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Poverty and Inequality in Australia

This unit of work educates students and families about how poverty and inequality exist in Australia and how we can actively reduce the number of people living in poverty and inequality.

Our partner Anti-Poverty Week aims to support the Australian community to have an increased understanding and take action collectively to end it. Since 2002, they’ve been active every year in the week around the 17th of October, the United Nations Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Our other partner, the ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership, seeks to increase awareness of the issues of poverty and inequality through research and advocacy, including through regular publications with the latest data on poverty and inequality in Australia.

This year, we would like every classroom to dedicate a week to teach their students about poverty and inequality in Australia and how to reduce them.

The UN’s Global Goals aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for everyone by 2030. More than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty today, struggling to fulfil the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few. In Australia, wealth is divided much more unequally than income. The highest 20% of people in households ranked by wealth has 6 times the wealth of the middle 20% and 90 times that of the lowest 20% (ACOSS/UNSW 2020, Inequality in Australia, overview).

At the lowest end of the income ladder, many Australians experience economic disadvantage at some stage in their lives – often due to unemployment, illness or disability, or a relationship breakdown. It is temporary for most of us, and we are back on our feet in a short time, especially if we have savings and family and friends to help. However, as ACOSS/UNSW reported in February 2020, as of 2017-18, there were 3.24 million people (13.6%), including 774,000 children (17.7%), living below the poverty line. That is one in 8 people, including one in six children (ACOSS/UNSW 2020, Inequality in Australia, overview).

The HPE, Mathematics and Literacy unit teaches students about the effects of poverty and what constitutes living in poverty in Australia. Students take a look at real-life stories, analyse and interpret current data to discover the realities of living and experiencing poverty. Throughout the lessons, students will discuss future impact-driven initiatives that aim to raise awareness and reduce the effects of poverty in order to create better opportunities for all people living in Australia. 


These lessons were developed in partnership with Anti-Poverty Week and ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership.