(eng) Nearly two million Australians live in poverty-report

Curtis Price (cansv@igc.apc.org)
Sat, 25 May 1996 12:47:32 +0200


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Date: Fri, 17 May 96 12:33:20 -0700
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Subject: Nearly two million Australians live in poverty-report

Nearly two million Australians live in poverty-report
a0093LBY982reulb
r i BC-AUSTRALIA-POVERTY 05-15 0479
^BC-AUSTRALIA-POVERTY@
^Nearly two million Australians live in poverty-report@
SYDNEY, May 15 (Reuter) - Nearly two million Australians,
about 11 percent of the population, live in poverty, according
to a report by one of the country's major charities, which
warned an alienated underclass would threaten law and order.
``No one can feel safe in their affluence while there are
people in poverty,'' said the report ``The Faces of Poverty''
released by the Wesley Mission on Wednesday.
``An underclass consisting of alienated, marginalised people
is a threat to law and order....It is vital that there be a
decrease in the inequity within Australian society,'' it said.
Wesley Mission, part of the Uniting Church in Australia,
said 1.8 million Australians, which includes 500,000 children,
live below the poverty line for a family set at A$419.32
(US$335) a week. A further 600,000 people are just above the
poverty line.
The average wage in Australia's 18 million population is
currently $705.90 a week.
The mission said poverty in Australia was growing and had a
new face, which ``permeates body, mind and spirit,'' and can no
longer be defined solely in financial terms.
``In 1996, poverty is not confined to a lack of
finances...the story of poverty is one of personal suffering,
humiliation, alienation and despair for many thousands of
people,'' the report said.
``It's also about being poor, about not getting a job, about
being unable to afford suitable shelter. It's about getting old
and being unable to stay in your own home, about being unable to
cope with a mental illness or enjoy a happy family life.
``Poverty is the new handicap, setting people apart.''
The Wesley Mission said welfare agencies faced increased
demands from this ``new poor,'' citing the fact that up to one
third of Sydney's 40,000 homeless were women, yet there were
only 83 crisis beds available for single females each night in
the city.
The mission said there were only 640 crisis beds in Sydney,
according to The Homeless Persons' Information Centre, which
reported the number of homeless men in the city had risen 90
percent in the past year, while the number of women seeking
crisis accommodation had jumped 146 percent.
The mission said the gap between rich and poor was also
widening, with the richest 10 percent of Australians controlling
19 times the wealth of the poorest 10 percent of the population.
President of the Australian Council of Social Services
Robert Fitzgerald said the government must act now to prevent a
permanent underclass.
``It is critically important that the government states as
one of its top priorities the reduction in the level of
poverty,'' Fitzgerald said in releasing the report.
The mission said unemployment -- currently at 8.9 percent
nationally, but 27.2 percent for youths aged between 15 and 19
-- was a major cause of the increase in poverty.
(A$1-US$0.80)
Reut01:18 05-15-96

Reuter N:Copyright 1996, Reuters News Service

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