Elisabeth was a magnificent journalist and a fearless warrior for social justice who died recently after a short illness. In a long career she worked as a journalist for The Australian, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Bulletin, The Women's Weekly, The National Times and the Sun Herald.
She also published four books Manly Girls, Dirt Cheap, The Short Goodbye and On Resilience (about the strength of family).
I had long been a fan of her work but only came to know her in the last 5-6 years. She lived and worked in Sydney on the other side of the country so we never met and conversed over the phone and via email.
Elisabeth and I shared information on various professional and political issues, including the role of corporations in the delivery of human and community services and the madness of the outsourcing of human and community services to large faith based providers and private business. She was one of the few journalists who understood the serious threats these corporate and business providers presented and she was willing to name names.
We shared horror stories and outrage about the appalling greed and incompetence of corporations like Max Employment, Serco and G4S and the faith based not- for- profits like Mission Australia and the Salvation Army who also profited handsomely.
I assisted her with some research she was doing on stories and provided a perspective on issues here in WA.
In that vein she wrote a magnificent piece Unemployed and Wrapped in Red Tape about the privatized and increasingly corporate run Jobs Australia Services (the former Job Network), an issue she also wrote about in the Short Goodbye. She had tried to publish the story in a number of mainstream publications but had been unsuccessful.
It was a truly magnificent and profound article. Thoroughly researched, beautifully written, heartfelt and railing against the injustice of a flawed system. She documents the human , social and economic costs of a privatised, marketized system.
She does so by weaving together academic research, policy analysis, personal anecdote, lived experience and the profound stories of those people who the system has failed.
In one paragraph she captures the reality of an outsourced, marketised and privatized service delivery system:
" The agencies are in competition, but one effect of a system subject to commercial pressures but strangled in red tape is that there may be little to choose between them. I proceed from Max Employment to Mission Employment and from Mission Employment to Job Find, where the placards and posters say "Anything is possible" rather than "All I want for Christmas is a job". But going from one agency to another and one suburb to another only serves to strengthen the impression that these offices, with all their furniture and the sometimes out-of-date job lists tacked to their walls, are like props in a Potemic Village version of the performance-based contracting model set out in paperwork"
Eulogies from her funeral are here and here
The enormous breadth and power of her journalistic work can be found on this website