In a wealthy country like Australia everybody should have enough to eat, somewhere to live, clothes, education, and health expenses. Without all of these, a person is in poverty.

Underestimating the level of inequality in our society

Most Australians underestimate the size of the differential of wealth and income between those in the top 10% and those in the bottom 90%. In one survey, the average Australian thought the richest 20% had four times more wealth than the poorest, when the most recent ABS data show that the actual differential is 60 times. When people are made aware of the differential, evidence suggests they are firmly supportive of early remedial action.

Messaging on poverty and poverty alleviation

Dr Cassandra Goldie - Chief Executive Officer, ACOSS, suggests, “We need to shift the mindset that poverty is a reflection of the individual, and instead view eradicating poverty as a shared responsibility.”

Several commentators focus on poverty as a reflection of policy, rather than simply due to a lack of resources. There is not a lack of overall resources in Australia, it is simply the way those resources are distributed. 

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, states, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

Brotherhood of St Laurence frames poverty this way: "More than just a lack of money, poverty means being denied what most of us take for granted: a secure job, a home, a sense of belonging, connection to others, empowerment and dignity. We want a more compassionate and just society where everyone can thrive – an Australia where everyone has a fair go."

Shifting the narrative about poverty

In June 2020, several community service organisations (Anglicare WA, WACOSS, Ruah, Communicare, Uniting WA, Foodbank) commissioned a survey by Painted Dog on perceptions of poverty. These are some of the key findings of the ‘Above the Line Perceptions of Poverty’ report:

  • West Australians have empathy for fellow West Australians, almost 75% support a permanent increase of JobSeeker.
  • Nearly all Western Australians agree that poverty in Australia is unacceptable in any form, and we should look after people in need. 
  • There is a gap between what we perceive as enough money just to live, compared to how much money we think someone in poverty needs to live. Almost 75% of WA’s believe the JobSeeker rate should be higher because the current amount is too low to live on.  This opinion is held no matter what respondents' political leanings are. Only 10% believed JobSeeker was adequate for basic living.”

 

“We are a wealthy country, and our people should not have to struggle to feed their children and put a roof over their heads.”