Poverty in rural areas 'worse than city'

THE misconception life in rural and regional areas is cheap and easy has masked the fact poverty is worse in the bush than the city, according to a new report.

The report by the National Rural Health Alliance shone light on poverty and other resource disadvantages that made it difficult for country residents to attain the basic standard of living.

Griffith charities have confirmed there has been a steady increase in the number of people seeking help to relieve cost of living pressures.

Salvation Army Major Karen Smith said Griffith was good at looking after its own but rural residents often felt embarrassed to ask for help.

"The increase in power bills has had an enormous impact on people in Griffith because we pay more for our power in rural areas than in the city," Major Smith said. "The problem with living in a close-knit community like Griffith is that people fear asking for help because they worry they will know whoever it is helping them, even though what we do is entirely confidential.

"We get a lot of regulars but recently we've been getting people come in that have never asked for help in their lives."

Whitton farmer John Ward said the impacts of the drought and water reform have created enormous stress in our region for farmers.

"We've got dams running over everywhere and the clowns are giving us 43 per cent of our water allocation and then people wonder why there's poverty in rural Australia," Mr Ward said. "Poverty is a real issue right now, 10 years ago you could count on one hand the number of people in agriculture dependent on assistance and now they're a dime-a-dozen.

"You have to remember we're not long out of a 10-year drought which had an enormous effect on anyone who derives some form of income from agriculture, which trickles down to the whole community."

The executive director of the National Rural Health Alliance Gordon Gregory said our leaders needed to face the fact many people living in rural Australia live extraordinarily difficult lives with more limited income, access to services and infrastructure than city residents.

"People living in poverty in our country areas are missing out on opportunities and resources the rest of us enjoy," Mr Gregory said.

"Overall the prevalence of deprivation is higher in large country towns and other rural areas than in our major cities."

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