Youngsters in certain areas of the municipality are living in disproportionately high rates of poverty, according to the latest data from the Victorian Council of Social Service.
Thirty percent of those aged under 15 in California Gully – Eaglehawk were living in poverty, while 26 per cent of 15-24 year-olds in the same suburbs were living below the poverty line.
Around 13,600 people, or 14 per cent, of people in Greater Bendigo were living in ‘poverty’ as defined by VCOSS. The poverty line is based on the disposable income available to each household after housing costs like rents, mortgage payments and water and property rates are assessed.
VCOSS has set the poverty line at $353.45 per week. More than one in six Victorian children live in poverty, which equates to almost 200,000 children.
In Bendigo, 23 per cent of those aged under 15 are living below the poverty line, compared with 10 per cent of people aged 65 and over.
Students living in Bendigo’s university suburbs also appear to be living below the poverty line, with 26 per cent of 15-24 year-olds in Spring Gully and Flora Hill classified by VCOSS as living in poverty.
At a state election forum hosted by the Bendigo Advertiser on Tuesday, Greens candidate for Bendigo East Nakita Thomson, a student herself, said there was a “huge issue” with poverty locally. “I struggle to pay rent and food and my bills because youth allowance is so low. And I’m going to eventually contribute to the economy once have a job but I just need support in that time,” she said.
“There are many other students, many other younger people in my situation that need that extra leg up to contribute to the economy.”
The Greens plan to invest in public housing if elected, promising to build 40,000 new public houses over the next six years.
Investment in solar would help reduce energy bills to free up more disposable income for those struggling with poverty, Ms Thomson said.
Nationals candidate for Bendigo East Gaelle Broad said poverty was quite a significant issue in Bendigo.
Ms Broad referenced recent figures released by Bendigo’s 10 non-for-profit agencies which showed one in five people – a total of 23,516 – sought assistance over the past financial year.
Women who had experienced family violence or sexual assault accounted for more than 6000 of those people.
“We have major issues with poverty in our region and challenges that cross generations,” she said.
“When we have a population of 108,00 that in itself (23,000 seeking help) says something about the number of people that need help or are looking for assistance.
“We can't let Bendigo continue to go backwards - we need to be looking at these issues, not shying away form them.”
Labor member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said Bendigo had some “real challenges” in this area, and has done for a number of years.
“One of the key areas we've been working on in supporting people to get the skills need to get the job they want is investing in TAFE,” she said.
Ms Allan referenced numerous investments in TAFE centres in Bendigo and government-subsidised TAFE courses.
She said the unemployment rate in Bendigo today is half what it was when Labor came to power in 2014.
“It’s only Labor that's offering Bendigo investment in projects that create jobs during construction and in services once they are built,” she said.
VCOSS breaks its data down by employment, age, gender and household type.
In East Bendigo – Kennington, 21 per cent of those living in one-person households were living in poverty, while 40 per cent of lone parent households in California Gully – Eaglehawk were living below VCOSS’ poverty line. According to the data, regional Victoria (15.1 per cent) had a higher poverty rate than Melbourne (12.6 per cent).
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