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For those who think “the abos” are responsible for living in a destitute state, it will probably amaze you to find out that there is a significant underclass of non Aboriginal (mainly white Anglo-Saxon) Australia that live in the same conditions, with however marginally more empathy due to not being “the abos”.

Did you know there are people living in Melbourne and Sydney with no running water or sanitation?

The cycle of poverty goes like this. A teenager gets pregnant. She may or may not get kicked out of home. Same with school. She probably won’t have adequate nutrition and may smoke or drink during her pregnancy. She is less likely to receive adequate antenatal care. Due to her age she is at a higher risk of premature labour and birth defects. The foetus is already at significant risk of intellectual and physical impairment before even being born.

The child is born. It’s quite possible that the young mother doesn’t get enough social support looking after the child. She may drop out of school or work. She may be struggling to make ends meet and not physically have enough time in the day. She may not have the maturity or ability to parent appropriately either. The child may experience neglect or even an abusive or chaotic home life. With such little money around they will get fed bad quality food and fast food.

School is a struggle. The child may or may not be bullied. Everyone around tells the kid (and new younger siblings) that school is pointless and worthless because they never completed school either. University is for weirdo nerds. And neither will get you any money anyway – better off quitting and working. Anyway what’s way more important is a nice house and a big wedding and kids. No-one reads to the children. They are functionally illiterate. So even if they wanted an apprenticeship, they can’t get one. Sex education just doesn’t happen and no one cares or teaches anything about how to organise your life.

With no hopes or aspirations or career options, what is there to do? Home life is awful. There’s alcohol and smokes and drugs and sex for a distraction. You can’t move out with the pittance that the dole is. Not even with rent assistance. Centrelink is unintelligible anyway. And eventually someone gets pregnant, usually before they turn 16, sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose. Because that’s what everyone else is doing. You don’t have a kid? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want the baby bonus? Maybe then you could move out of the overcrowded hovel you share with your mother and her boyfriend and his friend that tries to grab your breasts and with your siblings.

And so the cycle repeats.

Where can we intervene? Give people a sense of agency in their own lives. Better role models than the “stars” of Jersey Shore. Show them life can be better. Teach them to read. Compulsory sex education and access to contraception. Early and intensive social work intervention and support. Better infrastructure. Change the message in the media to support education and reading. Provide 2 decent meals at school. Make it easier to get access to drug and alcohol services and mental health services, and GPs. You know, for free like they should be. Without 2 year waiting lists. Increase the dole. Build far more community housing. Improve infrastructure in the country. Supplement bread, cereals and other foods with vitamins. Make vaccinations and child health checks compulsory.

That took all of 2 minutes to come up with and in many countries this cycle of poverty has been largely broken. It honestly cannot be that hard. However when we have a culture of ignoring what doesn’t exist directly under our nose it is impossible.

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