In 2018, a report by Credit Suisse positioned Australia at the top of the list of wealthiest countries in the world by median wealth.
But in ‘wealthy’ Australia, more than 1 in 8 people live in poverty and disturbingly, more than 1 in 6 are children.
Whilst many Australian’s (and indeed, the rest of the world) view Australia as a country of wealth, the manner in which this wealth is distributed is often left out of the conversation and despite their best ‘rose- tinted’ efforts, not even the ABS could hide the reality that in Australia, wealth inequality is worsening.
A snapshot of poverty in Australia
- The poverty line (50% of median income, before housing costs) for a single adult is $433 a week. For a couple with two children, it is $909 a week. *It is worth mentioning here that the current Newstart payment for a single adult is $279.50 a week.
- 3.05 million people (13.2% of the population - more than one in eight) are estimated to live below the poverty line, after taking account of their housing costs.
- 739,000 children under the age of 15 (17.3% of all children - more than one in six) and 410,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 24 (13.9%) live below the poverty line.
- Australia has the 14th highest poverty rate among 34 OECD countries, and is part of a group of English-speaking wealthy nations with above–average poverty levels.
So with worsening inequality, and a government that seems intrinsically apathetic to addressing it, Pure Community is getting behind the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) as they advocate for the needs of all Australians affected by poverty, disadvantage and inequality and aim to build a strong and sustainable community sector.
WHO IS ACOSS?
Established in 1956, the Australian Council of Social Service (or ACOSS) is a national advocate for action to reduce poverty and inequality in Australia and is the peak body for the community services sector. Theirs is a vision of a fair, inclusive and sustainable Australia, where all individuals and communities can participate in, and benefit from, social and economic life.
ACOSS aims to achieve this by:
- Leading and supporting initiatives within the community services and welfare sector and acting as an independent non-party political voice
- By drawing on the direct experiences of people affected by poverty and inequality and the expertise of a diverse member base, ACOSS develops and promotes socially and economically responsible public policy and action by government, community and business.
ACOSS’ national membership network links a broad spectrum of community welfare services across Australia and is comprised of:
- Eight state and territory Councils of Social Service which represent thousands of front-line community agencies
- National peak organisations of consumers and service providers
- National religious and secular welfare agencies
- Low income consumer groups
Many state and local organisations and individuals also support ACOSS’ work as Associate Members.
WHAT DOES ACOSS DO?
ACOSS produces effective and influential advocacy on issues affecting people experiencing poverty and disadvantage in Australia. They also provide policy advice and represent the views of their members and communities to Government and inform members about Government policies related to the community services sector.
Key Policy Areas
ACOSS leads policy development and advocacy within the community sector on the following issues:
- Income Support and Employment
- Economics and Tax
- Housing and Homelessness
- Community sector policy
- Poverty and Inequality
- Climate and Energy
Further policy interests
ACOSS also maintains an active interest in the following policy areas and supports initiatives to address the impacts of policy reform on people experiencing poverty and disadvantage.
- Asylum Seekers and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- Justice Reinvestment
- Human rights and legal services
Learn more about the work of ACOSS in the community sector here
RAISE THE RATE
In a submission to the Senate inquiry into welfare allowance payments earlier this month, accounting giant KPMG outlined that to avoid a ‘socially damaging state of affairs’ the government must raise the weekly Newstart payment by $100 a week, $25 more than what welfare groups themselves are recommending.
ACOSS’ campaign ‘Raise the Rate’ is key to reducing poverty and inequality in Australia. The goal of the campaign is for the Federal Government to immediately lift the single rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance and other related payments by at least $75 per week, and index Allowances to wages.
Currently, these payments are too low to help people get through tough times and into suitable employment. The rate of Newstart has not been increased for 25 years, while the cost of living, especially housing, has gone through the roof.
There is broad support for the campaign, including from community organisations, such as anti-poverty networks, not-for-profit organisations, unions, business groups, local governments, territory governments and a number of federal parliamentarians, with more than 70% of the community agreeing that the rate of Newstart should be increased (Essential Research 2019).
From a global perspective, Australia is indeed an incredibly wealthy country and as such, should take pride in, and act upon, its ability to treat all of its citizens with dignity and respect. The work of ACOSS ensures that our most vulnerable people, those experiencing poverty, disadvantage and inequality, are advocated for and that our community sector remains strong and importantly, sustainable.
You can support the work of ACOSS here and to learn more, you can visit them at www.acoss.org.au
*Pure Community and Pure Finance have no direct affiliation with the organisations and causes listed on this page, we simply appreciate the work that they do, and choose to show our appreciation by contributing to them.