Did you know its Anti-Poverty Week this week? Or that poverty and severe hardship affects a staggering 3 million Australians, including 739,000 children, who are currently living below the internationally-accepted poverty line. These are hard numbers to ignore.
This year’s Poverty in Australia report by the Australian Council of Social Service shows that most of those affected are living in deep poverty, on average living on $135 per week below the poverty line. This must be particularly difficult in large cities where rents and housing are generally expensive and, on top of this, low income has been recognised as a key driver of homelessness.
It is undeniable that the overwhelming majority of these 3 million people, which must include many families, are living in our shires, councils, towns and cities. As the stewards of our communities, we are in a unique position during Anti-Poverty Week to help strengthen our understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship. We can also encourage discussion and action by individuals and our communities and local businesses to address these problems – in addition to what governments at all levels should do – to provide relief and to tackle the root causes. ALGA’s current election advocacy includes a call to support local government’s current work in addressing homelessness in communities.
Anti-Poverty Week is also a time when we can connect with our communities to recognise the great work being done to promote social justice, to provide community service, and to ensure that our programs and places are inclusive and welcoming to all, regardless of their means.
Across the country this week, councils recognised Anti-Poverty Week 2018 by holding fundraising events, walking tours, and food and clothing drives, to name just a few activities. Other councils, such as my own City of Prospect, have advocated for the Newstart Allowance to be increased at the same time as we have maintained a clear focus on attracting investment and new businesses to provide more local jobs.
This bottom-up action at a grassroots level does make a difference and goes a long way in supporting the bigger fight against poverty and hardship in Australia. It can shift attitudes and perspectives, it can create opportunities for connecting with people experiencing exclusion, and it can provide resources, investment and jobs to help alleviate disadvantage.
I would like to leave you this week with this quote from the UN Secretary General, António Guterres:
“Let us remember that ending poverty is not a matter of charity but a question of justice.”
Keep up the great work,
Mayor David O’Loughlin