A 13-year-old boy escorts me through a dark tunnel on the outskirts of Rockhampton. The confined space is littered with scrunched up plastic bags. They have been filled with glue and paint to sniff out of.
My young tour guide *Edward doesn’t live on the streets that he walks me through. He sleeps on the couch at his Auntie’s home, where five to six other people crash at any given time. Sometimes more.
Edward’s mother abandoned him and his siblings years ago. She lives a few hours out west but he doesn’t really see her that often, if at all. His father died years ago, but he’s not sure how.
He doesn’t go to school, and fills the void of his day by roaming the streets and sniffing paint or glue. Whatever is easier to steal at the time.
It is estimated that approximately 15 per cent of people in regional Queensland are living in poverty. This means they are living on less that 50 per cent of the Australian median income. Poverty can also be determined by the amount of disposable income someone has after taking out cost of living expenses.
Essentials such as housing, food and healthcare become negotiable depending on how much is in the wallet at the time.
The statistics are even grimmer if you are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.
Unemployment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in Queensland are three to four times higher than the rest of the population, and they are 2.5 times more likely to be in the lowest income bracket.
The aim of Anti-Poverty Week is to shed light on these issues, and to encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems.
As you’ll see in the video above, poverty is a multi-faceted issue. It encompasses different people from different walks of life, all with different problems.
Edward is just one of the thousands of people trying to get through their day living in sub-standard conditions.
*Edward is not his real name.