House debates

Tuesday, 28 March 2006


Poverty; Miss Chloe Hennessy

9:10 pm

Photo of Jill HallJill Hall (Shortland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The number of people living in poverty in Australia has grown enormously under the Howard government. To put this in perspective, I visited the ACOSS website and looked at what the test for poverty is. That website defined poverty as ‘people in a society that cannot participate in the activities that most people take for granted’. This website shows that 58 per cent of Indigenous people, 28 per cent of jobless people, 28 per cent of people renting, 22 per cent of single parents and seven per cent of older people in this country live in poverty. It also showed that four out of five families earning the lowest 20 per cent of income had social security income as their main support. The website says:

Poverty is not just caused by individual experiences but by major inequalities that are built into our Australian society.

ACOSS looks at and identifies five main causes of poverty: access to work and income, education, housing, health and services. It makes the statement that ‘poverty is a relative concept’. It estimates that about two million people are living in poverty in Australia today.

The issue I would like to raise within the House is the connection between poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Accompanying poverty, you will find there is inequality of opportunity, inequality of education and inequality of access to employment. This goes together to cause social exclusion. Under the Howard government, this has mushroomed. More and more people are finding it harder and harder to survive, and poverty and welfare dependency has been growing at a strong rate. It has been growing even though we have a strong economy.

Under the Howard government, we have had legislation brought in that will further disadvantage people who are already struggling. We have had the Welfare to Work legislation, legislation with the basic premise that if you are a single parent—particularly a single mother—it is your fault and you should be made to pay for it. As such, you are going to have a reduced income. If you have an injury or an illness, then once again it is your fault, particularly if it is a back injury—it is fabricated, and you are using that to avoid work.

Along with this attitude to disadvantage, inequality and social exclusion, we have the stereotyping that goes along with it. This stereotyping follows the lines of: ‘If you’re not working, if you’re poor, then it’s your fault.’ I was very fortunate to come across a wonderful young woman who lives in the Shortland electorate. Her name is Chloe Hennessy. She attends St Mary’s Catholic School and she is 13 years of age. She comes from Windale, which is one of the poorest communities in Australia. She lives in department of housing accommodation. The purpose of my speech tonight is to share with the House the way she feels. She says:

An example of labels and prejudice against things, is me. Many people daily say at school I will go no where, and there is no point in me even going to school. People label me and call me a “windalien”. When in fact it is the total opposite. It may hurt sometimes when people say this, but I thank them. Because when they say their label “windalien” teaches me to be stronger and raise my voice, and don’t hold back. What they say can only make me stronger; because I know whether you live in Windale or Floraville you can do anything when you put your mind to it. It’s not the suburb where you live that does your schoolwork and makes you stronger. In my mind that’s a real quality for me to know at the age of thirteen. So I thank you to all those who think their better than me because your making me stronger and wiser. When I’m recruiting employees in my future working career, I will give people like me the respect they deserve, and employ them based on their abilities not where they live.

This stereotyping has been allowed to blossom under the Howard government. (Time expired)