Australia’s economy – and unemployment rate – might be the envy of countries around the world, but it doesn’t mean poverty and unemployment have been eradicated.
Welfare agencies say that many individuals and families are just one or two pay cheques away from financial disaster and homelessness. Worse still, with the mining boom coming off the boil, experts predict more people will find themselves out of work.
Next on Four Corners, reporter Geoff Thompson finds out what it’s like to lose your job, your home and find yourself dependent on welfare. What he discovers is sobering. Ironically, while economic growth is generally good news, it’s also pushed up the cost of living, making life for the unemployed even tougher. A Senate Inquiry report released this month concluded the current unemployment benefit is set too low. For many of the people Four Corners spoke to, accommodation absorbs most of their money, even with additional payments for rent assistance. Running a car and eating nutritious meals becomes close to an impossible dream. The result? Their world contracts and they can find themselves cut off from society.
Spending time with private charitable organisations, Four Corners profiles five people across Australia who are struggling to survive. One of them is John. A few months ago he lost his job. He became ill and was forced into hospital. Now he searches for work and barely survives on the Newstart allowance. John lives on one meal a day of two minute noodles, and his only chance for a good meal is to line up at a food kitchen.
Like so many people, John doesn’t want sympathy, he simply wants support that allows him to survive while he looks for work – and he’s not an isolated case. Those on the frontline of welfare delivery warn that, based on the figures they are seeing, the problems associated with unemployment will increase in the near future.
Pastor Marty Beckett, who runs an emergency food and accommodation charity, told Four Corners the problem of poverty associated with unemployment isn’t getting better:
“No, it’s growing. It is growing, unfortunately. I always say to people it’d be great to put ourselves out of a job. I don’t see it happening soon though unfortunately. It, it’s getting worse.”