The report defines poverty as “households earning less than 50 percent of median household income.”
Adrian Graham, UNICEF Australia chief executive officer, said, “Australia is not the lucky country for many children.”
Almost 30 years ago, Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention included the right for children to have “a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.”
Australia agreed that every child deserves equal rights. In addition, the government would give more attention to the most disadvantaged and marginalized children.
However, the report confirms that discrimination is persistent for most children growing up in poverty in Australia.
The report also identifies that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children, children from rural areas, children with disabilities and children from migrant backgrounds are more likely to experience poverty and discrimination.
Despite two decades of economic growth, Australia still has over 600,000 children living in poverty. This totals at 18 percent. The statistics show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 2.5 percent of Australia’s population. However, they also make up 25 percent of the homeless population.
Additionally, school retention rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are considerably lower than non-indigenous students. Nearly 80 percent of homeless children have a mental disability, and 61 percent have a physical disability.
Children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children without disabilities. Many of these children do not have the language or ability to communicate their abuse.
In addition, 80 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children report abuse at school. Victims of sexual abuse experience reduced concentration, more absences from school, drops in school grades or dropping out of school entirely.
Graham said, “Children living in poverty have less access to both primary and specialist health services than the general population, higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system and greater exposure to domestic violence. Children living in poverty are also more likely to be removed from their families and placed into care arrangements.”
The Taskforce calls on the Australian government to set a national policy agenda for children to ensure that all children growing up in Australia have a decent quality of life.
Judge Alastair Nicholson, the Chair of Children’s Rights International, is hopeful that the report will encourage actions to reduce the number of Australian children trapped in poverty.
– Jacqueline Venuti