ACT News


Minimum wage insufficient for a family in the ACT

Full-time work doesn't always equate to enough food on the table for Elizabeth Friend's family.

The former Commonwealth Bank staffer and mother of five relies on husband Martyn, a motor mechanic earning the minimum wage, to bring in enough to ensure there's enough to cover rent, petrol and food for their Franklin family.

While they receive assistance from Centrelink, Mrs Friend said it doesn't go far between the costs involved in raising four daughters and medication for her son, who has Down syndrome.

''To live on, we probably have at the very most about $150 - and that's if we don't buy groceries,'' she said.

''We try to make sure everyone has enough to eat. If we don't, I don't eat.''

The Friend family's story is not uncommon for Canberra households on the minimum wage, according to the capital's social welfare watchdog.


ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said despite holding down full-time jobs, some minimum wage workers in the capital were turning to charities and emergency relief outlets to get by.

''People often pay for their housing first, then utility bills,'' she said.

''Once that's happened, food is what they can't afford.''

A Fair Work Commission ruling on Monday to increase the minimum wage by about $16 a week brings the national minimum wage to $622 a week or $16.37 an hour.

Ms Helyar said the increase was welcome, but the costs of living in Canberra were increasing at a higher rate than the rest of the nation.

She said although the ACT and federal governments needed to support people on the minimum wage, the onus was on individual employers to ensure their workers had a stable and sufficient income.

''It's the responsibility of the business community to match wages to the cost of living,'' she said. ''Employers can step up, making sure people have enough hours of work and a certainty of hours.''

Monday's ruling on the minimum wage is an increase on last week's ruling that the national minimum wage should be set at $606 a week.

The minimum wage, which affects about 1.5 million Australians, will remain at $606 a week until July, equating to an annual wage of about $31,500.