friends. Although it can come from the personal relationships you have with other individuals, research finds it’s belonging to groups that’s most important for your health.

When we feel we truly belong to a group – like being part of “the Marsh family” or “us Stanley Street residents” – we benefit from both the bonds we share with other group members, and how belonging to that group tells us something about who we are.

Belonging to a group tells us something about who we are. Photo by Richard Boyle on Unsplash

Social connectedness is crucial to physical and mental health. A 2010 review of 148 studiesfound that people who felt less socially connected had more risk of early death than those who smoked, drank or were obese.

Therapeutic programs that focus on building social connectedness are effective in treating depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. But improving someone’s social connectedness can also support and protect the health of people in their everyday lives.

For example, people who make new social group connections are less likely to developdepression. And people who maintain and build their social group connections have greater well-being during the transition to retirement or university.

Social connectedness has also been positively associated with mental health in large, population-based studies of AustralianBritish and American adults.

What our study means

Our latest study investigated the link between social connectedness and mental health in 25,000 New Zealand adults over four years using the longitudinal New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS). We asked people about their personal feelings of belonging with others in their community and found when a person’s level of social connection goes down, they experience worse mental health a year later.

The relationship also went the other way: people with good mental health were more socially connected a year later. But, importantly, the influence of social connectedness on mental health over time was about three times stronger than the other way around.

Despite all this knowledge, there’s been little change in health care, public policy, or individual behaviour. Government health departments specifically recommend healthy eating, exercise and quitting smoking to improve health, yet tend to omit any mention of social connection. One reason might be that it’s unclear how social connection works to promote health, compared to other factors like smoking.

Social connectedness can act as a resource by providing a sense of shared meaning, Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

The best way to understand this measure is to see it as a psychological resource. Just like money in the bank means you can absorb financial shocks, a broad network of social group memberships means you can better navigate the physical and mental stresses of life.

Social connectedness can act as a resource by providing a sense of shared meaning and purpose. Weeding a community garden each Saturday is about more than earning your share of zucchinis, for instance. It’s also about recognising the garden cannot flourish without the efforts of many people, and taking part in something larger than yourself.

Having an important role to play in the garden’s success means that the group’s purpose becomes your purpose. Another way being socially connected is like a resource is it provides access to material and emotional support which helps during stressful events and difficult life transitions. If one member of a church group is in grief, others may step in to provide food, or help the grieving member speak about their feelings.

Such expression of other group members’ commitment reinforces the feelings of belonging and security that the grieving person finds in their church group.

How to improve your social connectedness

How can we harness the power of social connection to improve our health and the health of our communities? Remember that social connectedness is more than mere contact with other people, or even merely being a member of social groups. It is about feeling that you belong to that group; that you trust others and they trust you in a shared purpose, and that group members can rely on each other.

Festivals are popular events but are not by themselves sufficient to promote social connectedness. Photo by Stephen Arnold on Unsplash

At a personal level, you could take stock of your existing relationships and group memberships, and make a change if these relationships are not trusting, mutually supportive, or have a shared meaning and purpose.

At a community level, you could join or lead initiatives that will build trust and psychological bonds between community members. Local fetes and festivals are popular, but one-off events are not by themselves sufficient to promote social connectedness. But these events could be a starting point for community members to discover and join ongoing, supportive social groups with their own shared purposes.

This might include finding a shared purpose for existing social groups, such as the “men’s sheds” movement, which sets up places for men to come together and work on meaningful projects in the company of other men. Or it could include joining new groups like the popular parkrun held weekly in public parks across Australia, which brings together the dual benefits of social connection and exercise.

This article was co-authored by:





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Why the ecocity needs to be a just city

Image of a homeless person Why is it easier to imagine 
a green ecocity than a just city  where everyone belongs? the yes man/flickr

Why is it easier to imagine an ecocity – full of lush green spaces and buildings, footpaths and bike lanes, outdoor goat yoga and dog parks – than a just city where everyone belongs? Why is it difficult to imagine a city where there are no great disparities of income or of access to convivial life because these have been equitably distributed?

The prospects for rebuilding the city along ecological lines is enchanting. But ecocities, like smart cities, frequently devolve into a techno-fetishist fantasy, (un)wittingly abetting gentrification – from the sell-off of public housing in cities like Sydney to violent informal housing eradication in places like Jakarta.

Part of what’s required here is to connect the currents of imagination shaping the ecological future of cities with other conversations that are more focused on the future of employment and industry and the possibilities for greater equity. Thinking these disparate ideas together will take some work. Fortunately, it’s well under way in cities around Australia and the world.

The Centre For Future Work and the Australia Institute organised a summit last month at Parliament House to consider the future of manufacturing in Australia. Much of the day was spent exploring how targeted government procurement practices can help rebuild a sector that could play a vital role in building ecocities alongside new employment opportunities.

Co-operative ways to build community wealth

Non-profit institutions and the private sector can play a similar role. The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative in Cleveland, closing in on its tenth year, used the demand for services from hospitals and universities to start worker co-operatives.

