Social justice is a concept that has existed for many centuries and whose application has found meaning in many early and modern societies. Social justice is mainly concerned with concepts that promote equality and justice in the society through fairness in economic, political and property policies. Social justice depicts the need for everyone to have equal access to opportunities for their betterment. This entails of legislations that promote equality and justice in the society and must be applied to all persons regardless of their race, religion and economic status (Ryan, 1988, pp. 51-72). In Australia, the concepts of social justice have gained popularity buoyed by the immense efforts from religious and community based organizations. The organizations have played a major role in influencing policy changes towards a just society in Australia. This essay will look into the impact of social justice concepts in maintaining democracy in the Australian society.
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Social justice is a difficult word or concept to define. Usually it depends on perspective of the individual for instance political perspective, religious perspective and social perspectives. However the bottom line is fairness for all. In a political perspective on social justice is creating an environment where the poor, middle class and the rich have a level playing field through legislations that are made (Ellis-Christensen, 2010, para. 4).From a religious perspective social justice is achieved through acts like Christ such as exercising mercy compassion and giving. These acts should be shown to those looked down upon by the society for instance the sick, foreigners and other marginalized people. This is justice in an economists view is provision of social services to all individuals equally including rights to own property by all citizens of a country.
The steps that have been taken to achieve social justice
Australia has come a long way in its quest to achieve social justice. According to Aristotle, justice is mainly manifested in several ways such as the distribution of material possession and financial resources whether in a voluntary or involuntary manner (Ryan, 1988, pp. 35). The voluntary include all activities that encompass purchases, sale or acquisitions that involve the exchange of a thing for another. Aristotle asserted that the involuntary activities involve the violent and sometimes clandestine natured transactions. Most of these activities lower the integrity of humanity while predisposing them to inequality and injustices. In the Australian democracy, the Christian organizations are in the fore front in the fight for justice in the manner the government and other stakeholders carry out their businesses. The government has put in place regulations that protect the indigenous people particularly the aboriginal from exploitation by the civilized urban populations. Laws and regulations governing the acquisition of property are clear in expounding on the process and the rights of each party (Australia human rights commission, 2010, para. 3). This is in tandem with Aristotle assertion that property becomes personal only through long term occupation or allocation that respects and is guided by the law of the land (Ryan, 1988, p. 40).
Mills asserted that it is unjust to deprive or deny a person their liberty or possession thus bringing into light what is considered just and unjust in the society. The Australian democracy is among the developing countries that believe in the protection and upholding of the law especially in the economic circles. This is also supported by the fact that the Australian economy is capitalistic in nature and therefore is governed by the market dynamics of demand and supply (p.55).
According to Rawls in his theory of social justice, he envisaged that all societies have their own forms of foundation and history that dictates their political and socioeconomic policies. He asserted that the leadership is given the power to rule by the citizens. The agreement between the two parties is based on the proposition that the leaders deliver basic rights to the citizens and the latter is bound to abide by the decisions of the leaders. In Australia the parliamentary government is elected on platforms of social reforms and justice where all party contenders sell their manifestos to the citizens. The citizens then elect the best candidate who can deliver their aspirations.
Rawls was also instrumental in devising the freedoms which are widely applied in modern society. He espoused that the people have the freedom of conscience and thought particularly when it pertain matters of religion and morality. The social relationships are also impacted when there lacks the freedom of conscience in a country. Rawls also noted the importance of freedom to associate and to uphold the integrity of the masses. This mainly involves protecting the citizens from subjectivity in form of slavery and forced labour. Australia, like any other democracy, has embraced the tenets championed by Rawls. The government have entrenched the bills of rights that safeguards the rights of the citizens while ensuring access to basic amenities.
Australians had a problem of racist violence. This led to formation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commission in 1992.It was also formed to respond to social and economic needs of indigenous Australians. They were extremely disadvantaged socio-economically. There was need to make their lives better by providing the choice and means of improving their life (Australian Human Rights Commission 2010, para. 5.).
