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Rally to raise Newstart

Published: 26 February 2020

A section of the Benalla community is getting behind the call to increase Newstart allowance.

A range of organisations in Benalla have united to call on the Federal Government to review Newstart to better support individuals and families in Victorian communities

Campaign co-ordinator Hamish McPherson said the group was concerned the present rate is too low for people to afford the essentials of a dignified life and makes it harder for people to get back into training or work.

‘‘The current Newstart rate of $282 per week has not increased in real terms in 25 years,’’ Mr Mcpherson said.

‘‘The Australian Council of Social Services is calling for an increase of $95 per week.

‘‘Raising the rate would enable people to properly provide for themselves and their families and focus on building skills and taking opportunities for their future.’’

Organisations in Benalla and region supporting the call to raise the Newstart rate include; Goulburn Murray Social Worker Group, St Vincent de Paul Welfare, We Are Union, and the Australian Education Union.

‘‘The rate of Newstart hasn’t increased in 25 years, while the costs of housing and utilities have skyrocketed,’’ Mr McPherson said.

‘‘The current low rate has a bad impact on people, including families and children, in our community.

‘‘Nobody should be having to choose between paying a power bill, fixing the car or putting a square meal on the table for their kids.

‘‘But these are the kinds of choices people are having to make every week.

‘‘Newstart is meant to support people through tough times, covering the basics, so they can live with dignity and focus on taking up study or work opportunities.

‘‘It’s not easy finding work in a competitive job market. We need to give people real support and a fair go.

‘‘Our local campaign has held stalls, talking to people at the Lakeside market, and found wide support for raising the rate.

‘‘We gathered more than 200 signatures on a petition in a few hours.

‘‘We want to take this message from our community, and send it to the government in Canberra.

‘‘It’s time for some real change to benefit people.’’

The Benalla Raise the Rate campaign invites people to attend a Community Meeting at 7pm, Wednesday, March 4, at the Uniting Church Fellowship Centre; to learn more about the issue and discuss how to support change.

This article first appeared in Benalla Ensign.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers