Seminar focuses on poverty

Published 18 February 2004

Changing the way the community thinks about people living in poverty is one of the main aims of Mark Peel, a historian and author of 'The Lowest Rung – Voices of Australian Poverty'.

Dr Mark Peel will be the guest speaker at the first of this year’s Southern Cross University (SCU) Doing Justice Seminar Series, at Coffs Harbour on February 24.

The seminar series, hosted by SCU School of Social Science in conjunction with the North Coast Institute of TAFE, is held each year to provide a forum for social welfare issues on the Mid North Coast and enable major social issues to be addressed.

Dr Peel’s latest book, 'The Lowest Rung', published by Cambridge University Press, tells the stories of hundreds of people living in poverty in Inala in Queensland, Mt Druitt in NSW, and Broadmeadows in Victoria.

“The overriding solution is to listen to them. They know what’s going to work. We very much need to look at poverty from their point of view,” Dr Peel said.

“At the moment there is a complete distrust of people who live in poverty and of the people who work with them.

“What we need to think about is the kind of world we would like to live in if we hit hard times. Imagine that you were badly injured and couldn’t work for two years, how would you like to be treated? What happens if your salary stops and you have no entitlements? Very few people in this country are completely invulnerable.”

About 2.1 million Australians are currently living in poverty, and according to Dr Peel, poverty will be even more of an issue for the next generation.

“We are, in this country, facing a situation where, without inspiration and without action, our children and grandchildren may well be poorer than their parents. We are already facing a real problem in home ownership and this is the time for action about that.”

He said he was looking forward to hearing the stories of people in the Mid North Coast region during his visit.

The seminar will be held in the main lecture theatre at the Coffs Harbour campus, from 7.30pm to 8pm, with question time afterwards. Gold coin donations appreciated.

A workshop for people working and researching in the area of poverty will be held on Wednesday, February 25, from 9.30am to 12.30pm in room A1.27. Cost is $10.

For information about the seminar and workshop contact Anna Bloemhard on 66593324.

Media contact: Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m.0439 680 748.