Indigenous Australians
Many generally regard Australia as a wealthy and successful country, but in the past year, more than one in five Australians (about 22%) have faced food insecurity. Indigenous Australians experience food insecurity at a disproportionate rate. More than 26% of Indigenous households ran out of food at least once in 2019 and were unable to buy more due to high prices. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) found that percentage to be even higher at 43% in remote Indigenous communities.

Who Are the Indigenous Australians?

Indigenous Australians are the descendants of people who lived in Australia and the surrounding areas prior to European colonization in the late 18th century. They comprise approximately 3% of the total population of Australia and have classification under two groups of Indigenous communities: the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders. One-third of all Indigenous Australians live in developed cities, while two-thirds live in rural areas across the country.

What Causes Food Insecurity for Indigenous Peoples?

Reports from locals of moldy produce and overpriced food have been surfacing in sparsely populated areas, prompting questions about the quality of food provided to the Indigenous communities of Australia. At the heart of the conversation is Outback Stores, a not-for-profit and federally funded grocery store chain. The organization emerged to supply Indigenous Australians with access to a wide array of healthy, high-quality food and protect against food insecurity, but locals say it is failing.

Outback Stores has 40 locations that serve rural and remote communities, 26 of which CEO Michael Borg called “unviable or barely viable.” Submissions to the local federal inquiry have claimed “disgusting” pricing of products, saying items such as a can of baby formula and a single pack of diapers are tagged at $50 each. Many available products are also either inedible or unwanted, deterring people from purchasing them even if they could afford to. Many community members have reported that week-old fruits and vegetables rotting in fridges are the only healthy produce options and shelves contain bags of sugar. One resident wrote that Spam, two-minute noodles and white bread were the only food staples available if you were “hungry enough to buy what is in [front] of you.”

How Does Food Insecurity Connect to Poverty?

Health and well-being are also a large concern with food insecurity. Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to live with a chronic illness or other disability compared to non-Indigenous Australians. A prolonged lack of access to healthy food causes subsequent poor nutrition and results in heightened illness and disease rates in Indigenous communities.

Rural Indigenous peoples live in more poverty compared to urban Australians, and they face limited access to work opportunities, education and social services. Poverty is the strongest factor in predicting food insecurity, as determined by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). The CAEPR found that a lack of money to keep up with growing food prices is the primary culprit of food insecurity, not a lack of food supply to the community.

What Organizations are Helping?

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) emerged in 2019 to protect Indigenous people and support ethical policy development and service delivery in their communities. Representatives of the NIAA have reached out to over 200 store managers that serve Indigenous peoples in order to fully understand their needs and how to best allocate funding and resources. The NIAA’s goal is to identify problems that directly affect Indigenous Australians and make them a priority in state, territory and national government agendas.

In addition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has the task of closely monitoring the prices of essential products to guard against inflation in Indigenous communities. In recent investigations into the complaints of overpricing, the ACCC found that product prices reflect the increased cost of supplying inventory to the stores, not stores attempting to increase profits. Since many Indigenous communities live within hundreds of miles inside the Australian outback, swift deliveries to the area are a challenge. As a result, the Australian government is striving to improve the supply chain costs of rural vendors serving Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Australians face food insecurity at a disproportionate rate compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Many Indigenous peoples are struggling to feed their families as rural supermarket prices continue to rise and healthy options are few and far between. The Australian government and departments like the NIAA are partnering with Indigenous communities to create a cheaper and healthier food supply, combat food insecurity and protect the health and well-being of their Indigenous people.

– Mya Longacre
Photo: Pixabay

fighting covid-19 with innovationSince the first diagnosis of COVID-19, the virus has spread to more than 200 countries. The unanticipated challenges of the pandemic take a significant toll on people, especially those in countries where the accessibility of essential resources and healthcare are limited. Despite this fact, nations around the world have demonstrated their resilience and critical thinking during this calamitous time. COVID-19 has revealed negligence in economic and healthcare systems all over the world, but it has also inspired innovation in science and technology. It is clear that humanity looks to overcome these difficulties and build the world into a better place. Here are four countries that are fighting COVID-19 with innovation.

