Call-to-arms on poverty

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters.

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters.

MEMBER for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has called for a roundtable discussion as the first step in the fight against hidden poverty in the region.

The call-to-action comes in the lead-up to Anti-Poverty Week from October 12 to 18.

Ms Chesters said she encountered people every day in Bendigo who were were struggling to support a family and make ends meet.

The federal Labor MP urged community and business leaders, welfare agencies, housing and transport policy experts and others to join the discussion on poverty.

"The stat that I am always talking about is roughly 30 per cent of households in Bendigo survive on less than $600 a week,""Ms Chesters said.

"When you take into account the cost of basics such as rent, food and transport it doesn't leave much left over.

"I meet people every day who say they are only a day away from disaster. These are people in neighborhoods all over Bendigo.

"They haven't been on a holiday for years, or they worry about taking their kids to a birthday party because they can't afford it."

We don't just need to look at income assistance ... - Lisa Chesters

A series of articles in the Bendigo Advertiser in coming weeks will highlight the extent of the region's poverty problem.

Centrelink figures show more than 100,000 welfare payments are made to locals each pay day, with some residents receiving two or more such as Newstart and rental assistance.

But Ms Chesters said the poverty problem was not just about welfare payments.

"We don't just need to look at income assistance, but how we can reduce cost of living pressures,"Ms Chesters.

"Things like the explosion in health costs, water, gas electricity and the cost of transport.

"There are a number of families who can't survive without assistance. That is why the (Federal) Budget is so short-sighted and harsh."

The region's hidden poverty remains a real concern, Ms Chesters said.

"The minimum wage is not keeping pace with the cost of living and we have people who are either under-employed or have insecure work,"she said.

"A lot of people work part-time, or do two or three part-time jobs to make up a full-time job.

"And then there are people who work casual jobs and can go without work for long periods."

Ms Chesters praised the work of local welfare agencies, but said they too needed help.

"We need  a mature local conversation on how we can reduce the number of local people encountering poverty,"she said.

"I don't have all the answers, but I am keen for our community leaders, the non-profit welfare sector, industry and community leaders to come together to see what can be done.

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