Poverty in Canberra

A couple of years ago, a newly appointed public servant was giving an interview to a business magazine. ‘Everybody is happy’, he said. Then he went on ‘in Canberra in particular, everybody is deliriously happy and comfortable.’

I thought of this interview when my team last cooked a barbecue for residents of the Early Morning Centre on Northbourne Avenue, which provides meals, health care and social support to city residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Looking in the eyes of the men and women at the centre, I saw a lot of resilience, but can’t say that everyone appeared deliriously happy.

The two toughest things about poverty in Canberra are icy winters and high housing costs. Not long ago, I met a woman who told me that she wore two beanies in her home, because she couldn’t afford to turn the heating up. Another constituent who came to my office told me about her struggle to pay rising rents on a fixed income.

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