What is Poverty?

Written by on October 14, 2019

What does it mean to live in poverty?

If you pictured a young family living in a crowded makeshift community in India, you’d be right. However, that image alone isn’t the full picture of this vast and unjust human experience that we call poverty.

We’re a nation built on equality; equality of opportunity and giving each other a ‘fair go’, yet that’s not how things play out for everyone. Does poverty in Australia really compare to the devastating poverty we know of in other nations? If poverty exists here and yet looks different, what does this mean for our local communities?

Right now, in Australia, 3 million people are living in poverty. Critically, 739,000 of these are children. Each of these children do not have the same opportunities as other kids their age — they are beginning life on the back foot.

The poverty line in Australia (updated regularly to account for inflation) currently sits at about $433 per week for a single employed person living on their own and $909 per week for couples with two children.

These incomes alone are sobering yet there is more to the story; as poverty lines are generally calculated as 50% of the median household income in that country. Many of those living under the poverty line in Australia are in what is known as ‘deep poverty’. On average, those under the poverty line are $135 a week under it.

For these 3 million people under the line, every day requires impossible choices between competing basic needs. Christians Against Poverty has found that before talking with one of our services, 84% of their client debt negatively affected their physical or mental health. 60% had sacrificed meals and with this stress it’s easy to see why 1 in 4 had considered or attempted suicide.

No two stories of poverty will look exactly alike either within Australia or between two countries but what does tie them together; are common themes of deprivation that no person should be subject to. That includes a lack of nutrition, reduced ability to access medical care, insecure housing and relational isolation.

Poverty also affects more of us than you might think. An Anglicare study in 2018 revealed that 16% of their respondents couldn’t afford basic necessities in the past 12 months. This number is higher than those officially under the poverty line and tells us that many households at some point will experience events beyond their control. These include illness, unemployment, relationship breakdown or an accident, all of which can bring about adversity in the form of poverty.

The reality is, right now on your street; sitting next to you at church; behind you in the coffee queue – someone is struggling. Poverty doesn’t discriminate and while people might be good at putting a brave face on for friends and family, behind closed doors, they’re drowning.

The good news is that many Aussies who are experiencing poverty, particularly as a result of debt, simply need an advocate. They need someone who can lift the distressing burden form their shoulders, offer advice, support, friendship and walk through solutions together. This is exactly what our Debt Coaches do. Equipped through the strength of the local church, they bring to their communities the relief of a solution, and the hope of Jesus.

I would encourage you, if your heart is moved by the plight of the poor in Australia, head over to our website to find out what you and your church can do.

Rosie KendallCEO,
Christians Against Poverty

Rosie is the CEO of CAP Australia and has been working for CAP both here and in the UK for 10 years. She loves the church and seeing the bride of Christ respond to Jesus’ call to serve the poor and save the lost. She is passionate about equipping others to flourish in all that God has created them to be. Rosie’s husband Dave also works at CAP and they have three beautiful daughters, Esther, Lydia and the most recent addition, Maeve.

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