29 May 2012

Wanted - skills for life

According to the media, it seems that young families and pensioners are the two main groups feeling the most pressure due to the current financial circumstances. Personally, I think it has hit most of us. In a HeraldSun article recently, it stated:

A St Vincent de Paul analysis of cost pressures on families, to be released at an Australian Council of Social Service conference this week, shows cash-strapped pensioners and young families are suffering. Actual costs of electricity, health and food have not only increased above inflation, but cost pressures have compounded over time. Pensioners and young families spend a higher proportion of their income on health, utilities and food.

I'm sure many of you would agree, times are tough for many people, and not only in those two categories. When I work at the neighbourhood centre, I see people coming in for food parcels. These people often fall into these two categories, and others, and although we have workshops discussing how to decrease the cost of living, very few of them come along. I think that governments need to play an active part in the re-education of the electorate so that many of the frugal things most of us here do - making cleaning products, cooking from scratch, budgeting etc, become commonplace again.

It will help not only people on low incomes, it will help the average single or family person survive the tough times much better than they do now. When you read about the Great Depression, its inspiring and amazing to read what they did to get by. My grandparents and parents lived through the Great Depression and they did it using the life skills they had that were commonplace then. Many of those skills can still save a substantial amount of money and they still have the potential to help people who take the time to learn them. Many don't know anything except what they know, they don't know there is another way or where to get help in equipping themselves for a more frugal life.

I would like to see Life Skills taught in secondary schools so young people move into their own independent lives better equipped for today's reality. I think tuition in how to write a budget and handle credit cards, compound interest, simple contracts, consumer rights, how to complain effectively, renters' rights and responsibilities, cooking from scratch and using leftovers, sewing, mending, green cleaning, how to wash and iron clothes, how to grow fruit and vegetables in a backyard and general home economics would stand our students in good stead, particularly in their teenage years and leading into young adult life. Ideally, these skills would routinely be handed down from parents to their children, but often parents now don't have these skills themselves. It would help young people to understand the legalities of life before anyone takes advantage of them and it would show them that life is tough but can be made better, and even wonderful, with work hard.

We all have to do our fair share. No one gets a free ride.

Our governments should be leading us. They should be watching duopolies and making sure grocery prices are not destabilised and remain within the reach of families, working people, retired folk and pensioners. They should be proposing innovative ways of teaching our children, not playing it safe. I wonder if we could interest the CWA or Women's Institute in teaching home economics classes. It needs real people with real skills to do the teaching. We want our young people to know how to look after themselves, not how to open a can of soup or cook a packet of cake mix. We need to get our communities involved. Hopefully, this would put us back on track and in 20 years, when parents would be well equipped again to teach their own children, we'd be able to stop the classroom teaching of life skills.

What is your government doing? Are their any bright lights where you live that can shine the way for us over here?  What can we all do to help our young people learn what we know?

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