4 Countries Fighting COVID-19 with Innovation

  1. Iran is developing a low-cost, easy-to-build ventilator. It is being developed at the University of Tehran’s School of Electrical & Computer Engineering. The ventilator is for patients with severe respiratory distress. Hospitals around the world have been experiencing a shortage of ventilators due to their elaborate structure and high production cost, which inhibits quick, large-scale manufacturing of the machines. The lead scientist of this endeavor, Hadi Moradi, has made this an open-source ventilator. He plans to share his team’s design with other scientists so that they can modify and build ventilators for their own communities.
  2. In Uganda, Grace Nakibaala created the PedalTap. It is an affordable, foot-operated water dispensing device that reduces the spread of infectious diseases. In Uganda, people have a 60% chance of contracting an infectious disease if they wash their hands in a public sink because the handles can be unsanitary. Nakibaala’s device works hands-free so that people can avoid contact with viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19. It is also water-efficient, retrofittable and durable, making it a sustainable technology among those fighting COVID-19 with innovation.
  3. Australia has recently launched a contact-tracing app called COVIDSafe. The app uses Bluetooth technology to find other devices with the app installed. It measures how far users are from each other and how much time they spend together. COVIDSafe keeps users’ contact information for three weeks before deleting it, to account for the two-week incubation period of the virus. Users diagnosed with the virus may upload their close contact information. This allows health officials to look up others who are diagnosed, find the COVIDSafe users they have come into contact with and instruct them on what to do.
  4. In China, patients at a Beijing hospital are receiving mesenchymal stem cell injections. These injections are helpful for regenerating lung tissue, allowing patients to fend off COVID-19. So far, researchers reported the results of seven patients treated with stem cells. Each patient suffered from COVID-19 symptoms, and each received a single infusion of mesenchymal stem cells. A few days later, researchers said that symptoms disappeared in all seven patients and that there were no reported side effects. Currently, 120 patients are receiving stem cell treatment, and while more clinical testing is necessary to validate these trials, the results look promising.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on healthcare and political systems worldwide. However, these four nations have demonstrated that they can productively conquer the challenges that the virus brings. Along with these four, other nations worldwide are responding to these unprecedented issues in novel and innovative ways, fighting COVID-19 with innovation and redefining healthcare for generations to come.

Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

Housing in Australia
For the past 30 years, Australia has experienced a housing crisis that has increasingly left more of its citizens displaced from homes. While further government initiatives are needed to resolve this issue, innovative solutions from tiny house developers could improve overall access to affordable housing in Australia.

Over 116,000 of Australia’s citizens suffer from homelessness, according to the most recent census. The United Nations reports that Australia ranks fourth globally for the highest percentage of citizens experiencing homelessness in a developed economy. Between the 2011 and 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics census, rates of homelessness increased by 13.7%. This sharp increase in homelessness is attributed to spikes in housing prices and the overall decrease in income within the country. In addition, housing affordability, the cost of housing in comparison to median household income, has declined significantly since 1980. All of these factors have resulted in severe rates of homelessness across the country. According to the most recent census, just 18% of the homeless population in Australia is currently residing in government-provided accommodations. The remaining 82% settle for other accommodations, most notably including overcrowded dwellings. While mayors of heavily impacted cities like Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne confronted state-level governments over declining affordability of housing in 2019, high rates of homelessness persist within the country.

Tiny houses have been utilized across the globe as a sustainable and affordable alternative to pricy, fixed property. Tiny homes can be purchased pre-built, in a kit for self-assembly or built entirely from scratch. The tiny house trend allows for flexibility in terms of living location, material pricing, and requires minimal upkeep. Prices for tiny homes can average $65,000 if built from a kit but can cost as low as $20,000.

Nonprofit Response

While the governmental response to Australia’s housing crisis has been lacking, multiple nonprofit organizations have formed to offer innovative solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness. One organization, called Transition Village Wallan, has built ten tiny homes, partnered with 12 organizations and raised over $219,000 for those experiencing homelessness in Australia. Transition Village Wallan’s headquarters are in the state of Victoria– which identifies over 22,000 of its residents to be homeless– just outside the city of Melbourne. With the strategic placement of its headquarters and its passion for providing ample housing in Australia, Transition Village Wallan has proven to be a significant ally for action against homelessness in the country.

