Regional areas like Ballarat were hardest hit by poverty, according to a new study.
The Australian Council of Social Services study found Victoria’s poverty rate was at an all-time high, with 726,000 people now living below the line.
The ACOSS study showed regional areas were suffering the most, with 15.3 per cent of Victorians living in regional areas in poverty, compared with 12 per cent of people in Melbourne.
Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive officer Emma King said the regional job market was a big part of the problem. “For many regional businesses it’s not old fashioned, ongoing jobs, but rather more short-term, casual jobs.
“The report showed there were a large number of workers, but they’re just not earning enough to pay the bills. It’s almost a perfect storm, with people living in poverty not getting enough payment while rent prices continue to rise.”
People are being driven towards private rentals with higher rent prices, largely due to the lack of cheaper public housing and long waiting lists for accommodation. Single parents were hit hard, with 33 per cent of them living in poverty.
Ms King called the lowering of welfare payments to single parents far below the poverty line as a terrible idea.
“Our politicians won’t touch negative gearing and the capital gains tax, but they save a couple of dollars from people already doing it tough,” she said.
“The focus can’t be on the developer’s priorities, we need affordable housing in well-located areas so people suffering poverty have access to support and education.”
Anglicare Ballarat manager Geoff Ryan said conditions for those facing poverty could be worse for people in Ballarat, because there was less access to support and public transport.
The report showed more than 500,000 Australian children now lived in poverty, a two percentage point rise over the last decade.
Ms King said she hoped the hard data profiling of a big societal problem would provoke action, as early intervention was critical for families in poverty turning their lives around.