Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper has once again vilified the unemployed by publishing an article linking methamphetamine use with being on welfare. Only individuals who had been arrested by police were surveyed in the study mentioned in this piece.
The October 18 front page article read: “70% of ice users arrested by police admit being on welfare, nationwide survey finds”. However, this does not mean 70% of those receiving welfare payments are ice users.
In fact, according to a 2013 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare survey just 2.1% of Australians aged 14 and over used methamphetamines in the previous 12 months. Also, according to Greg Barns of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, crimes such as theft and robbery generally increase when welfare access is restricted.
This is not the first time the Herald Sun has demonised those receiving unemployment benefits in Australia. Previous headlines accompanied by debatable research findings include: “Number of unemployed Muslims more than twice national average” (July 2014), “Unemployment rates high in Broadmeadows and northern Melbourne suburbs” (December 2015) and “Western suburbs have Victoria’s highest rate of youth unemployment” (March 2016).
The underlying problem is underemployment, including the rise of casual and contract work. Some people turn to alcohol or other drugs to cope with the poverty and hardship of not having a secure job.
Those suffering from addiction are experiencing a complex and chronic brain disease, and a vicious cycle which can only, in most cases, be treated with appropriate therapies.
It would be deemed inappropriate to shame other sufferers of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease for receiving welfare payments. As with other health conditions, genetics and early childhood play a part in addiction.