The Senate Community Affairs committee held its third hearing into the nature and extent of poverty in Australia in Murray Bridge this week with a focus on how poverty was affecting regional communities.
The inquiry is investigating the rates and drivers of poverty in Australia, including the relationship between economic conditions and poverty; its impact on employment, housing, health and education; and, the ways it impacts different demographics and communities. It will also look at the relationship between income support payments and poverty, and any mechanisms to address and reduce poverty.
This week’s hearing focused on regional communities with the Senate committee hearing from local organisations, SA based advocacy groups as well as individuals with lived experience of poverty sharing their personal stories.
The Senators heard harrowing stories of long term poverty including someone who was told by a support service that they aren’t homeless because they are living in their car, and another who had no money was sent to a food relief centre where they had to pay for mouldy onions.
One witness told the committee “Poverty is a political choice, you choose to keep us homeless, you choose to keep us hungry, you choose to keep us malnourished, you choose to keep us in poverty.”
Greens spokesperson for social services and chair of the Community Affairs Committee, Senator Janet Rice said poverty is impacting many Australians and it is only getting worse.
“With skyrocketing rents, interest rate rises, and months of inflation, so many are struggling to get by. From not being able to afford nutritious food, an education, housing, the resources to get a job, this is having a significant impact on their physical health and mental well being.
“In rural and regional communities the poverty cycle continues, there are less services, less education opportunities, less jobs.
“One thing was heard loud and clear, the rate of income support is not enough to live on,” Senator Rice said.
Anyone can make a submission to the inquiry until February 3, 2023. Further public hearings are expected next year, with the Committee due to complete its report by October.