These meet the need for green laundry services, food and energy while creating ownership opportunities for low-income residents. Guaranteed downstream markets increase business viability. This ensures easier access to start-up capital.

Dozens of US cities have developed similar initiatives in the past decade. Among these are union-supported initiatives in Cincinnati, Ohio, municipal initiatives in Richmond, California, and multi-stakeholder co-operatives in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In each instance the guiding principle is that worker co-operatives are tied to place by the people who work in and own them. They distribute profits in ways that benefit worker-owners, other local businesses and the broader community.

In Australia, Earthworker Coo-perative has tirelessly pursued a similar initiative. It aims to connect Australian manufacturing capacity, eco-friendly technologies, unions and the environmental movement as a basis for starting worker co-operatives ready to meet the demand for green technology.

Organisations like the Mercury Co-Operative and the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals are working to support and spread co-operative ownership in Australia.

In September, a second New Economy Conference, open to the public, will consider what sort of legal and social changes are needed to support efforts like Earthworker.

Image of Kim Carr
What is an economy for? That’s the question Kim Carr believes we should keep in mind.AAP/Tracey Nearmy
More ambitiously, even the emergent disruptive technologies that are enabling the “gig economy” can be repurposed for co-operation and community wealth creation.

While new platform technologies concentrate wealth in companies like Uber and Airbnb, these could just as easily function on a co-operative basis, sustaining communities in the process. Such ideas are being actively considered in Melbourne and in Sydney at last year’s Vivid festival.

These efforts to encourage social procurement, build co-operatives and develop new forms of sharing work readily combine with the ecocity agenda. In themselves they are not sufficient to ensure that ecocities are also equitable cities. As Labor senator Kim Carr pointed out in last month’s summit, what ideas like this do is fully open the question of what an economy is for.

In Australia, this question is an eminently urban one. Continuing to ask this question, and keeping the answer open, is one way of ensuring that ecocities are not merely oases for the wealthy.

This article was written by:
Image of Stephen HealyStephen Healy – [Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University]






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Free to the Public Information & Support

Evenings for Family & Friends of Drug or Alcohol addicted loved ones


Support & Education Evening for Families and Friends Affected by Drug or Alcohol Addiction

The First Step Program is proud to announce a series of Information and Support evenings tailored towards families and friends of those affected by Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

These evenings will seek to provide a forum for families and friends to build support networks and to acquire insight and coping skills for dealing with those affected by Drugs and Alcohol.  Evenings will include the opportunity for group discussion and problem solving.

Thursday April 20th, 5-7pm:         What is addiction and what are the treatment options? Medical perspectives.  Presented by Dr Peter Wright.   Discussion facilitated by John Chellew, Social Worker

Thursday May 25th, 5-7pm:         Coping strategies.  Implementing boundaries, reducing conflict and improving communication.  Facilitated by John Chellew, Social Worker

Thursday June 22nd, 5-7pm:       Addiction and the Law.  Presented by First Step Legal Service Principle Lawyer, Tania Wolff.  Discussion facilitated by John Chellew, Social Worker       

Where:                                                 First Step Medical Clinic

                                                                42 Carlisle Street,

                                                                St. Kilda VIC 3182

Cost:                                                      FREE OF CHARGE

                                                                *note places strictly limited, if you are unable to attend please provide 48 hours notice so that your place may be allocated to someone else in need.

Bookings:                                            03) 9537 3177 or info@firststep.org.au

Included:                                             Light refreshments

Places are strictly limited and will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis.  

Run by The First Step Program. 

Supported by the City of Port Phillip Community Grants Program.

(insert First Step logo) (insert City of Port Phillip logo)

A Problem Facing More Parents ‘School Refusal’

Child and adolescent ‘School Refusal’ is a complex problem that can lead to more serious mental health issues if not recognised and dealt with in the early stages.

School Refusal is when a child stays home, with the full knowledge of the family, because the child cannot cope with the stresses of attending school. This may not be the case for a child who is absent occasionally.

Dr Paul Denborough, head of the Child & Youth Mental Health Service at Alfred Health said, “[it’s a] bit of an emergency particularly if it’s acute because unless you get onto it quickly it can become a really severe problem.”

January can be a difficult time for children preparing to go back to school especially for one to two percent of the population who suffer from this growing problem.

There are several categories of School Refusal but the main motivators are school based issues that children want to avoid such bullying or academic problems, or it could be home based issues such separation or sibling rivalry.

Other issues can include transition to secondary school, fear of teachers, traumatic life event and family stress that may include violence, drugs and alcohol. Sometimes the problem can come from both home and school.

Other observations are that they don’t have a problem at school but they might have some family issue and they just don’t want to be at either place. They want to be out with their peers having fun so they may develop some conduct problems.

School Refusal has been on the rise in the last ten years partly because of the internet and social media where a child’s mental and physical health is in danger of being affected.   

“Instead of going to school they stay up all night on the internet,” said Dr Denborough. “That’s become a complication of the problem and made it a lot worse because of the computer addiction and the sleepless problems associated with School Refusal. The three all go together and make it much harder to turn around.”

