YOUNG people were forced at times to survive on an empty stomach, go without recreational activities and had to make do with very little, according to recent research.
Nanjing Night Net

The Making a Difference report by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Social Policy Research Centre and the Smith Family was the first study in Australia to hear children’s accounts of what it is like growing up poor.

Most young people facing economic adversity led complex lives and simply lacked money, the report said.

Living arrangements could protect young people from the effects of economic adversity, the report said, but it could also exacerbate their poverty and exclusion.

Fourteen-year-old Huong lived with his father who worked two jobs and long hours so he could support their household, but also his partner and other children living in South-East Asia.

Money flowed in and out of their household but Huong had no money or time for recreational pursuits.

Linox, a large, softly-spoken 17-year-old from a Pacific family of nine, was “finding it hard” to live a normal life, the report said.

He was not in education, training or employment or receiving any government benefit.

“His well-worn shoes and clothes were visible clues to hardship and interviewers quickly realised he rarely had bus fares to access employment or other services,” the report said.

However, Linox said his family supported him to deal with the lack of employment and peer-related violence.

“We all get together and talk, like when stuff is wrong with the family, and have family talk and sort everything out,” he said.

The majority of young people worked in fast food outlets and earned between $50 to $100 a week.

Young boys who wanted mining work believed they could secure permanent employment if they reached that dream, but did not know how to get the job or what skills were needed.

Unexpected expenses could make the difference between bare survival and dependency on others, as one teenager detailed.

“I remember one stage when the stock market went down or something like that, we were really struggling. I remember, sometimes my stepmum used to cry because of money,” the report said.

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