Anti Poverty Week last week shone a light on inequity across Australia, and was marked by the release of new research and reports and hundreds of events to showcase concerns.
As the UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families (UCCYPF) said, the rise in overall standard of living experienced over the last decade has “masked” significant and persistent concentrations of poverty, among children, Indigenous Australians, single parent families, and in rural and regional areas.
Of particular concern, said UCCYPF Director Claerwen Little in releasing new research, child poverty rates were highest (14 per cent) when a family’s youngest child was aged 0-2 years – one of life’s most critical development phases. Also alarming was the “staggering” growth in the poverty rate in families where the reference person was unemployed, from 43 per cent in 2000-01 to over 70 per cent, reflecting the “paltry level of the Newstart Allowance.”
Calling for new thinking and new approaches to address poverty, she said the starting point had to be in ensuring that “no-one receiving welfare payments should be in poverty”.
The findings from this and other Anti Poverty Week research reports are outlined below.
So too are links to and about a number of award-winning films and documentaries, particularly relating to human rights and global development issues, that were screened at Anti Poverty Week events. They may not be available online but can be booked for fundraising or interest events. See more about them below, as well as some comedy and recipes.
It aimed to detail up to date poverty and social exclusion analysis over the past decade featuring an index of Child Social Exclusion (CSE). Its main findings included:
Overall poverty rose from 10.2 per cent in 2000-01 to 11.8 per cent in 2011-12, with an estimated 2.6 million Australians currently living under the poverty line – one-quarter of whom are dependent children.
Child poverty rates decreased in 2005 and 2009 but are now similar to rates at the beginning of the 2000s.
The poverty rate for single parent families is nearly 20 per cent, double that of the poverty rate for couples with dependent children (9 per cent) and persistently high.
Particular household characteristics are strongly associated with living in poverty, including low education, unemployment and the presence of younger children.
Poverty rates were highest (14 per cent) when the youngest child was aged 0-2 years.
Poverty rates were particularly extreme for families without any employed persons and for those with education levels below year 10. In particular the poverty rate in families where the reference person was unemployed rose from 43 per cent in 2000-01 to over 70 per cent in 2011-12, which the report says reflects “the paltry level of the Newstart Allowance.”
The spatial distribution of child income poverty and households living in rental stress varied widely cross Australian local government areas, with some having between 24– 45 per cent of children living in poverty, including agricultural areas in NSW, South Australia and Victoria (especially around the Murray Darling Basin such as Central Darling, Hay, and Walgett) and in the Wheat Belt of Western Australia.
Tasmania and the Northern Territory had the highest proportions of children at risk of social exclusion, with almost one in two Tasmanian children at the highest risk.
Using data from the Federal Government’s Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, researchers established who managed to exit marginalisation and who did not, how these groups differed in 2001 and what happened in their lives over the following decade.
It found that 60 per cent of those in the study managed to exit deep, multi-faceted disadvantage, while the rest remained trapped, in “sometimes appalling circumstances”. Those who escaped “did not join mainstream Australia”, although there were significant improvements in their lives.
Its findings included:
Full-time paid work, shifting from government income support to self-support, being able to stay home until at least 18 years, not leaving school early and, for women, not having further children were pivotal factors in exiting extreme, complex disadvantage.
While obtaining a tertiary degree or a full-time job very strongly predicted exit from marginalisation, getting a lesser qualification or a part-time job did not.
For women – who make up to 70 percent of marginalised Australians – having one extra child can make the difference in between making it out of deep disadvantage or remaining marginalised.
People are pushed to the fringes of society due to a range of factors that go beyond poverty, such as lack of education, social isolation, mental illness, unemployment and stigmatisation.
People who remained marginalised were much more likely than those who exited to have experienced early-life disadvantage – particularly moving out of home at a very young age, leaving school early and experiencing parental unemployment or divorce. They were more likely to be members of stigmatised groups – Indigenous Australians, unemployed people and welfare-reliant single mothers – and were also more likely to experience chronic health problems, particularly disability and mental illness, and to suffer from financial deprivation: more than one-half of this group were living below the poverty line.
Women were much more marginalised than men and more likely to remain marginalised, with the proportion increasing from 67 to 75 per cent over the decade.
The risk of being persistently marginalised was 12 times greater for Indigenous Australians than it was for others.
Allowing for the costs of housing, poverty is slightly worse in rural, regional and remote areas (13.1 per cent) than in capital cities (12.6 per cent). When housing costs (which are higher in capital cities) are not taken into account, that divide becomes starker.
The average Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person’s disposable income is only 70 per cent of other Australians, with the gap often wider in rural, regional and remote areas; for example, in Cape York in Queensland the estimated average disposable income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was $394 a week, only 45 per cent of the average disposable income of non-Indigenous Australians ($869).
The prevalence of deprivation is highest in large towns and rural areas, and lowest in the inner city.
Rates of social disengagement of residents from large towns and rural areas are higher than in the inner city – the main difference being lower rates of participation of children in school activities and outings.
Residents of rural areas reported the highest rates of service exclusion – particularly in relation to medical and dental services, child care and financial services, and higher rates of economic exclusion than residents of the inner city.
In 2005, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) identified that food cost 10-20 per cent more in rural and remote areas. More recent work suggests that these higher prices persist.
A higher proportion of people living in rural and regional Australia have a profound or severe disability, and the prevalence of avoidable mortality is higher in rural areas and much higher in remote areas.
Not only is health worse for many people in rural and remote Australia, but healthcare is less accessible to them. In 2010, there were 242 medical practitioners employed in remote and very remote areas per 100,000 population, compared with 357 medical practitioners employed in major cities per 100,000 population.
Paying attention, to poverty and mission
Also during Anti Poverty Week, Anglicare Australia asked: Is Australia becoming comfortable with inequality?as it launched a set of essays in its 13th State of the Family report, Paying Attention. The report explores how community service agencies respond in new ways to the needs of their clients – people in poverty and hardship, with a focus on the importance of their mission as the base of that relationship.
Films, fun and food
Check out also the trailers or information about a number of award-winning documentaries on poverty and disadvantage in Australia and around the world that were screened at Anti Poverty Week events. Some can be downloaded, others booked for events.
The Human Experience: about a band of brothers who travel the world in search of meaning, whose journey brings them into the lives of homeless people in New York, orphans and disabled children of Peru, and abandoned lepers in Ghana, Africa.
Girl Rising: a feature film that presents the stories of nine remarkable girls around the world.
State School Relief: a film clip to support State Schools Relief’s efforts to raise awareness and eliminate poverty in schools across Victoria.
First World Blues: taped during the Melbourne Comedy Festival, comedian Michael Connell presents a 15 minute show for World Vision which looks at poverty, ‘affluenza’, consumerism and fair trade.
The Mixing Bowl – Cooking for Large Groups: launched at the ACT Food Security Forum, it’s a resource designed to help community organisations working with some of Canberra’s most disadvantaged groups to prepare tasty and nutritionally balanced meals. Includes information on food budgeting, reducing food waste and tips on how to stretch recipes further.