UPDATE: New research has revealed up to one in eight Australians are living below the poverty line. The Australian Council of Social Service report found more than 2.2 million Australians live in poverty, including more than half a million children.
A few weeks ago ABC’s Four Corners ran a report on the Australian children growing up in Australia’s “welfare ghetto”.
At the time, Mamamia wrote:
When 12-year-old Jessica Burns was asked what she wanted from her future, she answered: “a good job, like where you get like heaps of money. I’d be like a decent mum, like a husband with no violence and everything, so it could be a happy family, you know, but like that would never happen…”
They say the simplest dreams are the hardest to come by but it’s a sad and sorry state of affairs when a 12-year-old Australian kid can’t be excited and optimistic about what’s lies ahead. But that’s the way it is for thousands of children – here in our country – who are living below the poverty line.
Last night’s Four Corners program on the ABC focused on the children of five families living in the NSW suburb of Claymore. Claymore is a public housing estate which was built by the New South Wales Government in the 1970s and is home to more than 3000 of the state’s poorest families.
Thirty years on from its creation: Claymore is a “welfare ghetto.”
Jessica’s is one of the families who live there. When ABC reporter Sarah Ferguson (Sarah is the same journalist who exposed the abattoir atrocities in Indonesia) arrives at their house, Jessica hasn’t been to school for two days, her 14-year-old brother Hayden is complaining he’s being bullied at school and her father Brett has moved from the house into the garage because of arguments with Jessica’s mother Caroline. (It’s later revealed that Brett has physically abused Caroline. In front of the children.) The family rely on Centrelink payments to survive.
SARAH FERGUSON: Caroline Burns sometimes struggles to make ends meet.
CAROLINE: You know sometimes we have to go the second hand shops but – and I’m not fond of second hand shoes, but you can go to the new section. So and they’ve got some nice stuff there and it doesn’t it doesn’t bother me really.
JESSICA: She does have enough money sometimes, but just like, ’cause her pay day’s on Friday and if something is in the week and it’s like too much money for example, I don’t know, like $100 or some s**t, I don’t say anything, I don’t bother.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sometimes Jessica misses out.
JESSICA: It was a ‘scursion and I really wanted to go. And then, I was going to ask, but I didn’t. Because I thought like maybe they needed the money for something else.
CAROLINE: I hate having to say no. I really hate having to say no.
On the other side of Claymore, lives the Blake family. The core of the family is Kristen. She’s a single mother looking after five children. The youngest, Katelynn, is just five months old. Kristen worked in an aged care facility until she became pregnant with Katelynn and she says that she wants to teach her kids about the importance of having a job. Three of the children Katelynn is raising are biologically her sister’s kids.
SARAH FERGUSON: What was the situation with Amy and the children? Why did you step in?
KRISTEN: A lotta drug problems, drug addiction, mental problems. She would bring her paranoia out onto her children. She wouldn’t let the kids play outside, she would keep them confided in the one room, not even allowed to go upstairs. She shaved Alanah’s head as a child so that nobody would rape her.
SARAH FERGUSON: Alanah is now 14.
(To Alanah): Were you scared when you were living there?
ALANAH: Yeah ’cause we had like other people watching us, not just her, people we didn’t know, friends that gave her drugs. We had her watching us.
KRISTEN: It was Alanah mainly who was affected with what happened because she was three nearly four and she would have to mother Jacob. And if it wasn’t for her he wouldn’t have been fed. Whatever was in the cupboard is whatever she fed him, you know.
SARAH FERGUSON: As far as the three children are concerned Kristen is their mother now.
The report exposed the harsh realities of daily life for these kids who are “growing up poor” right here in Sydney. Many don’t have relationships with one or both of their parents (more than half the families in Claymore have only one parent).