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Inspiring and informing children to understand poverty and how to end it

Anti-Poverty Week has developed resources and a student writing competition to inspire children to empathise with people experiencing poverty, to understand the facts about poverty and inequality in Australia today and provide constructive solutions to end poverty.

Anti-Poverty Week worked with the ACOSS and UNSW Poverty & Inequality Partnership and Cool Australia to develop a series of 5 Primary and 5 High School teaching resources for Mathematics, English, Health & Physical Education.

“New research on what is driving poverty in Australia is now available to teachers and students for the first time in easy to use classroom resources that educate students on how poverty and inequality exist in Australia and how we can actively reduce the number of people living in poverty and inequality,” said Anti-Poverty Week Executive Director Toni Wren.

For example:

  • A year 3&4 English lesson sets out how a teacher can divide the class into small teams for students to discuss their ideas about the likely impacts of poverty on different people in the community, and to support students to use elements of the persuasive text to structure and compose an orally delivered argument for reducing poverty in Australian communities.
  • In a year 5&6 Mathematics activity, students learn how to analyse current statistics on poverty to do calculations to determine which factors contribute to the chances of falling below the poverty line.
  • In Year 9&10 Health & Physical Education activity, the class uses statistical information to explore the interconnected nature of poverty, health, and social determinants while identifying some of the main drivers of poverty. Students learn how factors such as improved social security payments, employment opportunities, and affordable housing can reduce poverty and improve health outcomes. The lesson culminates in a social action task where students use their voices to advocate for better government policies for those experiencing poverty.

Cool Australia records show that 50,000 students have been taught with these resources since they were published in September 2021.

As Part of Anti-Poverty Week each year Anglicare Australia coordinates the Pens Against Poverty writing award open to all children aged between 8-16 from year 3 to year 10. This year the theme is ‘Finding a Home’, entries are now open until 9 September, 2022. Winners will be announced during Anti-Poverty Week 16-22 October. Teachers can enter their students online.

“Every year we’re amazed by the raw, honest and thoroughly fresh perspectives of the writing we receive from children,” said Kate Halcrow, Pens Against Poverty founder and teacher.

“We’re very excited by the success of Pens Against Poverty in demonstrating the power of poetry and fiction to heighten empathy for people experiencing poverty among young writers and to inspire it in their readers.”

Awarding the 2019 winners at Government House, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) said, “Young people have a unique voice and they want to be heard… Writing an essay or a poem is a powerful way for young people to think about and express their support for people who experience poverty in Australia or overseas.”

The writing award started in the ACT and surrounding areas in 2015 and is now open to nationally to all students from years 3 to 10.  It is led by local Anglicare Australia member agencies across the country.

Extracts from previous Pens Against Poverty winning entries:

Year 9/10 Story

The low-lying clouds covered the car park like a blanket which we sat beneath. Thinking hard about the good things I had witnessed today, but I dread what was to come. I became anxious as the pain entered my body and made its way around every part of me. My blood felt cold, my body shook uncontrollably and my sinuses ached like it was splintered with ice. If I just focus on the yellow streetlight in front of me, I can imagine warmth.

Gabriel Lugg-Restall from St Mary MacKillop College, ACT

Year 9/10 Poetry

She lies on the ground and waits
Like a wounded seagull for food
The passers-by looking down
Not shedding her a tear
Avoiding her existence
Ignoring her desperation
All alone

Jessica Deane Murray Bridge High School, SA

Year 7/8 Story

I could never afford to invite my school friends over and avoided any question about my home life. I may not have looked like I was poor as my “Vinnies sponsored” wardrobe hid my reality. Every day after school I would run to the Seven Eleven a few blocks away, quickly squeeze in some homework, then rush into my uniform and work my shift. After work, I would run home in the dark, late as usual and hand over most of the money I earned that day to my older sister.

Anya Grace, Emmaus Christian School, (ACT)


Find out more:

Poverty and Inequality in Australia Teaching Resources

Pens Against Poverty student writing competition      How to enter

You can also download the Pens against Poverty A3 poster here



Media Contacts:

Anti-Poverty Week Carolin Wenzel   0417 668 957      

Toni Wren, ED Anti-Poverty Week