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Anti-Poverty Week: Exploring poverty and fostering community resilience

Every year organisations across Australia participate in Anti-Poverty Week, which in 2015 will take place from 11-17 October.

The week has two main aims: to strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia, and encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.

We know that the effects of poverty can be profound upon people and their communities. Understanding why poverty exists in a prosperous community like ours is the first step towards creating a fairer and more just society.

Involvement in Anti-Poverty Week can take many different forms. Community organisations may wish to showcase the work they do in their communities or organise events that give people assistance and advice and help link them to other services that can support them. Schools can get involved with Anti-Poverty Week through fund raisers and other activities. Local councils can also participate in Anti-Poverty Week by promoting the local government services and organisations that operate in their communities.

Organisations who want to help spread the word about Anti-Poverty Week can also encourage people to get involved through their email newsletters and websites.

Anti-Poverty Week – 11 to 17 October 2015
More than one million Victorians are living near or below the poverty line, painting an alarming picture of increasing disadvantage across the state. Across Australia there are 2.5 million people living below the internationally accepted poverty line of 50 per cent of median income.

Each year during Anti-Poverty Week we seek to strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and within Australia, and to encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.

You can participate in Anti-Poverty Week by organising an activity during the Week or taking part in an activity organised by others.

To contact Victorian Anti-Poverty Week organisers please email vic@antipovertyweek.org.au.

Understanding poverty and inequality in Victoria

Poverty is a fact of life for growing numbers of people in our community. In Victoria today more than one million people are living below or just above the internationally accepted poverty line of 50 per cent of median income.

Housing in Victoria is increasingly unaffordable, renters are disadvantaged in our housing system as they struggle to afford secure tenancies, and home ownership has never been more out of reach.

We are facing a jobs crisis with youth unemployment at its highest level since the 1990s. Victoria’s underemployment rate is the highest it has been in more than 40 years.

Victorian community service organisations are seeing growing demand for more complex problems. Every day they see more people who are struggling to pay their bills, meet their housing costs, get their kids to school and put food on the table.

Financial insecurity, the growth in casual and precarious employment, and increasingly expensive living costs leave many people only one pay cheque or one major change in life circumstance away from crisis.

Family violence is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Victoria. More than one third of women accessing homelessness services do so because they’re fleeing family violence. And 55 per cent of all women with children who accessed specialist homelessness services were escaping violence.

These trends are unsettling, not only because they challenge our notions of Australia as an egalitarian society where everyone is able to have a go, but also because they reveal how many people are vulnerable to poverty.

Poverty in Victoria: by the numbers

More than one million Victorians are living near or below the poverty line.

The most recent ACOSS Poverty Report, released late last year, reveals that 13.9 per cent of all Victorians are living below the poverty line, which is the same level as the national average.

In Victoria today there are more than 650,000 people who are living in poverty, and a further 420,000 who are living just above poverty line. For a single person this poverty line is $400 per week and for a single parent with two children it is $640 per week.

The report found that 61.2 per cent of Australians who are unemployed are living in poverty. This is a particular problem in Victoria. While our general unemployment rate has stabilised at the national average of 6 per cent, our youth unemployment rate running at around 16 per cent on latest figures – its highest level in at least the last 15 years.

There is a higher risk of poverty in regional Victoria – which has a poverty rate of 14.3 per cent – and metropolitan Melbourne – where 13.7 per cent of the population live in poverty.

However, there are many people in regional Victoria living just above the poverty line. Examining the data using a calculation of 60 per cent of median income reveals that there is an astonishingly high 28.8 per cent of people living in regional Victoria who are at risk of poverty. This is 8 per cent higher than in Melbourne – 20.8 per cent – and is the highest level of disparity between metropolitan and regional poverty rates of any state or territory other than Tasmania (when using the 60 per cent of median income figure).

In Australia today there are more than 600,000 children who are living in poverty and children face a substantially higher risk of poverty – at 17.7 per cent – than the wider community.

The data shows that people with multiple factors of disadvantage are more likely to be living in poverty. The risk of poverty is higher for unemployed households or for people who are not in the labour force. The risks are likewise higher for older people, people with a disability, sole-parent families, single adults, and people with mental health needs.

Almost one-third of all people who live below the poverty line in Australia have a wage or salary as their primary income source.

Resources and information on poverty and inequality

ACOSS Inequality Report

The recently released ACOSS Inequality in Australia report found that the richest 20 per cent of Australians now earn around five times as much as those in the bottom 20 per cent. And the wealthiest 20 per cent of Australians hold 70 times the accumulated wealth of the poorest 20 per cent.

When compared to other developed countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), inequality in Australia is higher than the average. We now see more people excluded from economic life – 17.7 per cent of the Australian adult population was considered fully or severely financially excluded in 2012.

 

Dropping off the Edge 2015

Dropping off the Edge 2015 identifies areas of disadvantage in every state and territory of Australia and uncovers the web of factors that must be solved for these communities, and our nation, to thrive. The report by Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services shows clearly that complex and entrenched disadvantage is experienced by a small but persistent number of locations in each state and territory across Australia.

Anglicare Australia: Rental Affordability Snapshot

The 2015 Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot reports shows that affordable housing is still very much out of reach for people living on low incomes. The Snapshot shows that of the more than 65,500 properties assessed for suitability there were less than one per cent available for people living on allowances.

CEDA: Addressing entrenched disadvantage in Australia

Despite Australia’s low unemployment rate and record levels of workforce participation, there are a significant number of communities in Australia experiencing entrenched disadvantage. In this policy perspective, CEDA examines issues associated with the economics of disadvantage, such as:the nature and extent of disadvantage; the cost and dynamics of disadvantage; and new ways to address entrenched disadvantage.

Further reading

The Anti-Poverty Week website has an extensive list of information and resources on poverty and inequality in Australia which you can use to help plan your events and activities.

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