Making sure everybody has a home


29 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected people living in poverty across the country, says Anti-Poverty Week executive director Toni Wren. Australia’s 2020 campaign will focus on ways to increase community understanding of poverty and collective measures to end it.

“A number of key national reports will be launched in Anti-Poverty Week (Sunday 11 October - Saturday 17 October) this year: the 2020 Foodbank Hunger Report; the 2020 Jobs Availability Snapshot from Anglicare Australia and a new report from The Salvation Army, What Australia should look like post COVID-19,” says Wren.

More than 13.6 per cent of Australians, or 3.24 million people, were living below the poverty line in 2020, according to a joint report by the Australian Council of Social Services and the University of New South Wales. This includes 774,000 children.

Pandemic fallout

Australian National University researchers estimate that the federal government’s COVID-19 supplement payments (JobSeeker and JobKeeper) introduced in July temporarily reduced the number of people living in poverty to 2.6 million, however numbers are expected to rise by one third to reach 3.5 million people by the end of 2020.

The supplement is protecting more than one in five of all Australian children living in families who were previously unemployed, under-employed or have become unemployed since the COVID-19 pandemic struck,” Ms Wren says.

A survey of 630 families conducted by the National Council of Single Mothers & Their Children found recipients were dreading the impact of cuts to the supplement, which begin this month.

“Unemployment is also on the rise as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, severely impacting those who were already out of work or didn’t have enough work before the bushfires and pandemic hit,” Ms Wren says.

How can schools get involved?

There are lots of ways students of all ages can participate in Anti-Poverty Week, even if they are learning at home.

Looking at local poverty is a powerful way to connect students with the issues in their own community. Students could explore the work of a local community group or welfare organisation and look at practical ways to alleviate poverty in their area.

Exploring different socio-economic groups in Australia and how they vary by region can help students understand how disadvantage can be avoided or resolved.

Understanding global poverty offers opportunities for students to learn about other countries, trade, aid and the relationships between nations. Young people could be encouraged to learn how everyday actions, such as shopping choices, might affect people in other counties and contribute to, or help, those living in poverty.

Primary school students might like to draw, build or research different types of homes around the globe and the materials used to build them, or write a letter to a student living in a different type of home to their own.

Anti-Poverty Week teaching resources include articles, fact sheets, videos, podcasts and reports.

Cool Australia also offers teaching resources on homelessness that fit in with the Everybody’s Home theme of Anti-Poverty Week 2020.

What can students do?

Year 3 to Year 10 students in southern New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia will be using their writing skills in a Pens Against Poverty competition.

Schools in other states are encouraged to conduct their own competitions and use the competition’s resources to help their students find a voice against poverty.

What have schools done for Anti-Poverty Week in the past?

COVID-19 restrictions will place a limit on activities students can undertake in 2020, but here are some examples undertaken in previous years that could be replicated in 2020.

  • Hold a ‘plain rice day’, where students eat only a bowl of rice for the day and then write about or discuss.
  • Nominate and vote on a song related to a poverty issue. Or write one together.
  • Write letters to local Members of Parliament about addressing poverty in the local community.
  • Run a poverty poster competition and post on social media.
  • Brainstorm creative fundraising activities that can be held online and through social media.

Social media resources are available here.