Poverty a hidden problem

Dr Yvonne Hartman of Southern Cross University spoke of the problems facing several groups of women living in poverty.
Dr Yvonne Hartman of Southern Cross University spoke of the problems facing several groups of women living in poverty. Doug Eaton

ELDERLY women, single mums and Aboriginal women on the Northern Rivers are part of a ‘hidden problem’ which involves thousands of Australians who are forced to live in poverty.

At an International Women’s Day event in Ballina last week, researcher Dr Yvonne Hartman spoke passionately of the plight of women in developing countries.

She said many worked more than 18 hours a day and then returned home to cook, clean and care for their children.

But she said poverty also affected people on the Northern Rivers.

“We are not immune,” Dr Hartman said.

“Poverty is not as dramatic and not as visible in Australia as it is in developing countries, but it is a problem.

“It is a hidden problem and there are several groups of women which are more likely to be affected.

“There are the single mums, who struggle to raise children and keep a house.

“Single older women often don’t have secure, affordable or long term accommodation.

“And for the vast majority of indigenous women, poverty is a way of life.

“I am sure we can do better by our own people.

“But let’s not get dragged into the politics of blame.

“I am issuing a rally cry. Let’s seek to extend to all of our sisters the same dignities and respects that we have.”

Dr Hartman is a social science researcher and lecture based at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus.

At the moment she is investigating housing issues for single older women.

“Poverty is substantially feminised; it is concentrated among women,” she said.

“And there are so many things that conspire to keep women where they are.

“But one of the things that are common among women all over the world is their endurance.

“We have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“This includes the protection of women through legislation.

“It includes building capacity and skills, organising and giving women better access to credit and financial services.

“We can buy fair trade items.

“We can start to talk about these issues in our tea rooms, because awareness is the crucial first step.

“We tend to withdraw into ourselves and focus on our own lives, but we can’t ignore the problems going on around us.

“No, we haven’t seemed to be able to solve the problems yet.

“But that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

“We shouldn’t give up just because it’s such a difficult problem.

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