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Down Under the Poverty Line

Australia is known for gorgeous beaches, the Great Barrier Reef and incredibly attractive accents. Many people would be shocked to hear that according to the Australian Council of Social Service and the Social Policy Research Centre (ACOSS), almost 13 percent of the population is struggling with poverty.

Low income families can get assistance from programs like NewStart, an ‘allowance’ payment similar to the welfare system in the United States.

However, ACOSS has determined that the payment of thirty five dollars per week has fallen well below the cost of living. That allowance numeral has not been updated since its implementation in 1994. Per week, the allowance is about two hundred and fifty dollars and the poverty line income is three hundred and sixty as of today.

Families with children meet the poverty line at seven hundred and fifty dollars, which the allowance payment is obviously not qualifying. Critics are fighting for new policies and programs that address the real number needed to live above the poverty line, and a way to fix the outdated New Start allowance amount.

One idea is to increase the allowance immediately by fifty dollars per week and help families find sustainable incomes so that eventually they can support themselves.

One issue that is being brought to the fore-front of the fight against poverty in Australia specifically is climate change. The poor population of Australia spends a large chunk of their income on basic needs like water sanitation and energy. Both of these basic services are going to become more expensive as the world’s climate continues to change, and coming up with policies to deal with this change and prevent poverty from spreading is of the utmost importance.

It will cost the nation more if they do not act now than if they spend the necessary funds to create solutions to the problems that climate change will inevitably bring. Heating, insulation and more weather related activities are more costly to low income families than to wealthier ones.

Officials in Australia and United Nations are committed to making climate change a priority in order to help citizens of the outback better their quality of lives and their futures. Reintroducing the unemployed and underpaid into jobs with increased wages and lasting security of future employment will help pull families out from under debilitating circumstances.

Assistance programs and awareness of what needs to be done in Australia will help not only their own citizens but also the rest of the world as new wealth and innovation comes from the newly assisted people down under.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: The Australian, ACOSS, ACOSS
Photo: An Infinite Summer