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According to Australian Human Rights Commission about one half of Australians were born outside the country or has a parent born outside the country. This makes a large group of Australians vulnerable to social injustice. This is usually the case because the natives of a country view immigrants as outsiders who should not have the same rights as they have or people who do not know their rights. According to Bond (n.d.) Aboriginal children would be forcefully taken from their parents and raised by non-indigenous families or institutions in order to assimilate them to the dominant culture (para. 2).The prime minister apologized for past injustices against the indigenous people in 2008.Fitzpatrick and Pulver (2008), say that this was a step in accepting indigenous people as valuable Australian citizens (para. 8).
There are certain steps that the society can take to try and achieve social justice. For instance through the use of media, it can highlight the plight of marginalised. Barker 2008 recognizes the role of the media as mobilization political support because this will either promote or discourage social movement (para. 2).
According to Graham (2009),in his article suggest some of the steps that can be taken to improve social justice.First, there is a need for the Australian people to educate themselves. They need to know how the situation is at the moment and acknowledge it. Aboriginals have been neglected over the decades by the government. Secondly, for solutions to work the solution must come from the aboriginals who are the affected people. Graham however notes that the solutions may unusual hence not politically palatable but the aboriginals must drive the solutions. He gives an example in New Zealand where Aboriginal people have their own seats in parliament. Thirdly, he challenges the nation to accept that it has a problem with racism. He adds that the mention does not understand the Aboriginal people and does not put itself in the Aborigine’s shoes.
Graham also notes politics for killing Aboriginal people. For instance the Indigenous affairs minister claimed that a report by Productivity Commission was a bad reflection on the government. This is because the report highlighted that Aboriginal plights were being ignored and there was government infighting on addressing the black disadvantage. Lastly, Graham says stresses the importance of the media who are there to “keep the bastards honest.” The media should remind the people about the injustices and not forget issues as fast as a goldfish.
Other organizations fighting for social justice include Uniting Church it has agencies that communicates the need for peace, justice and reconciliation in Australia. Uniting justice Australia advocates corporate social responsibility, it urges the banks to give to the community (Uniting church in Australia, 2010, para 1-2).
Ahmed 2010, says that Australia has copied the Bangladesh’s model to try address social justice which has been a success there. Bangladesh uplifted the living conditions of its indigenous people. An example is using bilingual education to teach the people so that the people do not lose their culture and heritage (para. 3).
Is the idea for social justice realistic?
The Australian government has been criticized for lack of plan to close the economic gap with aboriginals. A report find that the aboriginal need to be allowed to decide what they like and more comprehensive plans are needed (Oxfam Australia para. 11.)
Ellis-Christensen (2010), wonders if there can ever be a just society. He observes that philosophers have argued that there can never be a completely just society where people have equal rights and privileges. He argues that even in socialist nations there is no equal distribution of wealth (para. 6). Others claim that this is an unrealistic standard that cannot be achieved in any society in other word it is a fairytale.
Though social justice will never be achieved, society a duty has to try to promote justice using different avenues such as the rights groups, the media and individually. Though the world is filled with many challenges it is through justice that these problems can be overcome.
Ahmed, R..2010. Australia mulls replicating Bangladesh’s dev models.The News Today. Web.
Aristotle. n.d. Nicomachean Ethics. In. Ryan,A.ed.1988. Justice. London: Oxford University Press. pp.34-40.
Australian Human Rights Commission. 2010. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice. (n.d.) Web.
Australian Human Rights Commission. 2010. Race Discrimination. (n.d.) Web.
Barker.M. 2008. Mass media and Social Movements. Web.
Bond.J. From Saying Sorry to a Journey of Healing n.d. [internet]. 2010. Web.
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Ellis-Christensen ,T. 2010. What is social justice? (2010). Web.
Fitzpatrick.S, Pulver.R. 2008.Beyond Sorry — the first steps in laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. (n.d.) Web.
Graham.C, 2009. Five steps to a better black life in Australia. Telegraph Online. Web.
Mill.J.S, (n.d.). On the Connection between Justice and utility In. Ryan, A. ed. 1988. Justice. London: Oxford University Press. pp.51-72.
Oxfam Australia, 2010. PM’s report welcome but Government yet to develop plan to Close the Gap: new report [internet]. Web.
Rawls.J. (n.d.) Distributive Justice. In. Ryan,A.ed.1988. Justice. London: Oxford University Press. pp.73-94.
Uniting church in Australia, 2010. Social justice. Web.