Poverty is the main barrier for getting out of poverty

04 Dec 2023

Yasmin Sinclair, Linker Program Coordinator at The Wyatt Trust, recently attended the No one Deserves Poverty conference and shares her reflections and some of the voices of people with lived experience who shared their stories.

On 18 Nov the Anti-Poverty Network hosted a community conference entitled “No one deserves poverty”.

The conference was held at the Playford Civic Centre in Elizabeth which enabled lots of people living in Adelaide’s northern region to attend. The Anti-Poverty Network also provided transport for people traveling from other parts of the city.

With over 100 people in attendance, the community conference tackled issues including the current poverty crisis and housing crisis.

Many attendees spoke about spending 30-50 per cent of their income on rent, having to choose medication over food, not being able to afford counselling or dental work, nor being able to afford to renew their licence or buy a car. Others spoke about using their superannuation to fix their car and pay for hotel accommodation when they were homeless.

Many of the conference participants were active campaigners fighting for changes such as a freeze on rental prices, banning no-cause evictions and raising the rate of the Job Seeker payment. Others were lobbying for improvements to public and community housing to include insulation, heating and cooling and solar panels.

There was a strong sense of solidarity at the conference with a determined energy around change being possible through collective action.

Many people spoke about the interface between poverty and disability.

In order to receive the Disability Support Pension, applicants have to prove they have a disability. Centrelink requires applicants pay for assessments and reports to prove their disability, but if you are in poverty you can’t afford these assessments.

You also can’t afford the treatments you need which would improve your wellbeing and may mean you are able to work.

As one presenter commented, “Poverty is the main barrier for getting out of poverty”.

Another presenter suggested the solution was to put a range of community resources into one person,- and once they are on their feet and out of poverty, they can pay it forward.

Navigating the system is stressful and negatively affects people’s mental health.

Presenters shared that people in poverty experience an increase in chronic disease, an increase in disabilities and five years less life expectancy.

People spoke about their disabilities, mental health and being neurodivergent not being recognised which made people feel excluded and shut down.

Others spoke about choosing not to receive Centrelink benefits because they could not cope with the mutual obligations, and instead relying on family and friends for financial support.

The Anti-Poverty Network and the Australian Unemployed Workers Union are both volunteer organisations and each spoke about the advocacy services they provide. They can support people to navigate Centrelink and Job Providers and attend Centrelink appointments with people if needed.

The Wyatt Trust has supported the work of Anti-Poverty Network SA. You can read more here or lend your support during the National Day of Action: Housing is a human right happening on 9 December.

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