17 July, 2016
Fifteen per cent of all Tasmanians live in poverty.
Once we develop a trusting relationship we are quite often able to see the underlying issues.
About 27 per cent of children grow up in low income households in Launceston, and one fifth live in a jobless household.
There is no doubt that living below the poverty line is tough, but across Australia, and the world, people are doing it everyday.
Anglicare Tasmania Social Action and Research Centre manager Meg Webb described living in poverty to mean no matter how hard you work or manage what you have, you are always going without.
The most common measure of poverty is 50 per cent of the median income.
In Tasmania, this equals about $358 per week for a single person and $752 per week for a couple with two children.
According to the Australian Council of Social Service’s latest Poverty in Australia report, the overall risk of poverty was higher in Tasmania than in many other states and the risk was greater for people living outside capital cities.
The things many of us take for granted, such as heating at home, warm clothes and bedding, healthy and regular meals and medical treatment are simply not an option for many people in our community.
Things have got so hard that everyday, Launceston City Mission sees about two new clients.
Ms Webb said income support payments made available were not enough to provide a basic standard of living.
“You don’t get a break from poverty. You don’t get weekends off or a holiday from dealing with the daily reality of living with not enough to get by,” she said.
“When you are caught in the trap of poverty, you can feel completely powerless to change your life and improve your circumstances.
“For parents it can be particularly distressing to not have enough to get by. They are likely to feel terrible that their children have to go without.”
Ms Webb said the number one thing we can do to help people living below the line was to increase income support payments.
“As individuals we can do more by giving tangible support and becoming involved – by volunteering with a community organisation that provides support to people, or through donating money or items,” she said.
St Vincent de Paul Society Northern regional president Hetty Binns said poverty was not just about a lack of financial resources.
“A person may present to us with a particular financial need, but once we develop a trusting relationship we are quite often able to see the underlying issues contributing to their current situation,” Ms Binns said.
“These can include mental and physical health issues, limited coping strategies and life skills, as well as a lack of support networks such as family and friends.
“Helping with immediate needs is the first step and referring to services that specialise in particular needs is a way to help people improve their overall wellbeing.”
Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Kym Goodes said a lack of employment opportunities for many in the community had led to people experiencing long periods of unemployment or insecure employment.
“The reasons and experiences of living on a low income are personal and listening to people who are living in poverty demonstrate their stories are individual, they are not all the same,” Ms Goodes said.
“Some come from disadvantaged backgrounds, some have long term illness or disability, others were once well off but a family crisis, unexpected loss of employment or illness changed their life.”
The Examiner is in the middle of its annual Winter Relief Appeal to raise funds to assist people in crisis.
Donations can be made at the newspaper’s offices and at businesses displaying a Winter Relief Appeal tin.
Money raised will be split between the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Launceston Benevolent Society, the Salvation Army and the Launceston City Mission.