Looking Forward

With proper support, tiny houses could be a solution to the housing crisis ablaze throughout Australia. This option is particularly suitable for outer-city environments, of which the country is dense. Through the efforts of organizations such as Transition Village Wallan, the imbalance of housing affordability across the country is beginning to be addressed. Creating affordable, sustainable and portable homes across Australia’s city suburbs could advance not only the living quality of its citizens, but also nation-wide economic, health and security standards.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Pixabay

Aboriginal BusinessesAustralia, housing a large aboriginal population, started a new way for indigenous people to integrate their creations into society. Currently, 30% of indigenous people live below the poverty line. In addition, up to 80% of indigenous people are unemployed in Australia. With additional benefits for starting a company, aboriginal business owners have access to business advisors, training and financial support provided by the government. This allows indigenous people to start earning income and provide a stable household for their families without losing their culture to rise above the poverty line. Here are five ways that Australia supports aboriginal businesses.

5 Ways Australia Supports Aboriginal Businesses

  1. The Black Pages: The Black Pages is an online directory for aboriginal businesses and community enterprises founded in 1999 to develop the socio-economic status of indigenous people. This platform works with the government to provide a “marketplace” for businesses to advertise their products, services or events. As a result, this can help gain attraction amongst other companies.
  2. Supply Nation: Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC), now known as Supply Nation, is a government-funded non-profit organization aiming for indigenous integration into Australia’s supply chain. The organization connects government and corporate institutions to aboriginal suppliers. In 2014, 276 aboriginal suppliers processed $107 million worth (AUD) of transactions on the site.
  3.  Indigenous Business Australia: Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) is a government agency that invests in aboriginal businesses. It assists indigenous companies in becoming financially independent and economically self-sufficient. IBA provides not only money for businesses, but all the materials to create a stable institution. One of the agency’s efforts in creating sustainable companies in indigenous communities is helping indigenous people gain homeownership. IBA invested over $1 billion AUD in indigenous people, opening 203 job opportunities for indigenous workers in 2019. 
  4. Jawun: Westpac and Boston Consulting Group founded the nonprofit organization Jawun (Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships) in 2001 to create bonds between aboriginal people and non-indigenous corporations. Instead of offering employment opportunities to indigenous people, Jawun partners with companies to provide a haven for aboriginal people to be hired. They connect suitable “secondees” for different projects at various companies, including KPMG, Leighton Holdings, Wesfarmers, IBM, etc. Eighty-seven percent of their indigenous partners are satisfied with their experience, overall benefitting their economic status. 
  5. Indigenous Mentoring Program: The government started the Indigenous Mentoring Program to aid the owners of aboriginal businesses to create a long-lasting company. The program pairs mentors with companies to provide relevant advice on the industry. In addition, it helps them form networks to succeed in business. Mentors are volunteers and are government trained to help others flourish in the corporate world.

With multiple organizations dedicated to integrating indigenous people into the economy, the prominence of aboriginal companies will continue to rise. As a result, indigenous people will start seeing an increase in income and hopefully cross over the poverty line. 

Zoe Chao
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Australia
Australia’s reputation as a wealthy country often shields underlying issues within the nation. A strikingly large portion of the population experiences hunger on a daily basis, while the federal government falls behind other affluent nations in helping its poor and starving citizens.

Food Insecurity in Australia

Although Australia reduced its poverty rate over the last few years — declining from 16.9% in 2017 to 13.2% in 2019 — the percentage of Australians experiencing hunger has not decreased. This is because food insecurity, rather than insufficient funds, lies at the root of hunger in Australia.

Kathy Radimer, a former CDC epidemiologist, defines food insecurity as the state occurring “whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable food in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.” In Australia, sustenance is not necessarily unattainable; rather, food is unsafe and inadequately healthy for much of the nation’s underserved.

In 2019, Foodbank Australia’s hunger report revealed that 21% of Australians experienced food insecurity in the year prior to its survey. In other words, everyone within that 21% had at least one experience running out of food without the means to buy more, due to either circumstantial or financial restraints. More often than not, these are not standalone occurrences: the report also revealed that 30% of food-insecure people go at least one day per week with no food whatsoever.

For women, the numbers are even worse. A staggering 27% of Australian women experienced food insecurity throughout 2019 in comparison with only 18% of men. This difference may arise partly because men experiencing food insecurity typically blame their inability to find work; women, on the other hand, often cite domestic violence, financial abuse and having to raise their children on their own for their food insecurity. Brianna Casey, the CEO of Foodbank Australia, explains: “We hear so many heart-breaking stories from mothers skipping meals so their children can eat to elderly women left on their own feeling isolated because they can’t offer their neighbors or friends so much as a cup of tea or coffee.”

