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Australia’s poverty pandemic

Australia’s poverty pandemic

With the impact of Covid-19 and its implications on the Australian socio-economic climate, it’s safe to say that most of us have been itching for normality to resume. As for the rest of us - we’ve (unashamedly) already written off the disaster-class that is 2020.

But the truth is, while the current pandemic has definitely overstayed its welcome - it hasn’t hit us all equally. Coronavirus may have unsettled the globe, but there’s a pre-existing pandemic that’s affected us for centuries: poverty.

Anti-Poverty Week gives us the opportunity to break down the cloud of assumptions surrounding poverty. By definition, it’s a state of being poor. But on the surface, this can sound pretty simplistic.

When we trail deeper, poverty is really about socio-economic uncertainty. It’s a lack of opportunity and agency - and without concrete governmental assistance, it remains a systemic injustice that keeps vulnerable people rooted in an unbreakable cycle.

The reality is, superficial definitions of poverty can oversimplify and isolate a matter that creates invisible struggles for millions of people. Unless we target the complex barriers that keep these struggles in place, every solution can feel like a bandaid approach.

And here's the thing: right now there are over 3 million Australians living below the poverty line. When we look beneath the surface and address the root causes of this, we’ll find that unemployment, unaffordable housing and lack of income support all majorly contribute to Australia’s poverty crisis.

Last month, the Australian government slashed the JobSeeker (and Newstart) coronavirus supplement in half and removed eviction bans for over 8 million renters. The government has chosen to rescind their temporary support, meaning more Australians will now inevitably fall below the poverty line by December of this year.

As a nation, we’re in danger of going backwards. The Covid-19 crisis has put a giant dent in our economy; an economy that for years has drawn a clear binary between the wealthy and the poor.

Over the last 4 years, Australian homelessness has surged by a crazy 13.7% - and it’s no surprise that housing and rent prices are still skyrocketing.

This year, Anti-Poverty Week has partnered with the Everybody’s Home campaign, identifying Australia’s broken housing crisis as a clear contributor to the poverty pandemic. It pinpoints 5 key areas that need to be addressed if Australia is to fix its housing system:

  1. Supporting first home-buyers
  2. Implementing a National Housing Strategy
  3. Removing “no grounds” evictions and improving renting stability
  4. Increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance
  5. Strategising a plan to end homelessness by 2030

Right now, Australia ranks 3rd globally in the least affordable housing market. For us to have a fairer Australia, everyone should have a safe place to call home. Investing in social housing will decrease homelessness and create more employment opportunities - targeting two pivotal areas of the poverty crisis.

Let’s not write-off 2020 just yet. We still have the capacity to fight and be heard by using our greatest tools; our empathy and our voice. Poverty may seem like an umbrella term - but when broken down, there are things we can do to make sure we’re progressing as a nation.

At Oaktree, we’ll be channeling the spirit of Anti-Poverty Week to try out Dine Below the Line (and those of us crazy enough will be doing LBL for a second time). Though the food tantrums, mood swings and cravings will hit us hard, we’ll be using this platform to raise funds to help people break out of cycles of poverty.

By joining this fight, it means you believe in equality and justice and that everyone deserves to live comfortably in a society where we can all thrive. If you feel passionate about this cause, why not take a leap and sign up for DBL as well?

Join the movement today and make a difference.