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Down and under

Why, despite being one of the world's wealthiest countries, is Australia unable to break the cycle of poverty?

Last updated: 08 Feb 2013 05:05
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Australia is one of the richest nations in the world. Yet there is a growing poverty gap which can be seen in suburbs like Claymore. The New South Wales government built this public housing estate in the 1970s and filled it with people from Sydney's poorest families, creating a welfare ghetto.

Today, Claymore is one of the most disadvantaged suburbs in Australia with the highest proportion of young children anywhere in the country. But poverty in wealthy Australia is not limited to Claymore. According to surveys and reports, 2.2 million Australians live below the poverty line, while more than 600,000 children under 15 live in households where no one has a job.

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Much has been announced by politicians and policy makers on how the cycle of poverty can be ended. But decades later, the situation remains.

In a welfare culture where government support from 'Centrelink' is the only source of income, many children from Claymore lack role models to look up to. One young boy is worried about getting a job because he says his boss might yell at him. When asked what he will do if he does not work, he says: "I don't know. Probably just stay home."

Compounding the problem, Claymore is plagued with drugs, alcohol addiction and crime. Witnessing the scene of a motorbike that has been stolen and torched, Claymore's kids are obviously influenced by what they are seeing around them.

One boy explains how if he had stolen the bike, he would not have set it on fire but kept it instead. The kids seem to be paralysed by the stressful environment and many find it hard to control their behaviour. In less than 1,5km live 1,500 children.

And when asked why there are so many fights, one girl says: "Because it's Claymore. This is Claymore."

So, do these children really have a fair chance at mastering their destiny when their environment is so chaotic and dilapidated?

Some of the children seem determined to battle their way out of their surroundings. One young girl, Cheyenne, wants to challenge those who do not believe in her and who say she will not amount to anything. She wants to prove them wrong and become useful to society.

101 East hears the heart-wrenching stories of the economically disadvantaged children from modern Australia and asks why the cycle of poverty has not been cracked in this rich nation.

101 East airs each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2230; Friday: 0930; Saturday: 0330; Sunday: 1630.

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