2.26 Million Australians

News released today states that 2.26 million Australians are living in poverty, earning less than $18,000 a year. This equates to $50 a day for singles, and only $80 a day for a sole parent with two dependant children. 575,000 children are living in poverty, in Australia.

Lets put it into layman’s terms, shall we?

I bought petrol the other day for $1.41 a litre. I bought $20 worth of petrol. I purchased two items online last week coming to just over $90. Eating out can cost from anywhere between $1 (for fast food) to $40+ for a standard size meal at an upmarket restaurant. On Wednesday, lunch at uni cost me around $8. I went $60 over my phone bill this month, when my plan already costs around the same amount on a standard rate. I don’t do grocery shopping, but a parent walking out of Coles or Woolworths having spent under $100 would be unusual, even for a small family. We have a cat and a dog. They need food. Dogs need grooming. Petrol runs out as you go about your simple day-to-day tasks, driving from one place to another. I put $10 on my myki card this week and I’m already down to a negative balance. I write this post on my Macbook Pro, next to my iPhone, and in a room full of possessions that are mine through money being spent, whether mine or someone else’s.

In a country “now measured as the wealthiest country in the world when it comes to median wealth”, The Australian Council of Social Service is demanding the federal government index the dole payments to inflation, and rightly so.

The economy is seen by many in a neo-liberal society as an actor of its own accord, one that cannot be tamed, dominating the political and social sphere at an unprecedented rate. But while money does not grow on trees, it is something that can be managed and considered carefully, which becomes critical in a situation such as the one we have on our hands here, today.

We learn about poverty in school. We hear the cliche of starving children in Africa, both terrible and true in itself. But we are rarely taught about the poverty that exists and lives in our own backyards. For a social democratic society, it is my judgment that we are doing pretty poorly to act as one, taking care of one another, acting in the best interests of the nation as a whole and not just those of the economic elites. Millionaires and billionaires are hoarding their money adjacent to crippled sole carers struggling to make ends meet even with (minimal) financial assistance from the government. It only seems fair that those with excess funds contribute to our society through paying higher taxes.

Property sales are on the increase again, across Victoria, which is a good sign. But for those living below the poverty line – defined as 50% of the median average national household income – they are battling to pay rent on a plot with sub-standard appliances, inadequate security and unhealthy living environments with leaky roofs, mould on walls and failing electricity supplies. And when they do meet their rent payments, they are left short of money to pay for essentials such as healthcare, food and memberships to social or physical activity groups that help keep us healthy and engaged with our society.

Fast food restaurants with low prices are clustered in low socio-economic areas, leading to poor nutritional intake amongst these populations. Subsequently, they are at greater risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and various other related ‘lifestyle’ diseases. Children are less likely to be educated about healthy living and are less likely to complete school. Education is a key factor in the wellbeing of an individual and across the globe women and girls are fighting for their right to learn and live as equals with their fathers, husbands and brothers.

In Australia, while we do not have gender inequality in this specific area, it is evident in many others. And inequality exists between religious, ideological and cultural groups. Poverty is a result of these inequalities, and should not burden the lives of so many Australians each and every day.

More work needs to be done to lift Australians out of the deep end and into a life that is basically, more liveable and most importantly, sustainable. Action needs to be taken at a federal level, but we can act as individuals, too. Be considerate of others, think about your neighbours and help someone out in times of need. And poverty could be closer to home than you think. So keep and eye our and an ear alert. Giving may bring you benefits, too. It’s about creating a level playing field for all Australians to have opportunities and successes that currently, are only available to some. Give with your hands, your head and your heart. And if you’ve got some cash to spare, maybe give a bit of that, too. It could take someone else a long way.

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2 comments
  1. The Thing King said:

    What a thoughtful, incisive, and compassionate piece of analysis, as well as being a ‘call to action’.

    It shouldn’t be so hard to help lift more people out of the poverty trap and into a higher and better standard of living. However, in a culture that places so much emphasis and value on individual gain, and even individual greed, there are many challenges still to face and overcome.

    I agree with you, that higher taxes on the wealthy and super-wealthy is one key strategy. Not only would this help create a more equitable redistribution of wealth, it might even help curb the voracious appetites some people (and corporations) have for accumulating so much for themselves. The more they’re taxed, the less they might then want to amass.

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