What is poverty in Australia?
A word from our CEO, Brad Webb:
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘poverty’?
Australia is a prosperous country, yet 3 million people are living in poverty. Of this number, over 700,000 are children.
The Australian Council of Social Service released these figures today in their 2018 Poverty in Australia Report. ACOSS defines poverty as when a household’s disposable (after-tax) income falls below a level considered inadequate to achieve an acceptable standard of living.
The report, released during Anti Poverty Week, contains numerous stories from Australians who are struggling to make ends meet. Poverty has a devastating impact on people who experience it, affecting all areas of their life including education, health and social connection.
On the release of the report, ACOSS CEO, Cassandra Goldie, said, “The evidence released today shows that through social security, housing and employment policies, as a nation we choose the level of poverty we are prepared to accept”.
As the report shows, there are many varying experiences of poverty. Another report highlighting the plight of Australians living on the poverty line is the annual Foodbank report looking at food insecurity. Their newest report is due this week, and last year it showed 3.6 million Australians didn’t have a sufficient amount of nutritious food at least once in that year.
Samaritans operates Emergency Relief centres throughout the Central Coast, Hunter and Mid North Coast regions of NSW. Each month we see hundreds of people who are unable to afford their bills for rent, electricity and food.
The overall figures on poverty and hunger in Australia are shameful. In light of Australia’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals we should be actively reducing poverty and hunger in this country, but instead it is on the rise.
So, for such a complex problem, what can be done?
There are pathways out of poverty, and there are national campaigns to create change, including:
- Increasing the availability of affordable and stable housing – see the Everybody’s Home campaign
- Raising the rate of support payments, such as Newstart, so they are above the poverty line – see the ACOSS Raise the Rate campaign
- Increasing the availability of secure jobs with sufficient income – see the Anglicare Jobs Availability Snapshot (2018 report to be released October 18)
As community members, one of our greatest powers is in holding our politicians to account. As 2019 draws nearer, we approach not just a Federal Election, but a NSW State Election.
Consider what your local member is doing towards alleviating poverty for locals in your area. A starting point to consider how our state can do better for those living in poverty is to look at the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) election platform, which also has an advocacy toolkit.
Together in 2019, we can make our vote count.