The Impact of COVID-19

Food insecurity was a problem in Australia even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the virus began to spread, Foodbank Australia reports that an unprecedented number of Australians — over 1 million — need emergency food. Many of these people now experiencing food insecurity are migrant workers and international students who have recently lost jobs in hospitality and retail.

The federal government has not matched countries of similar prominence and wealth in terms of supporting this upsurge in hunger and food insecurity. International students are not eligible for JobKeeper payments or federal welfare, contrary to a leaked government report that claimed countries like Great Britain, New Zealand and Ireland have given international students access to government resources during the pandemic.

Practical implications of the pandemic have brought other new challenges for food-insecure Australians. Approximately one-fifth of the charities that normally distribute food, such as Shepparton Foodshare and Footprints in the Park, have either closed or significantly decreased aid, thanks to stay-at-home orders and a lack of volunteers. This makes it even more difficult for Australians to receive food in a time of urgent need.

Charity and Aid

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many organizations that address food insecurity and hunger in Australia, many continue to help. For example, the Friends of Nepal Organization in partnership with the Non-Resident Nepali Association currently provides food for more than 1,000 Nepalese students in Australia, who would currently be food insecure without their intervention.

Large-scale corporations have taken note of the problem as well, with brands such as Arnott’s and PepsiCo donating $350,000 and $400,000, respectively, as well as their products, to Foodbank Australia. The Australian federal government recently began to provide relief, announcing a $16 million bundle to support food relief charities in April 2020. The Australian Defence Force has even been helping pack food at a Foodbank Australia warehouse in Sydney, aiming to combat the upsurge of hunger in Australia.

Despite Australia’s status as a wealthy nation, food insecurity remains rampant. Women suffer the brunt of the problem, sacrificing their small shares of sustenance for their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened hunger in Australia overall, increasing unemployment and weakening food-related charities. Still, many Australian organizations recognize the need to end food insecurity, and they give time and money to try to combat the hardships that food-insecure Australians face.

–  Ava Roberts
Photo: Flickr


In 2017, Australia’s medical system was ranked 2nd globally by The Commonwealth Fund. The country scored well on care, efficiency and health outcomes. However, the Australian health care system scored poorly on equity of care across the population.
Those largely affected by the healthcare discrepancy are members of the indigenous community. Australia is working to decrease the inequity in Aboriginal healthcare. 

Health Challenges for the Aboriginal Healthcare

The average lifespan for indigenous Australians is about 71.4 years, which is 10 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous Australians. About two-thirds of the indigenous population die before the age of 65. Only 19% of non-indigenous people die before 65. Indigenous children under the age of four are also twice as likely to die than non-indigenous children. The common issue of chronic disease is a burden across all age groups of the indigenous population. Indigenous peoples are also over twice as likely to struggle with issues such as addiction and diabetes.  

 The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) reports that the problems facing the Aboriginal healthcare system come from five major health concerns. These five health factors are injury, mental disorders (including substance abuse), cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and cancer. Many of these major health concerns are considered to be preventable

 Another discrepancy in Aboriginal healthcare is access to maternal health services. In 2016, 40% of indigenous women lived in very remote areas of Australia, where the access to hospitals equipped with a birthing ward is very low. Women were forced to travel long distances in order to access birthing services. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare cites that access to “culturally appropriate” care is a major barrier to women seeking maternal services. However, the Australian government has taken a new approach to bring healthcare to indigenous Australians.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Initiative (ACCHS)

In Australia, healthcare centers operated by the local indigenous community have shown success in providing medical services to the Aboriginal population. ACCHS aims to provide healthcare to indigenous communities in a way that fosters ongoing medical relationships. These relationships between Aboriginal healthcare providers and the Aboriginal community have been 23% more effective in retaining patients when compared to other healthcare centers. NACCHO believes that a major factor in patient retention is that ACCH centers provide a sense of “cultural safety” within its healthcare practices.

In 1970, the first ACCHS was established and, as of the year 2020, over 140 ACCHS centers are now being operated around Australia. ACCHS centers currently address 61% of the healthcare demands of patients in regional communities. The use of ACCHS centers is continuously growing within the Aboriginal population, demonstrating the success of the initiative. Over a span of 24 months, the NACCHO reported an increase of 24,030 patients.

