Canberra Round Table TOMORROW 8am

Poor Australians paying the price with their health and bills after a record breaking summer

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CMC

25th of March 2024

This past summer’s record temperatures and extreme weather left many Australians struggling to stay safe and comfortable in their own homes. Now a coalition of community groups are heading to Canberra to meet with decision-makers and discuss solutions to protect people from the health impacts of severe temperatures, ease their cost of living and ensure every Australian has a climate safe home.

Hosted by independent Senator for the ACT David Pocock, the roundtable includes experts from the Antipoverty Centre, Sweltering Cities, Parents for Climate and Healthy Futures. They will discuss the results of new research that highlights the urgent need for government schemes to expand access to rooftop solar, home retrofits and thermal upgrades, that will reduce the health risks for low-income households and lower energy bills. The groups will also lay out their expectations for commitments they are seeking from the upcoming federal budget.

ROUNDTABLE DETAILS 

Date and Time: Tuesday 26th of March, 8am – 9am (coffee and pastries served from 7.45am)

Location: Parliament House – Senate Hearing Room 2S1 (space for 30 attendees)

Summary: The roundtable will run for approximately one hour with 4 expert panel speakers, shortly followed by a 15 minute press conference for targeted questions

Speakers include:

Also available for interview at the 9:15am press conference:

Jimmy Frank Jupurrurla – Chair of Wilya Janta and First Nations Clean Energy Network member
Heidi Lee Douglas – Director of Solar Citizens

Joel Dignam – Director of Better Renting

Jay Coonan – Research and Policy at the Antipoverty Centre

Ursula Alquier – Campaigner at Healthy Futures

Maiy Azize – Spokesperson for Everybody’s Home
Kellie Caught – Climate and Energy Program Director at ACOSS

Public housing and welfare recipient case studies are attending the event and will be available for interviews – for case studies contact Jay Coonan : 0403 429 414 / media@antipovertycentre.org

Quotes from poverty and housing experts below, who are also available for interview – case studies are also available on request: 

Emma Bacon from Sweltering Cities said “Rising temperatures are a health emergency. This summer we’ve heard from people that the cost of living crisis means people are weighing up whether they can afford essentials or staying cool. Energy efficiency upgrades, air con and solar will take the pressure off people by making it affordable to be safe at home, and reduce the risk of heat related deaths and illness.” 

Mel Fisher from the Antipoverty Centre said “Poor people are hit the hardest by extreme temperatures, especially those of us who are disabled or older. My skin condition flared up during the recent Adelaide heatwave, when my home was hotter inside, even after the temperature dropped outside. The government must directly fund the Household Energy Upgrades Fund in this budget with an additional $1.5 billion to ensure everyone has access to a climate safe home no later than 2030, and urgently get to work upgrading public and community housing.” 

Nic Seton from Parents for Climate said “Too many families, including over 760,000 children living in poverty in Australia, face heightened risks to their health and education from exposure to extreme summer heat. Simple measures such as installing air-conditioning in homes and classrooms, powered by rooftop solar, will keep our kids safe while reducing cost of living pressures.” 

Dr Bronwyn McDonald from Healthy Futures said “Extreme heat can trigger heart attacks, kidney failure, strokes and even death among other health impacts, we want to see a commitment to ensure people living in social housing are able to live in a safe and healthy environment ”

Background/Evidence

  • People on the lowest incomes experience hospitalisation and death at disproportionate rates. 32% of heatwave-related deaths occurred in the lowest quintile socio-economic areas and 89% of the deceased had a recorded disability. (International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction)
  • 38% of disabled people are living on less than $383 a week. (AIHW) People with chronic and mental health conditions are more susceptible to extreme heat and during heatwaves people with cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and neurological, mental and behavioural disorders have an increased risk of death. (BMC Health Services journal)
  • Poor people are less likely to own their home, and therefore less able to take up existing government programs that assist homeowners with climate upgrades. (DSS and ABS)
  • There are 442,700 people living in social housing dwellings. (AIHW) All social housing residents are on low incomes, and the majority of residents rely on Centrelink payments that are below the poverty line and are less able to afford energy costs, home modifications and other expenses that would alleviate health risk during periods of extreme temperatures.
  • Across Australia, rental homes spend 12 hours a day above 25° and more than 2 hours a day above 30º, compared to the WHO recommended healthy range of 18–24° indoors. (Better Renting)
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