As Christmas nears, most Australians look forward to joyous celebrations with family and friends, but for some, the festive period can be a difficult, stressful and isolating time of year.

Many of the families we support face a daily struggle to put food on the table, to pay the bills and to ensure their children are clothed. The things many of us take for granted are rare treats, luxuries or indulgences that are out of reach. They live day to day, hand to mouth, forever terrified that that one small incident or bill could mean the ends don’t meet.

For these families, Christmas is a giant, tinselled coalescing of all these stresses and fears. While we can all bemoan the excesses of Christmas it’s not so easy to side-step them; just try explaining to a four-year-old why Santa won’t be stopping by this year.

Sadly, there are a lot of children who may not get a visit. A recent report showed one in six children are living in poverty in Australia.

We are trying to help those families who can’t afford presents through the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal and we appreciate the generous support of the community.

But poverty goes beyond Christmas – it is a 365 day-a-year concern. The small child who doesn’t get a visit from Santa, may also not get the medical supports they need, or the access to educational opportunities available to peers. And the bitter cycle of poverty and inequality continues.

There is an urgent need to redouble our efforts to tackle entrenched poverty. We know that for so many of our service users the crippling cost of rent is a significant proportion of their income. Addressing the affordable and social housing crisis is one way we can start to break the cycle of poverty.

It’s also time that we had a discussion about the adequacy of income support payments. Most Australians imagine there is such a thing as a welfare safety net but increasingly it is fraying, holes are appearing, further entrenching people into poverty. We believe it is time for an honest and open discussion about how we want to help Australians who are experiencing poverty.

The current income support payments are often inadequate to meet a person’s basic living expenses and we need a safety net which keeps pace with living standards.

Unemployment allowances need to be increased to meet basic needs and Commonwealth Rent Assistance should be lifted or redesigned to keep up with the real costs of housing and allow people to live where there is growth in the job market.

While these changes won’t be made in time for Christmas, we will continue to advocate for policies that better serve those most in need, while we provide immediate support to vulnerable Australians.

It is a national shame that after 25 years of economic growth, we have not done better at changing this trajectory and ensuring our most precious national resource, our children, are given the best possible start in life.

If you are struggling to cope this Christmas don’t forget that Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14. If you would like to make a donation to help us continue supporting the thousands of Australian families without a safe place to call home this Christmas visit our Christmas appeal page.

Catherine Yeomans


Catherine Yeomans
CEO Mission Australia


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