Paulene struggles to pay the bills every week and new research reveals she’s not alone


Queensland single mom Paulene dreams of the day she can afford everything on her grocery list but with rent to pay, a young mouth to feed and a casual retail job with schedules uncertain, she fears never to do so.

“Some weeks you are just exhausted from surviving,” she said.

Paulene and her 10-year-old daughter, Tabitha, are among some 600,000 Queenslanders living in poverty, according to a new study released for Anti-Poverty Week.

“Nine times out of 10, by the time we get to the end of the week, I’m $ 20 to $ 50 short because the money just isn’t there,” Paulene said.

“It would be so nice to have a bill and be able to pay it.”

For Tabitha, it’s hard to watch her mother struggle.

“It’s really hard to watch her do all these things and [I] can’t do anything, ”Tabitha said.

Research shows that one in five children in Queensland live in poverty, and many are at risk of becoming homeless due to a shortage of affordable housing, according to Lindsay Wegener, executive director of PeakCare.

“It is just appalling. We cannot, in a wealthy country like Australia, tolerate this,” Ms. Wegener said.

“We need to make sure every family has enough money to cover basic expenses as well as a secure roof over their heads.”

It’s not always obvious, but around 600,000 Queenslanders live in poverty, new research shows.(ABC News: Liz Pickering)

The keys to unblocking poverty

Advocacy groups are calling on state and federal governments to invest more in social housing and income support.

Karyn Walsh, chief executive of Brisbane homeless charity Micah Projects, said federal rent assistance was not high enough for families to survive, covering only a third of the rent .

“The weekly asking rents for all homes in Brisbane and the Queensland area have increased exponentially over the past fiscal year,” Ms. Walsh said.

“Increasing income support above the poverty line and investing the government in social housing are the keys to unblocking poverty.

Angliare Rental Affordability Snapshot data covered more than 74,000 rentals across the country as of March 2021.

Micah Projects CEO Karyn Walsh at her desk.
Micah Projects chief executive Karyn Walsh said federal aid only covers a third of the rent.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

It found that only 44 were affordable for a single parent with a child over age eight receiving the lone parent payment.

A spokeswoman for Federal Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said she released a statement.

“This government is providing record support for hard-working Australians, such as our $ 50 bi-weekly increase in the job search rate and related payments, the largest increase in over 30 years,” the statement said.

“On top of that, we provided $ 32 billion in emergency support payments to income support recipients during the height of the pandemic.

“Our goal now is firmly to reopen the economy because we know that the best form of well-being is work.”

A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy said it was investing billions in social housing.

“As part of this year’s state budget, we have committed a total investment of $ 2.9 billion in housing, including the creation of a $ 1 billion housing investment fund. , to support the Queensland Housing and Homelessness Action Plan 2021-2025, ”the spokesperson said.

“This is the largest concentrated investment in social housing in Queensland history.

“The $ 2.9 billion investment includes $ 1.9 billion over four years under the Queensland Housing Investment Growth Initiative (QHIGI) to launch 7,400 new social and affordable housing units, increase housing supply and increase support for housing and homelessness across Queensland. “

In “survival mode”

For people like Paulene, that’s not enough to push her over the poverty line.

Paulene spoke to the ABC in September 2020 about the relief she felt when JobSeeker’s payment was doubled in the wake of the pandemic.

She said this has made it easier for her to access basic necessities than most Australians can afford. But all of that was gone when JobSeeker ended in March 2021.

Paulene and her daughter Tabitha go shopping
Paulene said JobSeeker allowed her to fill her refrigerator with fresh produce.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

“There are weeks where we come towards the end of the week and I realize that I don’t have enough gasoline to do something.

“I’ll skip meals to make sure the kids eat. Even today, with food banks and things, you can still [find] some weeks there are so many bills to pay and pay for rent. “

She said the fortnightly $ 50 increase helped, but it wasn’t enough.

“The $ 50 to raise the rate was great, but an extra $ 100 per week would take everyone out of survival mode.”

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