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In search of an anthem that advocates change

July 08th, 2021

It started with a couple of old friends coming together over coffee. Discussions took place about a range of things, including the JobSeeker payment – and similar income support payments – that forced many Australians to live below the poverty line.

What could be done about it? There was already a Raise The Rate For Good campaign, co-ordinated by the Australian Council for Social Service. Could there be another way, a complementary approach to raise awareness of the issue?

Stacey Thomas and her friend Paul Madden thought so. Stacey, CEO of the Wyatt Trust and PA board member, and Paul – the former Trust CEO – hatched a plan over coffee to establish a new song competition to create a JobSeeker Anthem that would give a new kind of voice to the unemployed and underemployed.

As Stacey tells it, she and Paul have no musical bona fides but they each have extensive networks they can tap into. More calls were made, more conversations took place, which eventually led to Listen Up Music, a mental health charity that runs music-focused events and education, getting involved to organise the competition.

Now, with crowdfunding contributing funds, there is a $10,000 cash prize and a day in a recording studio to the artist who writes and records the winning anthem.

The initiative – which Stacey calls an “out of the box idea’’ – not only aims to highlight the inequity for many Australians having to survive on $44 a day but offers something new for musicians who have struggled for work during the pandemic.

“We’re also really happy to help those artists who have been doing it tough,’’ Stacey says. “And the crowdfunding component is important: no one person owns it.’’

There is evidence already that there is an appetite for the competition and a willingness to engage with the economic challenge confronting those on JobSeeker – there were five entries in the first day after the competition was launched.

As the website states: “Australia needs an anthem to give voice to the rising rallying cry for fairness, respect and an increase to the JobSeeker Payment.’’

Stacey explains: “There was widespread support for a raise in income support rates but the resulting $4 per day earlier this year did little to change things for people living in poverty. “We need to continue to give voice to those on JobSeeker and having an anthem that speaks to the dilemma they face is a new day of doing this.’’

Ali Taylor, Co-Founder and CEO of Listen Up Music, underlined music’s role in providing comfort for those who were struggling with the consequences of trying to live on the JobSeeker payment. “We know that people experiencing different forms of adversity find not only solace, but voice and community through song,’’ Ali says. “This competition expands our reach from those passionate about positive mental health to a larger group whose financial hardship has far-reaching health and well-being impacts.’’

The JobSeeker Anthem Song contest is now open and closes at 11:59pm on Sunday, September 5. Entries can be lodged online here.

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