By Right Now Radio

What does education look like? Is it a police officer learning new ways to approach the homeless man begging on the street? Is it a group of young students in Braybrook finding their way through their last year of school? Or is it art on the back of a roller door in Brunswick, inspired by a young teen’s poem.

This Month on Right Now, Lucy Adams from Justice Connect discusses the impact law enforcement has on the homeless. We revisit writer Alice Pung’s roots, growing up in Braybrook; and Evelyn takes a look at the new book Heartcore, born from a collaboration with Berry Street School & street artist Kaff-iene

With dismay, many Victorians only recently learnt that begging was a criminal offence. Justice Connect helps almost 200 clients who have experienced homelessness navigate the legalities of their hefty fines and offences. Without an address or an income, one is left to wonder if sending off fines that are well into their hundreds of dollars is an effective form of action.

Lucy Adams travelled worldwide to nine cities and met over 60 experts to learn how best to address the negative impact laws that regulate public space have on the homeless. Her research aims to rethink whether law enforcement the best option for addressing this complex social issue.

Lucy explains that this shift is being taken by governments abroad, “In Oregon, public drunkenness isn’t a criminal justice issue, it’s a health issue. This reconfigures the way we think of public drunkenness.” Begging, public drunkenness, transport fines, as well as other public infringements disproportionally affect the homeless.

Adam’s says “In an ideal world, begging should be decriminalised, the main reason is, because it is ineffective in terms of trying to tackle the problem that it is trying to address. It imposes severe hardship on people who are already really struggling.”

Employee’s with laminated folders, that line the streets asking people to sign up for a charity, are not seen in the same light as beggars. This comparison leads to the thought that maybe society’s perception of homelessness needs to be reshaped for law reform to happen.

Click here to read Lucy Adam’s report In The Public Eye.

In Braybrook, education was about finishing school so you could get a job. In her essay Back to School, Alice Pung returns to her childhood haunting ground to explore the community’s conceptualisation of schooling in greater depth. She examines education’s role in breaking down the barriers of disadvantage & poverty. Alice comes to find a pervading sense of hope & drive among the stories of the locals she meets in Braybrook.

Click here to read Alice Pung’s Essay Back to School.

Ev chats with Kaff-iene & Tom about the role of art in marginalised communities & social change. Street artists Kaff-iene rejects pigeon holing art into a specific role but acknowledges, “for me, art itself is a valuable form of expression, and certainly in the context of perhaps people who haven’t had the privilege of education, or who may be too young to articulate themselves the way they want, a simple drawing can be really effective, either as therapy, to communicate what people are feeling or as expression. Or it can be just for the joy of marking paper.” Expression through creativity is valued at Berry Street as a way to engage and empower young minds.

Kindled by the poems & short stories of young people at Berry Street, Kaffe-iene created a body of work that is now littered amongst the streets of Melbourne. Each piece sought to reflect an individual story or poem written by a teen at Berry Street.

The book Heartcore is the marriage of these individual poems matched with Kaff-iene’s street art interpretations.

Click here to visit HEARTCORE’s website.

For regular updates about the show, you can sign up to Right Now’s monthly newsletter by entering your email at the top of the website, join the Right Now Facebook page and/or follow us on Twitter.  You can also subscribe to the podcasts by copying this link into your Podcast Apps or iTunes.


Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.