1 in 6 children in Australia live below the poverty line

Samaritans CEO

Child poverty is an issue that most people would not picture in Australia, a country with the ninth-highest per capita income.  However, the latest ACOSS Poverty in Australia report reveals our nation is certainly not immune with 731,000^ Australian children living below the poverty line.  Even greater cause for concern is the fact that this figure continues to rise.

Historically, the statistics of child poverty in Australia closely reflected government policy at the time. Thirty years ago the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke made a pledge to eliminate child poverty.  Whilst the Government ultimately did not achieve this objective, they did make a significant dent with a 30% reduction.  So why is the issue of child poverty in Australia recurring now and on the rise?

I believe this can be attributed to successive government policy that no longer prioritises the importance of adequate family support.  Sole parent families in particular are falling through the cracks.  The Welfare to Work changes in 2006 saw 80,000 sole parent families with two children lose out on $60 per week – a huge financial burden for single parents who already face barriers to labour force participation.   Since then the representation of children in poverty from single parent families has soared to 40% of the total number of children in poverty in Australia, evidencing the causal link between government policy and these grim statistics.

Moving forward to address this issue the Government needs to put family welfare and adequate payments at the forefront of their agenda.  The family payment system is intended to supplement the incomes of parents on low income; however cost-cutting policies are impinging the overarching purpose to protect against child poverty.   Payments should be adjusted in accordance with wage movements and cuts to welfare, however miniscule they may seem, must stop.  Every dollar counts to a family on the verge of poverty.

^ACOSS. ‘Budget Priorities Statement 2017-18’.