Economic uncertainty straining Whyalla community, support services: Mission Australia

Image: Whyalla News Online

Economic uncertainty in the steel city of Whyalla is seeing increased anxiety in the community and putting youth in danger of developing drug and other problems, according to Mission Australia.

The ABC reports the social support organisation as saying the anxiety around employment was seeing an increase in ice use and incidents of family violence, as well as an increase in young people “couch surfing”.

Catherine Yeomans, Mission Australia’s CEO, said there was also an extra demand for support services, and the organisation was struggling to meet this.

“There’s certainly a need to support people who have either faced job losses or are at risk of a job loss to support them with financial counselling, understanding how they can keep paying the bills or manage any final payments so that they can either successfully transition into retirement or secure other employment,” she told the ABC.

“Unfortunately we haven’t got an increase in resources available to deal with these issues, but we do know that there is an increased demand, so there is pressure on our team,” Ms Yeomans said.

Whyalla’s population is around 22,000, with Arrium, the main employer, representing about a tenth of the workforce.

Arrium went into administration in April, owing $4 billion, and a two-track sale process – of the Moly-Cop grinding media division and the rest of the company (known as Arrium Australia, and including Whyalla’s steelworks) – underway.

According to a report on a sales document compiled by Morgan Stanley, the steelworks’ operating loss was $43 million in February, though administrator KordaMentha has cut costs and the site is predicted to lose $11 million next financial year.

Economic modelling released in March by Flinders University’s Industrial Transformation Institute found shutting the Whyalla steel factory could cost nearly 4,000 jobs in the community and see a significant exodus.


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