Known as one of the wealthier countries of the world, you'd think that come 2020, poverty in Australia should be an issue of the past. However, while our economy has been growing, some of our community have been left behind, with poverty rates remaining level for the past decade.
Last Friday, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and UNSW Sydney released striking statistics on the state of poverty in Australia. Mission Australia was one of the partners in the 2020 Poverty in Australia report.
It showed that 13.6 per cent of people in Australia are living in poverty. More than one in eight adults and one in six children are living below the poverty line here in Australia.
With the poverty line at just $457 per week for a single adult, those below the poverty line are often struggling to cover housing costs and bills. Working alongside people experiencing disadvantage and poverty in the Southern Tablelands community, I've seen that individuals and families facing financial stress can be faced with incredibly difficult decisions, such as between paying rent and putting food on the table, or between their own medical costs or school materials for their children. This is particularly apparent for those looking for work, with single people on Newstart being $117 per week below the poverty line.
Affordable housing alternatives are urgently needed to ease the stress for those experiencing poverty in our community. In NSW, more than 50,000 people are on the waitlist for public housing. In Goulburn, for example, the average wait for even just a single bedroom place is five to 10 years.
Australia's poverty problem really boils down to the fact that income support is seriously inadequate and rents are unaffordable, which is pushing people into rental stress and homelessness, as well as poverty.
If we are to have any hope of addressing poverty and ending homelessness, we need to see more investment in social and affordable homes and an increase in income support and rent assistance.
As part of the Everybody's Home Campaign, Mission Australia has been advocating with other sector organisations to improve the housing system. We need a national plan to end homelessness by 2030, investment in at least 500,000 more social and affordable homes across Australia and increased rent assistance.
Because having access to a safe and secure place to call home is important for all of us, and is a foundation for building resilient, connected and healthy lives.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.