Street theatre of youth poverty

February 28, 1996

Street theatre of youth poverty

By Jamie Meurant BRISBANE — A crowd gathered in the Queen Street Mall on February 23 for a youth rights speak out and street theatre of youth poverty. These actions were organised by Resistance to highlight what the major parties are not offering young people in the federal election. In the street theatre, "Paul Keating" and "John Howard" were judges for the youth poverty competition which was compared by the Democratic Socialist candidate for Brisbane, Zanny Begg. Contestants for the show were students, young workers, young unemployed, migrants and the homeless. All presented their case to the judges. A giant scale was erected behind "Keating" and "Howard" with the poverty line marked on it. The contestants were offered wages or benefits that were marked on the poverty scale. Begg's assistant for the show was "Constable Public Order" who, at the request of the judges, began arresting several of the contestants. When Begg walked out of the show "Keating", "Howard" and "Constable Public Order" took over, announcing the winner: big business. This was followed by the speak out which highlighted how the Labor and Liberal parties had failed young people. Resistance speakers put forward a list of demands for the elections, including lowering the voting age to 16, no youth wages, real job creation with award wages and equal pay for equal work, lowering the independent rate for Austudy to 15 (for students living out of home), and raising all welfare payments to the poverty line without grading them on age. Resistance member Tanya McDonnell who acted out her own situation explained: "I finished studying last year and am currently looking for work. As I'm considered an education leaver by the CES I've been told I have to wait 13 weeks for a benefit. This is a long time without any money. The DSS has told me that my parents are to support me but they live in a very small town in north Queensland which has an extremely high unemployment rate. The DSS say the 13 week waiting period is there to encourage young people to find work. However, it is simply forcing young people to be dependent on their families or suffer extreme poverty. Young people should have the right to a decent income." Begg told Green Left Weekly that "both Austudy and the dole are around $60 below the poverty line. At a minimum all benefits should be raised to the poverty line. However, what we'd really like to see is a serious job creation program which would provide a decent standard of living for all young people. More then 162,000 young people live below the poverty line here and Resistance organised this street theatre to reveal just how hard life is for them."

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