Poverty in Australia 2016 – the Right to Home

Jack de Groot, CEO St Vincent de Paul Society NSW

On the weekend I attended the launch of the ACOSS Poverty in Australia 2016 Report.

It puts the numbers behind the daily stories that the members and staff of the St Vincent de Paul Society know too well through our service to some of the three million Australians living in poverty.  Stories of degrading human misery have too often become the target of individualising and blaming the person living with the effects of poverty. 

The report covers:

  • The very young – the future of our country of whom 700,000 live in poverty, through to
  • Older Australians, particularly women who, after raising children, working intermittently in lower paid jobs, with poor health and who are alone now after the dissolution of relationships, face their old age with the fear of homelessness, the inadequacy of food and the concern of their inability to pay their electricity, gas and water bills.

This level of poverty where one in every eight Australian is living in poverty is a systemic and structural issue that needs community, government, business and industry all sharing the responsibility to drive change.

This year for the first time the report examines the realities of housing in the profile of poverty.  60 per cent of people living below the poverty line are in the rental market (44 per cent in the private rental market).  The quality of that housing, the insecurity of tenure of tenancy and the vulnerability to the vagaries of rental prices make their lives vulnerable.  This is a clear sign that social and public policy must change to reach a far more sustainable housing solution for all Australians. 

We at Vinnies know that older women in particular can experience an increasing vulnerability in regard to housing.

Housing is the biggest cost of living for Australians – it needs to be a policy focus for governments, industry and the community.  Everyone has the right to home and that right can only be honoured by a strong policy commitment to its achievement.

This report of quantities, measurements and analysis poses a fundamental challenge.  We need to set targets to eradicate poverty in Australia.  Here are two:

  1. Implement the statement under the UN Sustainable Development Goal (to which the Australian Government is already committed): by 2030 reduce at least by half the number of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.
  2. That an inclusive housing policy is adopted by all state governments to achieve 15 per cent affordable housing quotas in all new developments.

Vinnies is launching The Right to Home campaign during Anti-Poverty Week (16-22 Oct). We have developed a series of comprehensive recommendations for Commonwealth, State and local governments including a petition. 

The right to home is a fundamental change to reduce the prevalence of poverty in Australia. Please join your voice with ours.