What is Poverty in Australia?

1 Oct, 2019

What does it mean to live in poverty? If you pictured a young family living in a crowded makeshift community in India, you’d be right. But that image alone isn’t the full picture of this vast and unjust human experience that we call poverty.

We’re a nation of opportunity, built on equality and a ‘fair go’, yet that’s not how things play out for everyone. Does poverty in Australia really compare to the devastating poverty we know of in other nations? If poverty exists, yet looks different here, what does this mean for our local communities?

Right now, in Australia, 3 million people are living in poverty. Critically, 739,000 of these are children. Each of these children do not have the same opportunities as other kids their age — they are beginning life on the back foot.

The poverty line in Australia (updated regularly to account for inflation) currently sits at about $433 per week for a single employed person living on their own and $909 per week for couples with two children.

These incomes alone are sobering, yet there is more to the story. Poverty lines are generally calculated as 50% of the median household income in that country. Many of those living under the poverty line in Australia are in what is known as ‘deep poverty’. On average, those under the poverty line are $135 a week under it.

For these 3 million people under the line, every day requires impossible choices between competing basic needs. Add the stress of spiralling debt to the picture, and it’s easy to see why 1 in 4 CAP clients considered or attempted suicide before coming to CAP.

No two stories of poverty will look exactly alike, either within Australia or between two countries. What ties them together are common themes of deprivation no person should be subject to; lack of nutrition, reduced ability to access medical care, insecure housing and relational isolation.

Poverty also affects more of us than you might think. An Anglicare study in 2018 revealed that 16% of their respondents couldn’t afford basic necessities in the past 12 months. This number is higher than those officially under the poverty line and tells us that many households at some point will experience events beyond their control — illness, unemployment, relationship breakdown or an accident — that can bring about adversity in the form of poverty.

The reality is, right now on your street; sitting next to you at church; behind you in the coffee queue – someone is struggling. Poverty doesn’t discriminate – and while people might be good at putting a brave face on for friends and family, behind closed doors, they’re drowning.

The good news is that many Aussies who are experiencing poverty, particularly as a result of debt, simply need an advocate. Someone who can lift the distressing burden form their shoulders, offer advice, support, friendship and walk through solutions together. This is exactly what our Debt Coaches do. Equipped through the strength of the local church, they bring to their communities the relief of a solution, and the hope of Jesus.

Help equip more churches in more towns all over our nation by becoming a Life Changer today.