Min­ing slump hits law cen­tre load

Pilbara News - - Pilbara News - Ali­cia Per­era

A dra­matic change in the na­ture of fi­nan­cial is­sues faced by Pil­bara res­i­dents with the wan­ing of the min­ing boom is hav­ing flow-on ef­fects to other so­cial is­sues, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, ac­cord­ing to the re­gional com­mu­nity le­gal cen­tre chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Pil­bara Com­mu­nity Le­gal Ser­vice chief ex­ec­u­tive Nanette Wil­liams said her or­gan­i­sa­tion’s fi­nan­cial coun­selling case­work had un­der­gone a “marked change” and be­come much more com­plex over the past two fi­nan­cial years, par­tic­u­larly in 2015-16, with the in­abil­ity to pay the mort­gage and busi­ness bank­rupt­cies among the main prob­lems.

“Most of (the sit­u­a­tions) are mort­gage stress, bank­ruptcy, mul­ti­ple debts,” she said. “And ba­si­cally not suf­fi­cient money to run the house­hold, when you look at mort­gage pay­ments or rent pay­ments, util­i­ties, food, fuel.

“The case­work is so dif­fer­ent . . . it’s pro­longed.

“It takes the fi­nan­cial coun­sel­lor a lot more time to as­sist peo­ple now. In­stead of be­ing able to come in and have the sit­u­a­tion be fixed in that one ses­sion, it can take months, some­times years, to re­solve the is­sue.”

Mrs Wil­liams said not only was the more com­plex fi­nan­cial stress an is­sue in it­self, but among the cen­tre’s clients it was hav­ing no­tice­able flow-on ef­fects to men­tal health con­di­tions, re­la­tion­ship break­downs, and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

PCLS recorded a dou­bling in its num­bers of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases in the past fi­nan­cial year, up from around 600 in 2014-15 to more than 1200 in 2015-16. Pil­bara Dis­trict Po­lice and Mis­sion Aus­tralia also re­ported in­creases in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence re­ports in the same time­frame.

Mrs Wil­liams said in her opin­ion, the se­vere na­ture of fi­nan­cial stress be­ing seen was “one of the pre­dom­i­nant contributors” to the rising do­mes­tic vi­o­lence rate.

“Be­ing the provider, pro­vid­ing for the fam­ily, there’s an el­e­ment of shame, there’s an el­e­ment of dis­ap­point­ment (in fi­nan­cial prob­lems),” she said.

“To a large ex­tent some peo­ple deal with anx­i­ety or stress with al­co­hol abuse, drug abuse, and that com­pounds the is­sue even more.”

Fi­nan­cial Coun­sel­lors’ As­so­ci­a­tion of WA pres­i­dent Joanna Car­ring­ton agreed fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tions had be­come more com­plex since the min­ing boom waned, as for many peo­ple “mul­ti­ple com­mit­ments” stacked up to be­come over­whelm­ing.

She said with the un­cer­tain employment mar­ket, es­pe­cially for fly-in, fly-out work­ers, falling into fi­nan­cial hard­ship and its so­cial ef­fects were all too real pos­si­bil­i­ties. “Mis­for­tune can hap­pen to any­one, and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence,” she said.

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