16 March 2021

Minutes' silence for welfare victims on Parliament lawns

WHEN: 11:10am Tuesday, March 16
WHERE: Parliament House lawns
WHO: Andrew Wilkie MP, Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Unemployed Workers Union, No Cashless Debit Card Australia, Australian Council of Social Service, GetUp
VISUAL:  1,400 empty chairs on the Parliament lawns to symbolise the 1.4 million Australians living in poverty



WHEN: 11:10am Tuesday, March 16
WHERE: Parliament House lawns
WHO: Andrew Wilkie MP, Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Unemployed Workers Union, No Cashless Debit Card Australia, Australian Council of Social Service, GetUp
VISUAL:  1,400 empty chairs on the Parliament lawns to symbolise the 1.4 million Australians living in poverty

As Parliament considers the Morrison Government’s proposal to cut the JobSeeker rate by $100 a fortnight on March 31, unemployed people and their allies will protest in defiance of the government’s neglect and punishment of people on income support.

GetUp, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, No Cashless Debit Card Australia, activist organisations and community members will be holding a minutes’ silence on the Parliament lawns at 11.10 am on Tuesday, March 16 in memory of those who have died of poverty or related causes in the Australian welfare system.

The scale of the problems caused by government-mandated unemployment and poverty will be represented by 1,400 chairs set up on the lawns in front of Parliament, with each chair representing 1,000 people who are denied access to the halls of power, and whose voices are perpetually ignored in the decisions that affect their lives. 

Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, GetUp Economic Fairness Campaign Director Ed Miller and ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie will be speaking, as well as representatives from the National Union of Students, the National Council of Single Mothers & their Children, and people with lived experience of being on JobSeeker. 

GetUp Economic Fairness Campaign Director Ed Miller said:

“Cutting the JobSeeker rate will see hundreds of thousands of people condemned to poverty. That’s why unemployed people and their allies are gathering today to protest the Morrison Government’s outrageous cuts to the JobSeeker rate.

“Australia’s welfare system is underfunded and grossly inadequate to address the most basic needs of the people who rely on it. It’s designed to punish, to degrade, and to grind down. 

“These cuts will make life harder for 1.4 million of Australia’s most vulnerable and marginalised people. These are people who are perpetually locked out of Australia’s political system, and who have decisions made about their lives by politicians who don’t understand or care about their lives.

“That’s why we’re setting out 1,400 empty chairs and having a minutes’ silence on the Parliament lawns — to remind those politicians where their obligations lie, and who they answer to.”

Media contact: Alex McKinnon 0411 829 334

Spokespeople available for interview:
Ed Miller,
Economic Fairness Campaign Director at Getup
Kristin O’Connell, Communications Coordinator at Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union