The Future of ACCHS and Indigenous Communities

The ACCHS initiative also provides opportunities for regional and remote Aboriginals to gain entry into the healthcare profession. The census in 2006 reported that 99% of healthcare workers out of all of the Australian medical workers are not of indigenous descent. Over half of ACCHS workers are indigenous, however, many of these workers are non-clinical staff members. NACCHO strives to create pathways for Aboriginal health care workers through the ACCHS centers. These pathways will allow indigenous community members to operate ACCHS centers, potentially increasing the relationship between patients and healthcare providers. 

 

The Australian government has developed Closing the Gap targets to help decrease the discrepancy of healthcare between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The target states that Australia should have equity in Aboriginal healthcare by 2031. The NACCHO and the ACCHS centers are a key factor for Australia to reach the Closing the Gap targets.

– Laura Embry
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Australia
Australia has a blend of public and private healthcare systems. While every citizen receives guaranteed public healthcare, the government encourages middle- and upper-class Australians to acquire private insurance if they make above around $62,000 per year. They pay a specific tax if they do not take out private coverage. Private healthcare facilities in Australia are generally “nicer” than public ones, with shorter waiting times and more attentive care — but they are also more expensive.

Younger Australians, generally healthier than the rest of the population, are growing frustrated with the private healthcare system’s rising out-of-pocket costs. As these young people lean away from private insurance and pay to stay on the public plan, premiums will rise for older and sicker Australians with private healthcare plans.

Care for Indigenous Populations

Indigenous Australians face greater barriers in the healthcare system than non-indigenous Australians. The United Nations has recognized human rights concerns in Australia when it comes to indigenous populations and their healthcare. There is a gap of around 17 years in the life expectancy of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Wealth is a factor behind this inequality. Indigenous Australians earn only 62% of the weekly earnings of other Australians. Education barriers also make the healthcare system harder for indigenous Australians to navigate. The Australian government underfunds schools in majority-indigenous areas, and indigenous students are half as likely as non-indigenous students to continue onto year 12 of education. Higher levels of education usually lead to higher income, which makes the healthcare system more accessible. In addition, increased education can help people understand vital health information.

Reforms for Greater Accessibility

Wealth seems to be a common theme throughout the story of healthcare in Australia. While many are unsure of what to do, there is a consensus that things need to change. Some experts have suggested changing resource allocation and tracking patient care outcomes. With people waiting up to four months for healthcare treatments, some experts have argued that hospitals must become more efficient.

One notable organization working for change is Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), formed in 2008. This network connects indigenous members of the Australian healthcare industry — or those pursuing a healthcare career — to other indigenous people working toward health education, resources and research for their communities. It also provides cultural responsiveness training so that Australian healthcare workers can learn to better connect with indigenous patients. Overall, IAHA aims to increase indigenous participation in the healthcare industry and make healthcare more accessible to indigenous peoples.

Australia may seem like a progressive paradise to some Americans, but it has its flaws. Age, race and wealth all factor into how someone accesses healthcare in Australia. Groups like IAHA are working to make health coverage more equitable in a troubled system. They have made positive changes and provided the necessary training to marginalized communities that their government often neglects. The land down under still has a long way to go to create a fair healthcare system for all, but Australians may look toward a brighter future under improved policies and protections.

Tara Suter
Photo: Flickr

facts about parliamentary democracy
There are many structures by which countries can run a government, ranging from democracy to totalitarianism. Parliamentary democracy is a specific form of democracy that originated with the parliament and has been evolving ever since. In order to better understand this form of government that is different than the one the United States possesses, here are seven facts about parliamentary democracy.

