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How government can reduce poverty in Australia – Senate Inquiry

Anti-Poverty Week Executive Director Toni Wren presented evidence on the extent of Poverty in Australia today and a range of Government actions that could end or reduce it at the Senate Inquiry into the Nature and Extent of Poverty in Australia.

Current government policies on the level of JobSeeker and other payments, and harsh rules regarding Parenting Payment Single are locking more than 3 million Australians, including 1 in 6 children, in poverty.

“In a wealthy country like Australia it is simply wrong that we choose to keep this many people in poverty where they struggle to pay the rent, feed their families, afford dental and medical care or to buy new shoes,” said Toni Wren.

“The pandemic shone a light on what is important for us as a society – our health, caring for each other, our ability to see and connect with loved ones. We experienced the pain of having our health, income, freedom, our connection to others restricted or constrained – well living in Poverty is like living in permanent lock down.”

“Yet by simply increasing the rate of unemployment payments, through the additional Coronavirus Supplement, an enormous amount of good was done – millions were lifted out of poverty and child poverty halved.

“Single mothers shared the remarkable impact this payment increase had on their lives in the 550 Reasons to Smile campaign:

This money means that when one of my children says they need new shoes I don’t sit and cry because I have to choose between shoes, the small amount I have for food or rent.

I’ve been able to buy real ingredients and make proper meals for the kids. My rent is no longer 60% of my total income, and I can buy household items I’ve been needing for years.

It has helped me so much in being able to help my child to be clothed and eat more healthy options, to keep my house warm during the winter.

“It is deeply distressing that our government chose to reverse this when they cut the Coronavirus Supplement and again lock millions of Australians and their children in poverty and impede their ability to thrive and be healthy.”

Anti-Poverty Week’s submission presents these solutions to drastically reduce poverty in Australia:

  • increase the adequacy of JobSeeker and family payments, so everyone can afford the basics including rent, food, medication and education
  • increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance so everyone has a safe place to call home
  • restore access to Parenting Payment Single until the youngest child turns 16, and
  • review our woefully inadequate child support scheme to reduce the number of children living in poverty.
  • Follow the lead of New Zealand and pass legislation to halve child poverty by 2030


Anti-Poverty Week accepts the invitation to walk with our First Nations brothers and sisters in seeking a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution.  Long overdue, it’s simply the right thing to do.  It’s also the smart thing to do, as we can’t work together to tackle their poverty without their voice.

As Catherine Liddle, CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s peak, SNAICC, has said “When you look at all the investigations …as a result of the despair that we see in our communities, they all point to poverty – and that poverty absolutely is rooted in a lack of self-determination.”

Read the Transcript of hearings 27 February

Download full public hearing program for 27 February

Read Anti-Poverty Week Submission (17)

Read Anti-Poverty Week Submission on our website