One in eight Australians continue to live in poverty, according to a new report released to coincide with the 20th Anti-Poverty Week (16-22 October).
The Poverty in Australia 2022 report has shown as many as 13.4 percent or 3.3 million Australians, and 16.6 per cent, or 761,000 Australian children, were living below the poverty line in 2019-20 – the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
UnitingSA CEO Jenny Hall has this week added her name to a united pledge to halve child poverty in Australia as part of the 20th Anti-Poverty Week campaign, joining hundreds of other advocate organisations and influencers across the nation.
“Australia is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. No Australian should be living in poverty. We need to come together as a nation to influence our change-makers and create a more level playing field for all,” Ms Hall said.
The report, published by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) in partnership with UNSW Sydney, clearly shows the Coronavirus and Economic Support Supplements temporarily introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic pulled 646,000 Australians, including 245,000 children, above the poverty line.
The report has reignited calls for the Australian Government to permanently raise the rate of income support payments to give Australian families living in poverty a better chance.
“We know children who grow up in poverty are 3.3 times more likely to suffer adult poverty than those who grow up in never poor households,” Ms Hall said.
“There were almost a quarter of a million Australian children living better lives when these payments increased during Covid-19, giving them a better opportunity to thrive, learn and grow.
“It took the extraordinary occurrence of a once in a hundred year, global health crisis, a pandemic, to show how increasing these payments could pull 646,000 Australians out of poverty, in a very short period of time.”
Ms Hall has also joined ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie in calling on the Federal Government to prioritise a strategy and specific targets to permanently reduce poverty as part of its new wellbeing budget for all Australians.
“We join ACOSS in urging the government to increase the Jobseeker payment to $73 a day. That’s an essential first step,” Ms Hall said.
“But we also need to look at practical, long-term solutions including increasing the amount of social and affordable housing available to low income families, investing in energy efficiency strategies to help reduce household bills, and providing practical solutions to ease the growing cost of living burden in Australia.
“If we don’t, the cycle of poverty in Australia will only continue to grow, and repeat.”
UnitingSA is one of South Australia’s oldest charities and began in Port Adelaide in 1919.
Every year, UnitingSA helps South Australians get through the toughest of times.
“Last year alone we provided support to more than 5,250 families through our Child, Youth and Family Services and more than 800 children through the Communities for Children program,” Ms Hall said.
“We also provided emergency financial assistance to more than 2,000 South Australians, and assisted more than 1,600 people through our homelessness services,” she said.
“Covid-19 revealed many lessons in life. With job insecurity, isolation and shutdowns, a lot of us were faced with the prospect of having no job, no money, no food, and a lack of essentials.
“There are 3.3 million Australians living in poverty who experience that every day.”
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