As more than four million students prepare to go back or start school this week, the shocking truth is that one in six Australian children, or five students in a classroom of 30, are growing up in poverty, which diminishes their school and life outcomes.
Government data shows that in September 2022 over 413,000 families with children relied on below-poverty level income support payments such as JobSeeker and Parenting Payments. 420,000 low-income families with children receive Commonwealth Rent Assistance (a third of recipients).
Anti-Poverty Week, which is supported by Australia’s largest charities and community organisations, calls on the Federal Government to commit to act to reduce poverty, especially child poverty.
A recent Smith Family survey found parents in financial hardship are worried they can’t afford uniforms, books, digital technology or excursions.
The scathing Productivity Commission report into School Reforms stressed that more needs to be done for students experiencing disadvantage – who are three times more likely to fall behind than other students.
Anti-Poverty Week ED Toni Wren says:
“We know that all children can thrive and be healthy if they have what they need to develop well. Poverty reduction must be central to new strategies being developed to improve economic equality and child well-being. Effective measures to lift 760,000 Australian children out of poverty is urgently needed and will have lasting benefits.
“The Albanese government has established three golden opportunities to tackle child poverty: The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce, the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee and development of an Early Years Strategy.”
- The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce set up to advance women’s economic equality and achieve gender equality must address the high rate of poverty among families led by single mothers.
- Anti-Poverty Week calls on this task force to recommend restoring access to the Parenting Payment Single until their youngest child turns 16 and to review the woefully inadequate child support scheme (where at least $2 billion is owed in payments).
- The Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, tasked with advising on the adequacy, effectiveness and sustainability of income support payments –
- Anti-Poverty Week calls on this Committee to recommend substantial increases to JobSeeker and related payments, so everyone can afford the basics including rent, food, medication and education, to increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance and to review family payments.
- The Early Years Summit on 17 February must consider the immediate and lifelong impacts of poverty on children under five.
- Anti-Poverty Week calls for the financial needs and support of families with children under 5 to be central to addressing child wellbeing in any Early Years Strategy that is developed.
The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) found in 2021 that more than 1 in 5 Australian children (22%) were assessed as developmentally vulnerable when they started school, potentially reducing good health, education and social outcomes later in life. For children living in the most disadvantaged areas, more than a third started school developmentally vulnerable.
Children in the most disadvantaged areas had twice the rate of vulnerability in their physical health and well-being and they were four times as likely to be developmentally vulnerable in language and cognitive skills as children in the most advantaged areas.
“We should follow the lead of the New Zealand government which has committed to halving child poverty under the Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018,” said Toni Wren. In Anti-Poverty Week 2022 we called on our Federal Parliamentarians to pass legislation to halve child poverty by 2030, with measurable targets and actions to achieve this goal. Setting targets enshrined in legislation works and changes lives for the better.”
Read more on how New Zealand tackles child poverty
Read Opinion Piece by ED Toni Wren, published in Canberra Times on 30/01/2023
 Source: 4,030,717 students were enrolled in schools across Australia in 2021, according to Schools, 2021 | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au) published February 2022.