Mounting credit card bills drive bankruptcy boom in western suburbs

Mounting credit card bills drive bankruptcy boom in western suburbs

Nicole Hasham

April 11, 2012

MOUNT DRUITT, Campbelltown and Liverpool have emerged as Sydney’s bankruptcy hot spots as families succumb to mounting credit card debt and chronic unemployment.

The three suburbs topped a list compiled by the federal agency Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia, which revealed the NSW postcodes most vulnerable to bankruptcy last financial year.

The 2770 postcode – Mount Druitt, Minchinbury and surrounds – was the worst affected, with 163 bankruptcy declarations.

In the Campbelltown area postcode of 2560, 146 debtors slipped into the red, closely followed by 144 in the Liverpool-Casula postcode 2170.

The central coast postcodes of 2259, 2250 and 2261, which centre on Lake Munmorah, Gosford and The Entrance, rounded out the top six with 100 or more bankruptcies each.

It is the first time ITSA has published personal insolvency activity by postcode. The data is not adjusted for the variation in population between postcodes.

Sydney’s well-heeled suburbs were not immune to financial distress. In the wealthy 2088 postcode, which includes Mosman and Spit Junction, 22 debtors filed for bankruptcy. It was closely followed by 19 in the 2030 postcode of Dover Heights and Vaucluse.

The Mount Druitt MP, Richard Amery, said high unemployment, coupled with a large number of single-parent families, meant residents in his low-income electorate were financially vulnerable.

“Whilst it’s an area where real estate values are moderate, you can still overcommit yourself and … [many] people see bankruptcy as the only way out of the debt spiral,” he said. Poor financial education was also to blame, he said. “A lot of people leave school unequipped to handle finance, they [don’t know] the implications of buying all your furniture on an 18 per cent credit card or a 25 per cent department store credit arrangement.”

Rachael Witton, a director of the financial services company Debt Rescue, said bankruptcy statistics captured only a small proportion of those in debt stress.

“[They] are just the ones who are taking action. A far greater number of people are in denial,” she said. “We are meeting people who haven’t opened mail for 12 months – it’s just too much to get their head around, they don’t know where to start.”

Relationship breakdown and unemployment were the common thread in many bankruptcies, but this summer’s natural disasters would prove too much for others, Ms Witton said.

“In the Riverina … we’ll find inquiries will peak for another month or two yet. People are struggling day-to-day, then something else just tips them over the edge,” she said.

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