Huge number of child poverty cases in Australia brought to light

12 Mar 2020

By Amanda Murthy

By Amanda Murthy

The Valuing Children Initiative established back in 2016 aims to inspire Australians to value all children, understand that a child’s wellbeing is the shared responsibility of the entire community and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations. Through this initiative, Mr Pietropiccolo recognised the need to speak more about childhood poverty. Photo: Sourced.

Children in Australia have been facing poverty for decades, with the Australian Council of Social Services’ (ACOSS) Poverty in Australia 2018 report citing that 739,000 children (or one in six children) were living in poverty, with an estimated figure of 200,000 children experiencing severe poverty.

Centrecare Incorporated Director Tony Pietropiccolo AM produced a 17-page research paper titled ‘A childhood without poverty,’ with the hopes of highlighting the existence, extent and impact of childhood poverty in Australia. Photo: Sourced.

Alarming as the issue appears, there has been a lack of conversation, action or knowledge surrounding the issue, and this is the very reason that led Centrecare Incorporated Director Tony Pietropiccolo AM to produce a research paper which he presented in November 2019, titled A childhood without poverty, with the hopes of highlighting the existence, extent, and impact of childhood poverty.

Mr Pietropiccolo’s effort is in line with his vision for Centrecare Incorporation’s “Valuing Children Initiative” – established back in January 2016 – of which he previously explained, aims to “inspire Australians to value all children, understand that a child’s wellbeing is the shared responsibility of the entire community and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations”.

“At a time when there is so much focus on the extent of child maltreatment in Australia, child poverty remains largely an unspoken problem, especially among policy makers,” Mr Pietropiccolo wrote.

“Political will and government intervention are two crucial factors in minimising poverty.”

However, in the 17-page research paper, Mr Pietropiccolo urged on every Australian, especially those in positions of power and influence, to “seriously consider and respond to child poverty given the traumatic and tragic impact that it has on hundreds of thousands of the nation’s children”.

“Australia has the professional knowledge and financial capacity to achieve such a vision,” Mr Pietropiccolo explained.

“What our country requires is a determined will and a belief that it is possible to effectively deal with child poverty, it needs to be convinced that it makes humanitarian and economic sense to address it – Australia needs to believe that child poverty harms children and that this is unacceptable.

“This country cannot leave it up to individual parents to resolve child poverty. There is a societal responsibility as well,” he insisted.

Noting that the poverty-stricken and the poor are so maligned and blamed for their own misfortune by community leaders, shock jocks, and in colloquial commentary – Mr Pietropiccolo said it is unfortunate, the Australian society fails to recognise that much of poverty is caused not by choice but life circumstance.

“The broad-brush commentary on the poor does not focus on causes of poverty such as ill-health, disability, and mental health,” Mr Pietropiccolo stated.

“It does not consider the impact of the increasing cost of daily life, insecure employment, low paid jobs, unemployment, excessive cost of housing and the pressures of single parenthood.

“The depersonalisation of the poor through terms such as ‘dole bludgers’ and ‘leaners’ removes their humanity and in the process dulls societal sensitivity and altruism.

“It divests them of their human rights and of their dignity – it presents them as societal burdens that make no contribution to national prosperity and therefore not worthy of communal assistance,” he added.

The report included 15 pre-requisites and actions that need to exist, recommended by Mr Pietropiccolo, in order for the nation to experience a significant reduction of child poverty cases. They were:

  • Respecting and valuing children and their right to having their physical, psychological and emotional needs met.
  • Accept the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as a basis for responding to child poverty.
  • Accept societal as well as individual responsibility for the care and development of children.
  • Accept that child poverty is morally indefensible.
  • Have a community that better understands poverty and respects the poor through academic and community discussions, social and mainstream media, conferences and daily interactions.
  • Move beyondGross Domestic Product as a measure of societal wellbeing and success.
  • See expenditure to reduce child poverty as an asset for future realisation not simply as a cost.
  • Have political and community leaders that value and respect children and believe in the need to urgently address their poverty.
  • Legislate a commitment to the reduction of child poverty with regular reports to parliament.
  • Have a Minister for Children and the Reduction of Child Poverty.
  • Implement economic decisions that focus on the reduction of child poverty.
  • Provide well-targeted social security payments and other initiatives that avert poverty.
  • Value the research evidence that assists to better understand the causes, effects, cost, and solutions to child poverty.
  • Have secure jobs, social and affordable housing and high-quality affordable childcare and education.
  • Effective and sustainable family and child-centred support services.