7 Facts About Parliamentary Democracy

  1. The structure differs from a presidential democracy. In a presidential democracy (such as the one the United States operates under), the chief executive (president) and legislature (congress) undergo separate elections. Conversely, in a parliamentary democracy, the elected legislature (parliament) chooses the chief executive (prime minister). The parliament can remove the prime minister at any time by a “vote of no confidence,” which is a less laborious task than removing a president.
  2. People refer to the British Parliament as the “Mother of Parliament.” This is because Britain developed the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy: a specific system founded on centuries of traditions. Other colonial states adopted the system, such as Australia, and many of them still operate under some variation of the Westminster System today.
  3. Fifty-one countries currently operate under a parliamentary system. Among these countries are Canada, India, Japan and Spain. Most of these countries function in combination with other systems, such as a constitutional monarchy, in which a monarch may share political power with the parliament.
  4. Prime ministers’ powers vary. There are variations in a lot of the parliamentary systems around the world. A prime minister’s power can change depending on the country and allocated duties in the constitutions. The strong prime minister model exists in the United Kingdom and most other countries that were once part of the British Empire. Some of the prime minister’s powers in these countries include the power to change the structure of ministries and the ability to call for elections at any time. Countries in which several political parties must work together to maintain a legislative majority, such as Australia, Italy and Belgium, usually possess weak prime ministers.
  5. There are a few semi-presidential systems. These are systems in which a president and prime minister rule together. The powers between the two seats can vary, with one having more power than the other or both having equal influence. Most countries that operate under this system do so to put checks in place to avoid presidential dictatorships. Examples of countries with this system include Ireland, Portugal and Russia.
  6. There is often less gridlock. Along with the facts about parliamentary democracy, there are some pros and cons. Because the parliament elects the prime minister, people often observe that these two branches function better together than in a presidential democracy in which the public elects the president. Oftentimes legislation passes with less resistance, whereas the United States has faced government shutdowns when legislation was at a standstill.
  7. There can be a quick overturning of leaders and inconsistency. While legislation can pass more efficiently, a negative consequence of the parliamentary structure is the rapidity with which things can change. Because the parliament can remove the prime minister anytime he or she falls out of favor, this can lead to a lot of restructuring and inconsistent leadership. This happened during the Brexit process, in which three separate prime ministers received the appointment to deal with the aftermath of the vote.
Many believe it is important to know about the different forms of government structures so that one can examine their own country and evaluate its relative effectiveness. Hopefully, these basic facts about parliamentary democracy have provided a foundation to understand the structure and some of the pros and cons of the system.

 – Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Pixabay

 

Homelessness in AustraliaHomelessness is one of the biggest problems that the Australian government is trying to solve. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were approximately 116,427 homeless Australians in 2016. What was even more worrying about this data was that homelessness in Australia seemed to be on the rise. Compared to the ABS’s census in 2011, in which there were 102,439 homeless, there was a 13.7 percent rise in homelessness in 2016. What is the cause of homelessness in Australia? What is being done to alleviate this issue? Here is the current reality of homelessness in Australia.

Defining Homelessness

The ABS’s, criteria for defining homelessness doesn’t simply end at someone sleeping out on the streets. Instead, the ABS states that a person is homeless if they are living in accommodations that are inadequate or in housing that has no long-term tenure. This broad definition of homelessness means that if a person is couch surfing with friends to relatives, they are considered homeless.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2016 report found that “58 percent of homeless people were male, 21 percent were between the ages of 25 and 34 years-old and 20 percent of homeless people were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.” The last finding is especially troubling since Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders only made up about 3 percent of the population. For women who are homeless, domestic violence was one of the main causes of their homelessness.

Causes of Homelessness

The main causes of homelessness in Australia seem to be unaffordable housing, poverty and domestic violence. All of these three causes seem to be linked to high housing prices in Australia. More specifically, the lack of affordable rental housing that is plaguing the country seems to be at the core of the problem.

In 2018, a property survey discovered that only 485 rental homes out of 67,365 homes “were affordable for a single person on the Disability Support Pension.” This meant that only 0.72 percent of rental homes were affordable for someone with disabilities. Many people in Australia believe that the current state of housing was caused by the Australian government’s mismanagement of the housing market.

Homeless Youth

What distinguishes homelessness in Australia from those of other countries is how young the homeless population is. Youth between the ages of 12 and 24 made up 27,680 of the 116,427 homeless people in Australia in 2016. However, these estimates may not fully reflect the state of youth homeless in Australia since the youth who are couch surfing will put down their host’s address as their place of residence.

A 2016 research study found that there is an average cost of $15,000 to the country’s economy for every young homeless person. The study also found that an additional $15,000 per person must be spent on “health and justice costs.” The young homeless are especially vulnerable to the current housing crisis in Australia. Reports show that about 54 percent of all single people who look for aid from homelessness services and shelters were young people.

Assistance for the Homeless

The Australian government and many other Australian organizations are taking active measures to combat homeless in the country. In 2018, the Australian government created the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. This agreement aims to alleviate homelessness in Australia by providing affordable housing and homeless shelters for the homeless. In this pursuit, the Australian government invested more than “$6 billion in housing support and homelessness services.” At least $78 million is supposed to go to women and minors who are victims of domestic violence.

Other Australian organizations such as the Melbourne City MissionSydney Homeless Connect and Home for Good provides numerous services and programs for the homeless. These organizations not only provide immediate needs of the homeless, such as food and shelter, but many of them also provide programs that are aimed to provide the homeless with job opportunities and long-term physical, social and emotional needs of the homeless.

