One in eight Aussies are in poverty, with 60 per cent of people receiving Jobseeker support payments living on average $269 per week below the poverty line.
The appalling figures – revealed in a new joint report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and University of NSW – are compounded by tales of the desperate measures people on the poverty line are taking just to make ends meet.
Queensland man Brock Alexander said paltry Jobseeker payments meant he found it difficult to afford basic transport – costing him potential employment.
“I had to turn down a job the other day, as they wanted me to start the next day but I didn’t even have money for a train ticket to get to the job let alone buy the required boots and clothing, as it was a landscaping job,” Mr Alexander said.
One in eight people (13 per cent) are living in poverty, based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
“I couldn’t borrow money from my parents, as they’re just scraping by, and my Dad’s clothes and boots wouldn’t fit me.
“That’s pretty sad, as I really wanted that job.”
Mr Alexander, 24, said he couldn’t afford to register his car, so he was forced to walk everywhere to take care of most of his errands.
Sometimes, he said, this entailed walking 4km to his nearest city centre.
The report, Poverty in Australia 2023: Who is affected, released on Wednesday, found 60 per cent of people receiving Jobseeker and 72 per cent of people on the Parenting Payment were living in poverty across 2019-20.
One in eight people (13 per cent) and one in six children (17 per cent) were in poverty overall, according to the latest available data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The findings also exposed “highly gendered” issues with poverty across the country, as households whose main income earners were women experience almost twice the level of poverty in 2019-20 (18 per cent) compared with those whose main income earner was a man (10 per cent).
Regional Victorian woman Tracy Krupa revealed she and her husband were struggling to meet mortgage repayments on their farm without assistance from her family.
Ms Krupa, 61, who is on Jobseeker, said she suffered a bowel obstruction in 2022 that resulted in sepsis.
She spent five months in hospital and was placed in an induced coma.
“When I came out of the coma I had to have my wits about me to do my fortnightly reporting to Centrelink or I would have been cut off from Jobseeker,” Ms Krupa said.
The poverty figures have been slammed by Australia’s peak body for the community services sector. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicholas Eagar
She revealed she then had to undergo chemo treatment for bowel cancer and travel more than 70km to Ballarat to visit her oncologist – none of which was covered or compensated by Jobseeker.
Ms Krupa said the worsening financial situation forced the couple to sell the farm.
“The only way we have been able to absorb these costs was by accessing the pension loan scheme (which allows up to $300/week that must be repaid with interest) and by accessing equity in our home,” she said.
“Increasing mortgage costs are now starting to bite and impacting on my mental wellbeing and that of my partner.”
ACOSS said the figures in the report exposed the “failure” of Australia’s support payment system to meet essential costs.
The organisation’s chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the report highlighted the need for a poverty reduction package in the May budget to lift working-age income support payments, among other financial recommendations.
“The government also needs to invest in at least 25,000 social housing units per year, with housing costs a major poverty risk for people on low incomes,” Ms Goldie said.
“The fact that a majority of people relying on unemployment payments and parenting payments are in poverty shows that current income support payments for people who are unemployed and single parent families are totally inadequate to meet the essentials of life.”