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Ballarat Salvos on a mission to reduce poverty gap

Ballarat Salvos on a mission to reduce poverty gap

Ballarat Salvos on a mission to reduce poverty gap

12 February 2019

The Salvos in Ballarat is seeking 500 signatures across their community to support an increase to the NewStart allowance. A wall of palm-print signatures collected to go alongside the petition, signals how the diverse community has mobilised to help its most vulnerable residents.

By Jessica Morris

The Salvation Army Ballarat Community Church’s campaign to raise the Newstart allowance by $75 has gained wide support from across the Ballarat community.

Initially launched by The Salvation Army Ballarat Doorways Program in response to the ESIS report in October, they are collecting 500 signatures as part of their #KickstartNewstart campaign.

The ESIS report found that of the 647,000 Australians who receive Newstart allowance, almost 80 per cent live on $39 a day before meeting any expenses, and more than half live below the poverty line.

Ben Paul Thomas, who is on a student placement at The Salvation Army Ballarat Doorways Program and is helping to run the campaign, believes this additional kickstart is essential for the 12 per cent of Ballarat residents who are food insecure. The Victorian Council of Social Service states that the overall rates of poverty in Ballarat range from eight per cent to 18 per cent across its suburbs and towns.

“Under the Newstart allowance, a single adult receives $550 fortnightly. This is well below the poverty line. With the campaign we’re seeking an increase in the Newstart allowance of $75 a week, and by doing so reduce the poverty-line gap,” says Ben Paul.

Gaining insight to the needs of the community through Doorways program Salvos Café 102, which serves more than 550 meals a month, Ben Paul spoke to community members to better understand the challenges they face.

“Most of [our clients] are on disability and Newstart pensions,” said Ben Paul.

“That helped us to understand the need for a campaign to be put in place, and through the campaign to build public awareness and attain more community support, and eventually address the issue with the Federal Government.”

Community support has poured in during presentations at the local markets that even caught attention of the local media. Through this they have accumulated a wall of palm-print signatures to go alongside the petition, signalling how the diverse community has mobilised to help its most vulnerable residents.

Once 500 signatures have been received, they will be submitted to Ballarat’s Federal MP Catherine King in the hope of discussing how this change to federal policy will benefit the Ballarat community.

While the Ballarat Salvos currently work to bridge this gap by providing food, emergency and welfare services collectively benefiting over 2274 members of the Ballarat community every month, #KickStartNewstart is a way to create a sustainable difference to their community.

Between December 2018 and January 2019, emergency relief at Ballarat Salvos provided $7930 worth of food vouchers, $20,000 worth of Salvos Store vouchers, and $4845 in other forms of support to 300 clients and their families.

Their “Grocery Box”, a mini supermarket functioning under the Doorways Program that helps clients with free food assistance, was able to provide $24,565 worth of donated food and $1420 worth of donated products to clients.

Major Rhonda Elkington, the Ballarat Corps Officer, says the #KickStartNewstart campaign is another way Salvos can live out the mission of the Army practically.

“The #KickStartNewStart campaign is vitally important because current Newstart rates are inadequate for its recipients to live on, unjustly imposing the hardship of poverty on them. As Salvos and followers of Jesus, the campaign is one thing we can do in living the vision –Wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight alongside others, to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.”

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