The effect of Australia’s undermanaged housing market created an environment where the low-income earners couldn’t afford a home. Since many of the homeless in Australia suffer from mental illnesses, alcoholism or other physical disabilities, these homeless are further marginalized from the Australian housing market. The number of Australian youth without a stable home and shelter also paints a grim picture. However, the Australian government and the people of Australia are taking active measures to alleviate the issue. With this continuous support, many hope that homelessness in Australia will be a story of the past.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty In Australia
When looking at poverty around the world, people often overlook the developed nations. These countries are much better off than many others, but that does not mean that their impoverished people are any less poor. Many consider Australia to be one of the leading developed nations, but one in eight Australians and one in six Australian children live in poverty. Here is some information about the issue of poverty in Australia.

How to Measure Poverty

The definition of poverty is different worldwide. One component that the world generally agrees upon, however, is that it is utterly unacceptable for people to live in extreme poverty. In addition, there is the understanding that every human should be born with fundamental rights such as housing, food, clothes and health care.

In Australia, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) set a more Australia-specific way to measure poverty. It does this by comparing what people make to the median income. As a result, Australia considers people who fall below the median impoverished. However, the organization Compassion has reported more specific information for measuring poverty. For example, it stated that the poverty line for single adults is $433 per week before housing costs. Meanwhile, the poverty line for a couple with two children is $909 before housing costs.

The Numbers

Approximately 3 million Australians are suffering from poverty. Additionally, every one in eight people or 13 percent of the country suffers from poverty. Of the 3 million people, 739,000 are children living below poverty.

Who Hurts the Most?

While there is the blanket term “impoverished,” some suffer more than others. For example, those who hurt the most are often unemployed. This includes people over the age of 65, people from non-English speaking backgrounds and single parents. Among those above, poverty in Australia routinely consists of those who fall lower in the chain of importance. Hence, people like minorities and foreigners are much more susceptible to falling into poverty. According to Compassion, 30 percent of single, elderly women live in poverty. This means that poverty impacts single, elderly women at a disproportionate rate.

According to the Child Fund, children who come from low-income backgrounds are likely to have lower test scores than children above the poverty line. From an early age, children living below the poverty line are already at a disadvantage, but the problems do not often stop in grade school. Low test scores frequently result in low self-esteem and a lack of self-worth, both of which potentially lead to ongoing mental health issues. Among impoverished people, the rates of finishing high school are significantly lower than their counterparts. In addition, the rates of going to college are much lower than even the odds of finishing high school. These low rates of higher education lead to lower-paying jobs, thus creating a cycle of poverty.

Disproportionate Health Issues

Those who fall below the poverty line often experience increased rates of health issues. Millions of impoverished people are more susceptible to health issues because their lack of money sometimes prevents a hygienic lifestyle. After falling ill or experiencing infection, impoverished people are often last on the priority list of Australia’s universal health care system. Obesity is a big issue among impoverished people similar to other developed nations around the world. Furthermore, fast food restaurants can often be much cheaper than healthier options in grocery stores.

Cheaply priced menus are commonplace in the modern world and they pose a drastic threat because people below the poverty line must make a tough decision. As such, they can either spend more money on healthier items and get less or spend less money on unhealthy food and get more. Consequently, this decision might be why the issue of poverty in Australia typically leads to increased rates of obesity among impoverished people.

Solutions

Fortunately, some are recognizing that poverty in Australia is an issue that requires solving. For example, Save the Children is an organization working towards eradicating poverty. The charity’s fight consists of improving access to education for underprivileged children. When the charity receives donations, 73 percent of the funds go towards programs benefitting children and 10 percent go towards fundraising. Additionally, 9 percent goes to administration and 8 percent goes to commercial activity.

Care is another nonprofit organization that is similarly fighting the issue of poverty in Australia. The organization’s efforts consist of programs that empower poverty-ridden women, improving access to education for impoverished children and promoting healthier lives among underprivileged families. Care assisted 2.7 million people throughout 25 countries as of 2019. For every dollar it fundraised and received as donations, 90 cents went to humanitarian programs.

While poverty in Australia remains an issue, there are some attempting to correct the problem. Hopefully, the continued support of organizations like Save the Children and Care will make impoverishment a thing of the past in the country.

Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr