Residents wanting to know more about the Australia

Residents wanting to know more about the Australian Governments new WorkChoices and Welfare to Work laws and how they affect the region are being urged to attend a community forum in Lismore next Wednesday, November 15.

Speakers include welfare workers, unionists and Centrelink staff. There will also be social researchers including Southern Cross Universitys Dr Yvonne Hartman, who will detail her and colleague Dr Sandy Darabs research on poverty and jobless families in regional NSW, highlighting the compounding effects of unemployment and poverty as people struggle to meet the obligations of the welfare system.

One man drove an unregistered car into town to keep his appointment with his job agency because he was so afraid of being breached but he was pulled up and charged by police, Dr Hartman said. In trying to meet one set of obligations, he was forced to break another set and in the process, his problems were intensified.

Dr Darab said that during the Great Depression in Australia, the hardship that people suffered was partly compensated by the strong social bonds they experienced, but now we have a booming economy so the unemployed and working poor are more socially isolated and more inclined to hide their circumstances.

It is likely that the new welfare and employment laws will further entrench poverty, particularly in regional NSW, she said.

Other speakers include Peter Davidson from the Australian Council of Social Service, Paul Doughty from the ACTU, Angela Pollard from the Northern Rivers Unionist Network, and Michael Barker and Marilyn Lindsay from Centrelink.

The forum will be held at Lismore City Hall next Wednesday from 4.30-6.30pm. Auslan interpreters will be present and childcare is available.

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