John Chellew from Bayside School Refusal Clinic specialises in early intervention of certain areas of School Refusal. Mr Chellew’s initial parent/patient contact is to establish the origins of the problem and formulate a strategy for treatment.    

Mr Chellew said, “School Refusal can present itself in several ways ranging from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about going to school to complete school withdrawal.”

Mr Chellew who is an experienced councillor, began his practice last year when he saw a short fall in early intervention counselling.  A patient was referred to him by a primary school councillor in the eastern suburbs where his mother who we will call Barbara was having School Refusal problems with her eight-year-old son, who we will call Jake. 

“I didn’t know anything was wrong and then one day he just wouldn’t get out of the car, he had white knuckles and just said, ‘I’m not getting out of the car mum’,” said Barbara.

On Jakes first day at school he was anxious like many other children and looked like he was upset so one of the kids next to him in class said, “You’re such a sook.” Unfortunately, the teacher didn’t help with the situation and the teasing continued for a further six weeks until Jake couldn’t cope anymore.

Mr Chellew met with Barbara and formulated a treatment that took about eight weeks. Barbara said, “Jake is usually quite cautious of people he doesn’t know, he opened up to John straight away. John found ways to sort of get Jake to express how he was feeling without prying and forcing him.”

Even though it was a struggle at times, Jake made an effort during the treatment. “John straight away gave him little ways to deal with things,” said Barbara. “After [eight] weeks, he improved dramatically to the point where Jake was the one who turned around and said I don’t think I need to keep coming. That’s a great experience.”



Fox Galleries

79 Langridge  St, Collingwood

19th February- 8th March 2017

Ph: 03 8560 3583


Gwendolen de Lacy Photo Magda de la Pesca
Gwendolen de Lacy Photo Magda de la Pesca

Suppose you knew nothing about photographer, Maggie Diaz, and you wandered into the Fox Gallery in Collingwood. You’d find an exhibition of mainly limited edition archival pigment prints and a selection of mounted original silver gelatin prints. 

You may note that some were shot in the 1950’s in America and others were shot in and around Melbourne mainly in the 1960’s and ’70’s. Glimpses of worlds in 2 continents, but insights into numerous worlds of her subjects.

Especially the contrasts between the lives of the wealthy and those who lived on the streets.

Maggie Diaz was an American photographer. She arrived in Australia by ship in 1961 on a one-way ticket (a divorce gift from her ex-husband). She soon gained a reputation as an important emigre artist and never returned to her homeland. She died in St Kilda in October 2016 after a protracted battle with dementia.

Who was Maggie Diaz? Johan  Scheffer, Victorian ex-parliamentarian, has known her for 40 years. He said that many people felt they had a special relationship with her. “She made you feel special – and you were. I think that translates into her photos as well – the capturing of a moment in time that tells a story.”

This exhibition is partly a commemoration of Diaz, but it’s also a celebration of the intertwining of two other worlds. That of Maggie and that of her dedicated curator and special soulmate, Gwendolen de Lacy.

There’s no one alive more knowledgeable about Maggie Diaz than Gwen. She has painstakingly helped collate and label over 30,000 negatives which are now archived with the State Library of Victoria.

Gwendolen was a 16 year – old performer when her boyfriend first introduced her to Maggie in the mid-1980’s. She needed photos for her portfolio. Being something of a naive “hills girl” from the Dandenongs, she found the cosmopolitan, well-lived  Diaz overpowering, demanding, yet somehow exciting.

Gwendolen de Lacy
Gwendolen de Lacy

Maggie insisted on a 12-hour shoot, which produced among other things the hauntingly beautiful  ethereal “girl behind the veil”. It was, however, a series of photos considered by de Lacy’s agent as too arty and moody for an actor’s portfolio. Nevertheless, photographer and subject developed a firm friendship that would span over 30 years.

Maggie was Gwendolen’s mentor showing her the ropes for life as an actor/artist. Gwendolen is the devotee who brought the often broke photographer to her home for a meal and a bit of family life. She is the nurturer and carer, who not only assisted Diaz in promoting her work, but also tended to her in the final years, when in the grip of dementia, Maggie floated between two worlds.

Even though Diaz has left the mortal coil, Gwendolen still feels the soul connection. Maggie’s spirit now sits on her shoulder and whispers in her ear.

I‘m sure Diaz must be tremendously proud of her protégée. But even now, Gwendolen tells me, the photographer can still be a bit demanding.

If youd like to know more about Maggie Diaz, pop along to the State Library of Victoria from 4pm to 5.30pm this Friday, 25 February 2017. Therell be a special birthday  memorial service at in the Experimedia Space.

Madeleine Say, who has been involved with the Diaz Collection since its launch in 2005, and overseen the handover of the archive as Manager of the Picture Collections Department, will be host for the event.  Therell be an eulogy from Johan Scheffer and a slide show I Dont Do Sweet with Maggies timeless commentary”.