Way Forward’s submission to the inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia

Way Forward was invited to make a submission to the Australian Government’s inquiry into the nature and extent of poverty. 

Our perspective is based on 6 years of supporting people out of financial hardship.

Over this time, we have observed the following trends in relation to people we support: 

  1. Anyone is at risk, regardless of their income 
  2. Shame and embarrassment are two of the biggest barriers to seeking help 
  3. Unmanageable debt and poor mental health are connected 
  4. The buffer between realising there is a problem and needing external help is rapidly decreasing 

For the purpose of this submission, we have drawn upon a broad definition of poverty, which describes a lack of means to live and the experience of existing in a state of deprivation. For people experiencing poverty, their standard of living falls far below a minimum acceptable standard. 

It is important to recognise that people who have income can still experience financial hardship. Financial hardship means that a person is unable to meet their expenses and debt repayments with their current income. If this continues for a long period of time, a person is at risk of falling into poverty. Therefore, prolonged financial hardship is a precursor to poverty. 

Preventing people who are risk of falling from financial hardship into poverty, requires an approach that considers the unique and individual circumstances that people face in different areas of Australia.

These challenges include: a lack of employment and educational opportunities in some regional areas, low housing availability and the comparatively high cost of living in cities like Sydney. Overall, there is an affordability crisis across the county that is caused by a range of factors, which continues to drive people into hardship. 

Way Forward’s submission to the inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia.