11 Jul Does Poverty in Perth Expose the City’s Biases?
Perth, Australia is often called the most isolated city in the world. With a population of nearly 1.4 million, it is the capital of Western Australia, yet it is also surrounded on all sides by the forces of nature. With the Indian Ocean to the left and the famous Australian outback to the right, the population of Perth is beset by fierce wildlife and solitude, not to mention the constant rays of sun, which beat down unforgivingly year-round. With the nearest city of over one million people being more than a thousand miles away, one would think Perth has learned to deal with its independence by way of unity and equality. Unfortunately, this would be far from the case.
Over 17.5% of Western Australians are living in poverty, with Perth being the second highest city in Australia when it comes to citizens living in severe poverty. With the cost of living continuing to rise and the government seemingly resigning to its current reality, in late 2017 a grassroots organization called the Anti-Poverty Network was formed, in order to both bolster the confidence of the people and organize strategies for social reform. Currently, people below the poverty line barely have the cash to feed themselves. Savings accounts are empty, meaning citizens can’t even pay cash only for cars in Perth, used or otherwise.The APN not only blames greedy government policies for the lack of current social safety nets, but also Australian society and the way it is set up in general. By forcing the most vulnerable and in need of help citizens to jump through as many hoops as there currently are, APN argues that not only the federal government, but local government is to blame for the current poverty struggles in the OCE.
The APN also rails against the systemic racism and patriarchy that seems to still be plaguing Australia today, faulting these biases for many of the lack of social strides being made by Australia’s poorest demographics. Indeed, only 21 people have ever been convicted of breaking hate crime laws in Australia, which either means people are exceptionally benevolent and good-willed, or that there is a distinct lack of prosecution. It is APN’s view, among many others, that it is the latter. After all, this is a country that has given Chris Lilley multiple platforms for shows that sometimes revolve entirely around racially motivated humor, including but not limited to blackface. The largely white population accepting such humor as the norm may be indicative of an underlying problem with the country’s moral compass.
In Perth itself, there have also been hate crimes, including Islamophobic incidents. As of yet, police have turned up no leads, which seems hardly surprising to community activists and grassroots organizers. Anecdotally, there seems to be a level of corruption in the city. A high school chaplain was blatantly accused by a colleague of looking like a religious extremist due to his sporting a beard and kurta. So the question remains: will Perth’s government step up and reorganize its social programs to benefit the underprivileged? Or does it just not care?
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