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Change of Thinking Needed to Break Cycle of Disadvantage


31 August 2018 at 1:29 pm
Maggie Coggan
A charity group is calling for politicians to stop putting entrenched disadvantage in the “too hard basket”, after a report revealed the number of people living below the poverty line hasn’t declined in over 30 years.


Maggie Coggan | 31 August 2018 at 1:29 pm


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Change of Thinking Needed to Break Cycle of Disadvantage
31 August 2018 at 1:29 pm

A charity group is calling for politicians to stop putting entrenched disadvantage in the “too hard basket”, after a report revealed the number of people living below the poverty line hasn’t declined in over 30 years.

The report, released by the Productivity Commission, analysed the latest research and evidence around inequality and poverty.

It showed 2.2 million Australians had experienced income poverty in 2015-16, with children and older people most likely to have experienced rates of relative income poverty.  

The number of people below the poverty line had fluctuated since 1988-89, it said, but despite 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth, had not declined.

“People living in single-parent families, unemployed people, people with disabilities and Indigenous Australians are particularly likely to experience income poverty, deprivation and social exclusion,” the report said.

As reported by The Guardian, the Productivity Commission’s chair, Peter Harris said the findings were alarming because “the proportion of Australians living below the poverty line ought to have reduced” because of “significant investment in redistribution of income in recent decades”.  

Save the Children director of Australian programs, Heather Finlayson said the fact children under the age of 15 were “specifically identified” was “deeply concerning”.

“Poverty, deprivation and social exclusion is not only damaging for a child right now, it has flow on effects for the rest of their lives. It will impact their engagement with education, future employment and their prospect of living a happy and productive life,” Finlayson said.

She said “the time for action” was now, and urged the federal government to look for new solutions.

“It is time for politicians to stop putting entrenched disadvantage in the ‘too hard basket’ and work with communities and other organisations to find better ways of untangling these complicated cycles,” she said.

She believed “cross sector collaboration” within the social sector and government agencies was needed to lift the cycle of entrenched disadvantage.

“Their issues can’t be dealt with in a single service response… these people are actually facing multiple barriers like housing insecurity, unstable employment, low rates of education and substance abuse,” Finlayson said.

“It needs to be focused on the clients or the families that you’re working with from a joint perspective, rather than a single agency funding…I guess we’re asking for everybody to work collaboratively rather than competing against one another.”

As Australia looks towards its fourth decade of uninterrupted growth, the report suggested policies in housing or health “could be better fashioned” than they currently are, to directly address the “quite specific needs” of those living below the poverty line.

Finlayson said she hoped the cycle would be broken, but there was a long road ahead.

“Unless we do some sort of intervening and start to think differently about how we can work to break these cycles, things won’t improve,” she said.

“Our children deserve no less than that.”


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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