Welfare, poverty, the doll and unemployment are all seen as disgusting words that often cause many people to be looked down upon and shunned within our society. When thinking about poverty, Australia is definitely not the first country that comes to mind, yet 13.3% of all Australians are living in poverty. In Australia, those getting by on under $400 a week are considered to be living in poverty. As stated by the Australian Council of Social Service and the Social Research Centre, for the majority of these people, welfare payments are their only source of income.
Poverty in Australia often goes unrecognised and those disadvantaged people can be hard to distinguish, however, there is an obvious gap between those struggling and those with more money than they could possibly spend. I’m lucky enough, to come from a family where money has never been a problem and budgeting wasn’t something we would have to do regularly (despite still being money conscious and grateful for the things we have). On the other hand, I have friends who have been moved out of home since quite early in life, due to their families money struggles and I see just how hard it is for them to pay rent, buy weekly groceries, fuel up their cars, and save for future bills. I know there are many people far worse off than my friends, however, being a low-income earner or living off government assistance is not an easy task.
The short clip below shows Jacqui Lambie’s Senate speech, in which she explains what it is actually like to live off government payments and the struggles of those who rely on them. This was in response to the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill, aiming to stop specific benefits to low-income families.
I’m sure the Australia’s who live off less than $400 a week, can sympathise with many of the points Jacqui Lambie puts forward. I find that often it’s those high-income earners who judge the poorer individuals of society more harshly. as they have absolutely no idea what it’s like to live off welfare payments. As stated previously I am extremely lucky, however, I have never once taken my parents generosity or our monetary situation for granted. I do understand how those affected by poverty can feel belittled, especially when Treasurer Joe Hockey, makes it seems as though purchasing a home is a piece of cake, even stating “Get a good job, that pays good money”. It’s much easier said than done, and buying a house is far from at the top of my ‘To do list’ at the moment, I can’t even imagine how insensitive that comment would seem to someone struggling.
Adding insult to injury, I came across an article, early this week, in which the CEO of Coles John Durkan gave directors the ultimate challenge: to buy a week’s worth of groceries for $150. You’d think they’d be able to easily smash out the task, after all, they’re the big guys in the office making top money from the ‘Down and staying down’ motto! Walking in the shoes of your everyday shopper turned out to be harder than expected for many of the participants, one saying “I actually had to put some groceries back”. Another even said, “It is actually quite embarrassing, and yet this is the reality for so many of our customers.” After completing the challenge groceries were scored by actual Coles customers and some of the choices were rather questionable, including sparkling mineral water, $10 shampoo and a pack of Jarlsberg cheese with only 6 slices. Despite sticking to the weekly budget, I highly doubt the groceries purchased would have lasted the entire week. I think this is yet, again, another example showcasing the that high-income earners are very distanced from the struggles faced by those who have to constantly budget and use their money carefully.
I feel as though a lack of compassion is what has contributed to such a stigma around those on welfare payments. Without these payments, some people and their families would not be able to make ends meet. If this week’s topic has taught me anything, it’s to be a little bit more sensitive towards other people’s situations.