Since the COVID pandemic and the Ukraine – Russia war, the world has gone through a cost of living crisis.
Australia is no exception.
Most people are worried about hikes in prices of electricity, fuel, food, etc. Last year, people around the world worried about Christmas spending. Adults even opted to go without gifts.
We’re more than half way into 2023, and cost of living is still a major issue.
Aside from utilities and food, Australians have other costs to worry about: HECS-HELP debt and mental health services.
Graduates find ot impossible to pay off university fees
I’ve written about struggles of university students in Australia. Parents who go to university find workplacement a hurdle that prevents them completing their degrees.
In May, Patrick Wright reported in ABC Everyday that students can’t beat inflation and pay their debt. Inflation has caused HECS-HELP fees to go up 7.1%. Last year, the inflation rate was 3.9%.
Vetenarian, Monica (no last name was printed), had A$80,000 HECS-HELP debt outstanding.
From the 1 June, Monica’s debt rose to over A$85,700.
Think about that. Vetinary students could face a HECS-HELP that can equal or exceed a house deposit!
Pf course, there are graduates that have managed to pay off their HECS-HELP debt. But it’s clear many are still struggling.
Australia’s mental health crisis continues
I am so passionate about people being to access the mental health care they need.
Last year, I was furious at Labor Government’s lack of action when the Australian Psychology Society (APS) was calling for better and affordable access to services. This was after Labor reduced Better Access subsidised therapy sessions from twenty a year back to ten.
Therapy has become so expensive that people have had to choose between therapy and rent. Even psychologists have struggled to afford therapy.
The Australian Association of Psychologists has bern pleading to the Health Minister, Mark Butler again. They are calling for struggling parents with perinatal depression to be granted up to forty psychology sessions a year.
Rachel Lear told ABC about her struggles after the birth of her son, Charlie:
It was sheer exhaustion and tears I felt every day, trying to get my son to sleep at night, but when he was finally sleeping through, I couldn’t switch off or sleep.
In describing her declining mental health, Ms Lear recalled:
It was to the point that I was not wanting to go out… but I also felt so trapped being in my own house, and nagging thoughts were creeping up in my chest.
At the point of the ABC article, Lear only had two subsidised therapy sessions left for the year.
The Labor Government promised an extra A$26million into building more perinatal mental health services over the next four years.
This is weak. What good is more perinatal mental health services if people can’t afford them? Just lift the ten session cap!
Debt has become so normalised. The Labor Government hasn’t done nearly enough to offer relief. Surely fixing the Better Access Scheme and making university more affordable (if not free) would be a good start.