Poverty belongs in a museum

“Poverty does not belong in civilized human society. Its proper place is in a museum.”

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the Grameen Bank

What a captivating vision. A vision that poverty and its impacts are nothing but a relic; a memory.

Unfortunately, there continues to be widespread poverty throughout the world, including within this “lucky country” of ours.

The word “poverty” can conjure up different images for different people but let me share with you the impact of poverty Samaritans sees in regional communities every day.

Poverty looks like a trans teen feeling forced to leave home and ending up in a crisis refuge over Christmas, unable to afford somewhere to live on youth allowance.

Poverty looks like a family of eight living in a motel for nearly a year because landlords keep knocking back their large family.

Poverty looks like a person getting evicted while looking for work because they missed a month of rent to fix their car, then they couldn’t catch up.

These are real experiences of people Samaritans has supported in your community. There is a common thread in each of these stories: when a person is not earning adequate income, when families are in financial stress and our entire country lacks affordable housing options, poverty is the result.

Poverty traps people in a cycle that’s near impossible to escape.

I know that as a community we believe this is unacceptable. No-one should be struggling week-to-week simply to keep a roof over their head and food on the table.

The good news is that the solution is within reach. But that requires us to increase housing options and increase the income for the lowest earners in our country.

To achieve this, State and Federal Governments must work together to increase the availability of affordable and social housing, and the Morrison Government must raise the rate of payments for jobseekers (Newstart) and young people studying (Youth Allowance).

Both of these actions are the subject of major campaigns being led by the community sector.

Everybody’s Home is a call on governments to fix the broken housing system.

Raise The Rate is a call on the Federal Government to raise the rates of Newstart and Youth Allowance, so that people searching for work and young people studying have a chance to break out of the poverty trap.      

The Hunter community has long-supported one another when times get tough. We believe in the true meaning of a fair go and that looks like supporting people in need.

Throughout this week, Newcastle will host numerous events to shine a light on poverty and inequality to mark Anti-Poverty Week.

Keep an eye on the Newcastle Poverty Action Alliance; a local group coordinating and supporting many events during Anti-Poverty Week.

And if you haven’t already, I encourage you to look up the Everybody’s Home and Raise The Rate campaigns, and sign the pledge to support them.

Poverty exists, but we can do something about it.