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Advocating for People with Disabilities in AustraliaWhile Australia is considered akin to The United States and The U.K. in terms of development and opportunity, a large portion of its population is often disregarded and forgotten. Although native to the land, indigenous Australians are extremely disadvantaged and disempowered in terms of monetary power and the care they are afforded.

The high level of poverty among the indigenous populations is mirrored by inadequate health resources, particularly regarding physical and cognitive disabilities, both of which are disproportionately common in indigenous communities.

Focusing in on Disabilities in Indigenous Communities

Approximately 45 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Islander people live with a disability or long-term health condition and more than 7 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Islander people live with a profound or severe disability. Indigenous Australians (also called First Peoples) are over two times more likely to be living with a disability than their non-indigenous counterparts, and five times more likely to experience mental illness.

Such high levels of disabilities among the Aboriginal and Torres Islander communities can only be attributed to the high levels of poverty found within said communities. While urban indigenous poverty rates have been steadily declining over the past decade, dropping from 33.9 percent in 2006 to 24.4 in 2016, poverty rates both stagnated and rose in more remote regional areas between 1.2 and 7.6 percent depending on the area.

According to census data analyzed by Australian National University, while median disposable household income among indigenous families rose by $57 weekly in urban areas, it fell by $12 in remote rural areas over the same time period. As a result of such poverty, indigenous Australians face a myriad of issues that cyclically disadvantage their communities further.

In 2012-13, 24 percent of non-indigenous people were unemployed, but over half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were not employed. only 19 percent of disabled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people currently participate in Australia’s workforce.

 A Cycle of Poverty

Disability is innately connected to poverty, as it can result in significant barriers in education and skill development, job loss and reduced earning, additional monetary and time expenses and a variety of other factors that lead to economic hardship and disempowerment. Lack of economic resources limits access to primary health care services and preventive services, increasing the likelihood that a person works and lives in a physically and mentally detrimental environment.

A 2009 study conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that half all working-age adults who experience one year of poverty are disabled, and almost two-thirds of those who experience long-term extreme poverty have either a physical or cognitive disability.

People with disabilities are also more likely to experience food insecurity and an inability to make or pay rent due to lack of employment opportunities. In 2014, the overall poverty rate was 15 percent; however, the poverty rate by disabled status ranged between 12 and 29 percent. Although disabled people only make up 8 percent of America’s population, they account for 17 percent of its impoverished population.

Similarly, those experiencing extreme poverty are more likely to become disabled due to limited access to adequate sanitation, food security, safe drinking water and primary health services. They are also more likely to pursue high-risk areas of work.

First Peoples Disability Network Australia

First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) is governed and run by people who have experienced and continue to experience life with a disability, following the framework of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The organization was established in 2010, working within the social construct of disability (as opposed to diagnosis) to create community networks for disabled indigenous Australians and link them to affordable care while simultaneously working to dismantle stigmas surrounding both First Peoples and disabilities.

Gisela Rosa, a future intern at the Federal Public Defender for Western Washington, understands the gravitas of the change this organization is making, as her younger brother has Autism. “Accessible care is so incredibly important to people with disabilities and their families and caretakers can have the best quality of life possible,” she said. “It’s kind of a game of luck and can be near impossible for underprivileged people with disabilities to get the care they need.”

The work FPDN is doing sets an example for organizations to follow, paving the way in terms of how disabled people receive care, giving underprivileged citizens a chance to live the way they hope to.

– Katherine Anastas

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in AustraliaMore than 730,000 children live in poverty in Australia. Thirteen percent of Australians, three million people, fall below the line. What is causing this high prevalence of poverty?

Despite multiple decades of economic growth, the poverty rate has not wavered. There are 320,000 public housing dwellings in the country, and 150,000 applicants are still waiting on listings. Very few people get access to the minuscule supply of social housing in Australia. In fact, social housing accounts for less than five percent of the entire housing sector. As a result, many people living in poverty are excluded from affordable housing and the unaffordability of housing in the market directly contributes to their poverty.

A spike in single parentage contributes to poverty in Australia. According to a report by The Guardian, a rise in poverty was recorded for children in one-parent families from 2012 to 2014. That’s four percent in two years.

There is also a historic relation of inequality and poverty in Australia, with Aboriginal populations being much more likely to suffer from poverty. Aboriginal people are still rebounding from an era of discrimination and oppression.

Furthermore, many residents in Australia are feeling the negative effects of the reduction of social welfare payments such as Newstart, the parenting payment, and the Disability Support Pension. The majority of people below the poverty line rely on social security as their main source of income, although around a third subsist on actual wages.

Recent reports by charity Foodbank SA indicate more than 102,000 South Australians needed help to get food in the past year, compared to 85,000 in 2016. Foodbank SA chief executive officer Greg Pattinson says this growth is the worst the organization has seen and is largely attributed to rising electricity prices. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today released a report that found the average power bill for South Australian households had increased by 48 percent from 2007 to 2008. ACCC chairman Rod Sims says these increased prices are due to a clean energy target. Sims said the ACCC’s report showed the gold-plating of Australia’s power grid as the biggest factor behind the power price increases.

It is evident that the prevalence of poverty in Australia is caused by a multiplicity of factors and solutions will need to take into account this complexity.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in AustraliaPoverty in Australia is a fact of life for many residents. The country is one of the wealthiest developed countries in the world, but that does not mean the country doesn’t have poverty. Even though the country’s economy has grown in the last two decades, there are still issues of poverty in Australia.

 

What to Know About Poverty in Australia

 

  1. Child poverty is rising in Australia. Almost 30 years ago, then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke promised that “No child would live in poverty by 1990.” Unfortunately, that promise has not been fulfilled. According to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), more than 730,000 children are living in poverty, which is about one in six children in Australia. Child poverty in Australia has also increased by two percent in the last decade.
  2. One in four Australians who apply for homelessness services are indigenous. Indigenous people make up only three percent of the overall population in Australia, so race and diversity are a factor in someone’s earnings.
  3. The people most likely to be part of the lowest 20 percent income group are the elderly, single parents and indigenous people.
  4. One person in the top 20 percent has 70 times more income than someone in the bottom 20 percent. There is huge economic inequality in Australia, and the gap continues to widen in both wealth and opportunities. This inequality is also a global issue since the world’s top one percent own more than the bottom three billion people in the world.
  5. Young people aged 15-24 are the most likely to be unemployed. A January 2016 report studying Australia’s poverty suggested that the youth unemployment rate was more than twice the overall unemployment rate.

Australia’s government has been trying to solve the problem by creating more jobs, but there are more ways that economic equality can be achieved. Some solutions include free education and healthcare for everyone, affordable housing, and having everyone pay a fair share of taxes.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr