This statement is issued on behalf of the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, the online publication Inside Story, and Croakey.

A freelance writer from NSW, El Gibbs (pictured right), has won the second Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition with an essay titled, “A place to call home: housing security and mental health”. It has been published at Inside Story.

Gibbs specialises in covering disability and social policy. She has written for the SMH, Guardian, ABC RampUp, Crikey, and the King’s Tribune, has a blog,  and is @bluntshovels on Twitter.

Professor Glenn Salkeld, head of the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, said the winning essay captured the problems of insecure housing in “a powerful story”.

“Housing has become a way to make money rather than meeting a basic human need,” he said. “This essay is one example of what happens when we forget.”

Gibbs said:

“The cost and security of a home underpins so much of our well-being, particularly for people with a mental illness. The current housing policy levers, that reward those with the most, and punish those with the least, have to start shifting or Australia’s so-called egalitarian nature will be gone for good.

Why is a home only for the rich? Where are everyone else supposed to live? From the sale of public housing near the harbour, to tax concessions for homeowners and landlords, people on modest incomes are increasingly being pushed further away from the services we all contribute too.

This can change; the story I tell in the essay is an outcome of political decisions that cause real harm. Housing is not the same as other assets and deserves policy that reflects everyone’s essential need for shelter, neighbours and security.”

There were 23 entries, and the judges also paid tribute to the finalists (in alphabetical order):

  • Malcolm Forbes
  • Olivia Hibbitt
  • Margaret Leggatt and Sandy Jeffs
  • Stephen Wright.

The $5,000 competition honours the work and memory of the late Professor Gavin Mooney, a health economist who was a tireless advocate for social justice.

It is a joint project of the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, Croakey, and Inside Story, an online current affairs publication from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research.

Each year the competition calls for entries related to a theme around equity and social justice. The inaugural competition focused on the theme of climate change and equity, in acknowledgement of the work of Professor Mooney’s late partner Dr Delys Weston.

There were 23 entries in the 2014 competition, addressing the topic: The social and cultural determinants of mental health: collective responsibilities; individualism; austerity; entitlements. The organisers thank all entrants for their contributions.

The competition was judged by Gomeroi writer and blogger Kelly Briggs (also known on Twitter as @TheKooriWoman); Peter Browne, Editor of Inside Story; Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) at the University of Sydney; Professor Glenn Salkeld, Head of the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney; and Melissa Sweet, moderator of Croakey blog.

Entries were de-identified for the judging process, and assessed according to four criteria:

  • The work is disruptive i.e. challenging or prompting change in status quo.
  • The work incorporates novel ideas or approaches or thinking or style.
  • The work is telling stories that matter.
  • The quality of the writing.

The topic for the next Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition will be announced in early June.


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