Living in poverty & being unemployed in Australia – what does that really look like?

I first published this piece in July 2013 – Still we are stigmatising the unemployed and underemployed. Still governments use a punitive approach to ‘monitoring’ and measuring job search efforts. We must raise the rate. No question.

Many different approaches to eradicating poverty have been attempted in our country, however approaches which focus only on economic growth have proved to be unsustainable.

Our Government must create an environment whereby unemployed Australians and those living below the poverty line are able to re-claim their dignity and their basic human rights.

Human rights in Australia have largely been developed under Australian Parliamentary democracy but it would seem that our Parliament doesn’t really understand what it is like to be unemployed or in a cycle of poverty.    There is increasing international evidence that when governments adopt anti-poverty plans, they can make meaningful steps to reduce overall levels of poverty.

You may have heard the words before or even uttered them yourself, words such as ‘dole bludger’, ‘jobless’, ‘unemployed’, ‘idle’, useless and ‘redundant’.

These words evoke pain in the eyes of a parent trying feed their child or a carer who has not had a break from caring, not even for a minute, for months.  Those words are often interchanged and embellished with offensive language.  Those words cut to the core of most Centrelink Income Support recipients.  People who often don’t have the energy or self-esteem to respond.

I have a proud background in Public Service; in what some would regard as the most difficult of service delivery agencies our Government has in place to support our society, that being the Department of Human Services, Centrelink.

For many years I worked as a ‘customer service advisor’ in a regional ‘customer service centre’.  No two days were the same.  No two ‘customers’ were the same.

I unequivocally support the efforts of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). I support an increase in the basic rate of income support for all welfare recipients.  There is an increasing demand for services but this has not been met by additional assistance from any levels of government. 

You only have to speak with any NGO involved in assisting people to overcome barriers to living meaningful lives to know that their finite resources are stretched.  These organisations also advocate for strong communities, and for justice and fairness in our society, these organisations understand that bringing a family out of poverty has so many tangible benefits.

One such organisation is ACOSS.  They are the peak body for the community services and welfare sector and the national voice for the needs of people affected by poverty and inequality.

ACOSS’ vision is for a fair, inclusive and sustainable Australia where all individuals and communities can participate in and benefit from social and economic life.

We, as a society have a moral responsibility to support the disadvantaged and impoverished and lift them out of poverty and welfare dependency.  You can’t achieve that on $32 per day.

I would encourage you to learn more about the remarkable work ACOSS and locally the work of SACOSS..

Visit http://www.acoss.org.au/policy

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