Photos of crowded inner-city streets reflect ‘sad new reality’ in Australia

A viral photo getting attention this week highlights a worrying community demand that it 'totally out of control', a food charity says.

Crowds of people lined up for a charity food service in Melbourne's inner-city amid the growing cost of living crisis.
Crowds of people lined up for a charity food service in Melbourne's inner-city reflects the 'sad new reality' Aussies are facing in the cost of living crisis. Source: X

A photo showing near hundreds of people queueing up for a food bank in an inner-city suburb reflects "the sad new reality of our country", Aussies say, with charity organisers warning the number of those seeking help has "grown exponentially" in recent months.

An image of the "desperate situation" in Footscray, an inner suburb of Melbourne about five kilometres west of the CBD, has gone viral on multiple online platforms, with people branding the "sad sight" at odds with the city's renowned "most liveable" status.

While it's no secret the cost of living crisis is hitting Australians, charity organisers say the situation on the ground has become increasingly dire.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, founder of Reaching out in the Inner West of Melbourne Randa Beirouti — who organised the food bank in Footscray and took the viral image seen above — said that while the scenes might be distressing, it has become the new normal.

Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, the rate of people reaching out for help has "skyrocketed," she said.

"Yes, this is a normal queue," she told Yahoo. "Our numbers have grown exponentially."

Alongside her more than 70 volunteers, Beirouti provides over 400 meals per week for those in need. The charity frequently cater to people from Footscray, Yarraville, Sunshine, Werribee and Melton with organisers saying they often have international students relying on their service.

Crowds of people lined up for a charity food service in Melbourne's inner-city amid the growing cost of living crisis.
While the number of those seeking help 'picked up' during the pandemic, they've seen soared. Source: Reaching Out In The Inner West Of Melbourne

In recent months the number of people seeking help has soared to unprecedented new levels.

"We are a charity that has never sought government funding," she said. "Our premise is selfless service, to the community. We totally rely on community support and have been going since 2005, but obviously not with the same queues."

While demand ramped up in wake of the pandemic, today as inflation and rising rates squeeze Aussies, "the level of need is totally out of control," she said.

It was revealed earlier this year that Victoria recorded the biggest jump in financial distress of any state over the past 18 months.

A whopping 54 per cent of residents in the state are experiencing cost of living and personal debt distress "beyond normal levels", Suicide Prevention Australia’s said its March quarterly survey.

Crowds of people lined up for a charity food service in Melbourne's inner-city amid the growing cost of living crisis.
Randa Beirouti said queues regularly form metres long for her charity food services around Melbourne. Source: Reaching Out In The Inner West Of Melbourne

The number of Victorians struggling with everyday expenses, or struggling to keep up with their credit card debt, was up seven percentage points in a year and 16 percentage points compared to 18 months ago.

Online, across social media platforms X and Reddit, over a thousand people responded to the Footscray photo, many in shock at the sheer volume of people in need.

Maribyrnong City Council, which covers the suburbs of Maribyrnong, Yarraville, Seddon, Footscray, West Footscray, Maidstone, Braybrook, Kingsville, and Tottenham, is aware of the viral image and has been contacted for comment.

Mayor of Maribyrnong, Cr Cuc Lam, said "council recognises some people in our community, and many other metropolitan councils" are dealing with cost of living pressures.

"This has led to higher demand for food services," she told Yahoo News Australia. "This particular program has a high number of international students and people on low incomes that are seeking support.

To assist services like Reaching Out in the Inner West, Council’s Food Inequality Action Plan 2022-2024 has identified development of a Food Insecurity Professional Network as a key action, which Council will be leading to help identify additional funding opportunities for food security projects.

"Council also acknowledges the recent State Government budget announcement of $4.6 million in the new financial year to enhance food security and hardship support services, including a state-wide grant program facilitating efficient food distribution across metropolitan and regional areas. While this announcement will provide some relief within the Maribyrnong community, further investment by the State Government would be welcomed."

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