“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.  Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
– Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

Anti-Poverty Week is a week where all Australians are encouraged to organise or take part in an activity aiming to highlight and overcome issues of poverty and hardship in Australia or overseas. It was established in Australia as an expansion of the United Nation’s annual International Anti-Poverty Day on 17th October.  This year, Anti Poverty Week will be held from the 15th to the 21st of October.

The intrinsic link between child abuse and neglect and poverty has long been understood.  The issue of intergenerational disadvantage is also widely known and understood.  Alleviating poverty continues to allude us.

Poverty and severe hardship impact more than a million Australians. Around the world, more than a billion people live in extreme poverty. Recent analysis based on the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia panel data suggests that approximately one in ten children aged under 18 years live in income related poverty. The situation is significantly worse for children living in single parent families where around one in four live below the poverty line.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) found 618,000 people aged under 25 years and 494,000 aged under 15 were living in poverty in 2010-11. NATSEM identified location and housing costs as significant causes of childhood poverty. Analysis of the 2013-14 Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Survey of Income and Housing data highlights that home ownership is out of reach for many families with children. Furthermore, more than 60% of lower income, single parent households with children aged under 15 years pay unaffordable rent. Close to half of two parent families are in similar housing stress.

For some, housing costs account for around 60% of weekly income. This leaves little for food, clothes and other essential items for children or their parents. 737,528 children aged 0-14 years and 831,806 aged under 25 were living in unaffordable housing in 2013-14.

Research has begun to highlight the difficulties families with children face in the Australian housing market. The evidence suggests housing market conditions create an additional form of disadvantage among families on low to moderate incomes.  It also suggests that these conditions are worsening over time.

Lower-income and single parent families are at a particular disadvantage. Social housing which was once a safety net for the most vulnerable families is no longer adequate to accommodate the range and number of families in need of support.

In Economic predictors of child maltreatment in an Australian population-based birth cohort (2017), James C Doidge, Daryl J Higgins, Paul Delfabbro, Ben Edwards, Suzanne Vassallo, John W Toumbourou and Leonie Segal note that economic factors independently predicted all forms of child maltreatment. They also found that poverty and parental unemployment were the strongest determinants of maltreatment.  An estimated 27.3% of child maltreatment was attributable to economic factors:

Economic factors were associated with all types of child maltreatment. For the most part, these associations diminished only partially when controlling for noneconomic confounders, supporting hypotheses of causal relationships. Jointly, economic factors were significant predictors of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and witnessing of domestic violence but not of emotional abuse or neglect. Retrospective perceptions of childhood poverty were, in particular, strongly associated with most forms of child maltreatment but not with sexual abuse after accounting for other economic factors. We estimated that 27% of all child maltreatment was jointly attributable to economic factors. These findings suggest that strategies that reduce economic disadvantage are likely to hold significant potential to reduce the prevalence of child maltreatment.

Experts call for focused policy, including housing policy and integrated service delivery policies across housing, education, employment, justice and health, as well as a robust evidence base to support it.  These changes are essential if we are to improve the life chances of Australian children.

The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to: strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia and to encourage research, discussion and action to address these issues, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.

All are encouraged to run activities that meet the week’s aims.  Some activities are organised by welfare and health organisations, religious groups, community organisations, schools and youth groups. Government departments, local councils, business organisations, universities and sporting and cultural groups also hold events.

Anti-Poverty Week is overseen by Facilitating Groups at the national and state and territory level. They include representatives from organisations that are actively involved in efforts to reduce poverty and hardship in Australia and overseas. The National Coordinator is Jill Lang and the National Liaison Officer is Shaun Buckton. The current Co-Chairs of Queensland are Ian Roberts, CEO of Anglicare North Queensland and Karyn Walsh, CEO of Micah Projects.

To align with the United Nations’ International Day to Eradicate Poverty, 17th October, Micah Projects will be hosting a public forum to address the issues of financial hardship, inequality, homelessness and isolation.  All are invited to participate in this innovative forum to discuss and share strategies for eliminating poverty and inequality in Queensland. Book your ticket online.

For more information on Anti-Poverty week events, visit the website.