Chapter 2 provides the big picture backdrop for the rest of the book by placing Australia’s welfare system in international and historical context. It gives an overview of the resurgence and rise of more meagre and punitive welfare in Australia and the targeting of sanctions and supports at the most vulnerable welfare users with ‘complex needs’. While moral distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor have returned to prominence over the last three decades, they are deeply rooted in the foundations of the Australian welfare state. The chapter briefly outlines the history of exclusions and ‘conditional inclusion’ embedded in welfare provision, and how the settler-colonial welfare state dealt with Indigenous and non-white immigrant difference. The chapter concludes by situating Australian developments in relation to similar shifts in the UK, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Canada.
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