Rich Guilt and Anti-Poverty Week

From the 14th to the 20th this month is Anti-Poverty Week.

When I think about poverty, I cant help but contrast in my head the line outside Shiploads Glenorchy on opening day with people queuing outside apple shops for new iPhones.

There is already a Shiploads in Cambridge, 15 minutes drive from the township of Glenorchy. It has been open for over a year. There (was) also a Chickenfeed around the corner from where Shiploads opened. Why would people be so excited for Shiploads to open when there was already one so close?

Because these people don’t have cars, because they cannot afford the bus fares to get to Cambridge, because they probably didn’t even know there was a Shiploads in Cambridge because they don’t have the means to travel so far, because they can only afford things from discount stores, because to them, reduced food, gimmicky items and cheap homewares is just as exciting as cutting edge technology to rich folk.

Whenever I think about that time I drove past the Shiploads queue (and it was lonnnnngggg) I feel really disheartened and guilty. I don’t know whether it’s my middle-class-privilege-guilt or the fact that many of the clients I support live these lives without the choices I have.

I see poverty everyday in my job at a woman’s refuge.

When I mean poverty, I mean women and children living in cars because they have no safe place to live, cannot afford cheap accommodation and have no social supports. I mean generations dependent on parenting payments from the government. The payments are not much, they are more than my pay but for a single woman with two children they get around 750 a fortnight which is nothing when that is meant to include everything. Everything; nappies, baby formula, school fees, new clothes every few months as children grow bigger, food and rent. It means not enough money for traveling, for study courses that are not subsided, for big purchases. It’s not ideal, it’s surviving.

Preparing for tomorrows launch of Carpets for Communities in Hobart has got me thinking about extreme poverty in parts of the world and my own life chances.

I would not class myself as materialistic, but I am definitely sentimental when it comes to my belongings. I spend little money on food. I have had the same Nokia phone since 2007. I don’t like to buy clothes new. Yet these are my CHOICES; if I wanted to spend more money, I have the option of working more and buying more, because I have the work experience and the education to gain more employment and to make these choices. I only support myself.

I am so grateful that I was born with the socioeconomic life chances I had. My father slaved for ten years at medical school to spend most of his money he has made in his working life on my siblings and I. I grew up with my father having (and still does) three convertibles, I grew up with a pool, I grew up with a shack and I grew up with overseas travel every few years.  I am INCREDIBLY lucky.

My mother had a childhood filled with poverty. I remember her telling me of her embarrassment when she was around ten years old having to wear her school uniform to a birthday party on the weekend because she had no clothes. She shared a bedroom and her shoes with her four sisters.

She has also instilled in me a sense of thriftiness which I am so grateful for.

Tomorrow’s trivia night is going to be amazing. I hope we raise so much money for the women in Cambodia, and I hope one day to travel there to meet them.

Thanks for reading my ramblings.


From the archives, Em Mum and I, 2007

1 comment
  1. beautifully written. I never knew that about Pauline. Makes me love your family so much more 🙂 x x


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