This month, Anti-Poverty Week runs across two weeks from 15-27 October. It’s a time for a rallying chorus for change, a demand for action and a call to build a more equitable future for all of us.

There are 3.3 million people living in poverty in Australia, and that includes one in six (760,000+) children. The profound impact is far-reaching – from fewer educational opportunities to physical and mental health challenges and the unsettling insecurity of not knowing where the next meal will come from or whether a safe, stable home will ever be found. 

We also know that poverty – together with adequate affordable housing supply - is the main underlying structural cause of homelessness. Alleviating poverty is an essential part of preventing and ending homelessness for good.

Poverty can touch every aspect of a someone’s life. Parents do all they can to support their children's education. But because of their financial circumstances, they often don't have the resources to help their children get what they need, like learning materials, digital devices, or a conducive study environment.

People and families in poverty often have difficulty affording medication and medical care, eat less or skip meals, and almost all those living in private rentals are spending the bulk of their income on a safe place to sleep at night. There is no buffer for emergencies. 

People trapped in poverty encounter formidable barriers to accessing employment opportunities and acquiring skills necessary for success in a competitive job market. It’s hard to look for work when you are hungry or experiencing homelessness or enter education and training when you don't have enough to afford the basics. 

On the frontline, our staff see and work alongside people having to forego essentials because of poverty and distress.

We cannot stand by and let this happen in a wealthy country like Australia. We all know poverty is a societal choice. Governments have the power to end poverty and we all have a role to play. The way we think about poverty and the way we prioritise it as an issue can shift government opinion and action.

Mission Australia urges the Federal Government to start by permanently increasing JobSeeker to at least $76 a day. Adequately raising income support is a crucial policy response. We firmly believe that income support should do what it’s designed to do: protect people from poverty, not condemn them to it.

Australia’s housing emergency contributes significantly to poverty and homelessness, as more and more people and families find themselves putting most of their income towards keeping a roof over their heads.

Mission Australia’s frontline staff are seeing a new phenomenon of people who are employed needing our help. People can’t afford skyrocketing power bills while at the same time their rent is going up. Our frontline workers tell us people who have jobs are coming in, having a shower and breakfast – then going to work and going “home” to sleep in their cars.

When I visit Mission Australia’s services, no matter where I go in Australia, staff tell me the housing situation is the worst they’ve seen it. There are simply no long-term affordable options to refer people to. Too many people and families are forced into homelessness. Too many are missing out on important employment and education opportunities, often suffering in silence and experiencing immense distress or mental health challenges without the stability of a safe and stable place to call home.

By lifting income support payments and urgently building significantly more social and affordable housing, this will make a profound difference in countless people’s lives.

As we mark Anti-Poverty Week, it’s important we do all we can to ensure everyone has the chance to lead a fulfilling life, regardless of background or circumstances.

Let’s all work towards a shared vision of building an equitable society where the shackles of poverty hold no one back and everyone can access the opportunities and things they need to thrive. 


Photo of Sharon, CEO of Mission Australia.


Sharon Callister
CEO Mission Australia


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