What are the issues?

Economic justice 

  • 325,700 people in WA (12.8%) are living in poverty.[1]
  • The rate of child poverty in WA has been steadily rising, and WA now has the third highest poverty rate in Australia
  • Over a quarter of single parents are living in poverty
  • 5 million renters in Australia are in poverty, with the poorest families left with no more than $150 per week after housing costs are paid
  • Income poverty is defined as less than 50% of the median income.
  • The poverty line is approximately $451 per person per week, after housing costs.
  • It’s expensive to be poor. When living paycheck to paycheck, it is difficult to buy energy efficient appliances, bulk buy food or other goods, pay bills upfront or save for an emergency.
  • Poverty is more than an absence of material income or wealth. Non-material aspects include inadequate education, chronic health conditions, social exclusion, living in unsafe conditions or under the threat of violence. These factors are all intertwined and can be understood to have a compounding effect as contributors to poverty, as well as being exacerbated by living in poverty.


  • Australia has never been more prosperous, yet we are facing growing inequality.
  • Inequality has two forms: income inequality and wealth inequality
  • Someone in the highest 20% of the income scale lives in a household with almost six times as much income as someone in the lowest 20% of the income scale.[2]
  • Wealth inequality is even more pronounced. The richest 10% of households has an average of $6.1 million and almost half of all wealth (46%), while the lower 60% (with an average of $376,000) has just 17% of all wealth.[3]


  • Public attitudes and behaviour are a significant driver in shifting social policy.
  • A survey of over 500 Western Australians found that 85% agreed that Australia should be a country that looks after those in need
  • 70% of those surveyed supported a permanent increase of JobSeeker.[4]

What can be done?

  • Poverty and inequality are the result of policy choices. Poverty can be reduced when Governments commit to making it a priority and take action to increase rates of income support above the poverty line.
  • An increase in COVID-related welfare supplements resulted in a drop in demand for financial counselling and emergency relief services. An ACOSS/UNSW COVID, Inequality and Poverty report [5], shows:
    • Between 2019 and the middle of 2020, the percentage of people in poverty fell from 11.8% to 9.9% despite the recession.
    • Among people in households on the JobSeeker Payment, poverty fell from 76% in 2019 to just 15% in June 2020.
  • Research consistently shows that high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) greatly reduces risks, and improves development, school readiness and future success into adulthood.
  • Access to public services such as transportation, healthcare and social services can significantly reduce inequality.
  • People with experiences of poverty are experts in their own lives and should have the opportunity to contribute to the policy making process and the development of solutions.





[1] Duncan A, ‘Behind the Line: Poverty and disadvantage in Australia 2022’, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Focus on the States Series, #9, March 2022.

[2] ACOSS/UNSW (2022) Poverty & Inequality

[3] ACOSS/UNSW (2023) The Wealth Inequality Pandemic.

[4] Based on a survey of 573 Western Australians, conducted by UWA Centre for Human and Cultural Values. 2022.

[5] Davidson, P., (2022) A tale of two pandemics: COVID, inequality and poverty in 2020 and 2021 ACOSS/UNSW Sydney Poverty and Inequality Partnership, Build Back Fairer Series, Report No. 3,