The change we are here to make
An end to poverty in Australia in all its forms; economies that are fair, sustainable and resilient; and communities that are just, peaceful and inclusive.
Bringing the sector together: Federal Budget and Federal Election 2022
In early 2022 and the lead up to the federal election, Australia was in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, many communities around the country were recovering from bushfires and flooding, and we were facing surging housing costs, persistent inequality, and a rapidly heating world.
In the previous two years Australia had seen governments step in to take action to save lives, reduce poverty through the introduction of the coronavirus supplement, secure over 700,000 jobs, and find safe accommodation for people sleeping on the streets. But we had also seen the disastrous consequences of governments failing to intervene in times of crisis.
Australia was being asked to consider what role we wanted the government to play in our lives, and ACOSS seized the opportunity to put forward a vision for a more equal and resilient community. In March, on the eve of the election being called, the Federal Government brought forth its annual Federal Budget. Our Budget Priority Statement received coverage across all major print outlets reaching 1.2 million people. We made a significant contribution to the public discourse on cost-of-living pressures, rising rents and housing stress, rising interest rates and flooding across Eastern Australia through our media presence on Budget night. We featured across ABC and commercial television and radio reaching 7 million people.
The electorate stood up for equality, climate and a brighter future
The Australian people elected a new Government and shaped a new parliament with a record number of independent and minor party representatives. Since the election of the Albanese Government, we have called on Ministers to seize the golden opportunity the electorate has handed them to address the significant challenges of inequality and climate change the country faces.
What we did
Enabling and amplifying the voices of people directly impacted
“I am extremely concerned that people on income support, such as myself on Austudy after having chosen to return to university at the age of 49, have been excluded from the disaster support payments. After I have paid my incredibly low mortgage I am left with only $50 a week to live on! I am scared that once interest starts accruing and my applications for utility relief have run out that I shall not survive. Understand that I was working prior to lockdown last year and continue to volunteer in the community at the local Rotary Foodshare. I am truly scared.” – Donna
Engaging and collaborating through campaign alliances
We continued to support six major campaign alliances: the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the call for Voice, Treaty and Truth, the Everybody’s Home campaign for affordable housing, Healthy Homes for Renters, Close the Gap in support of First Nations health equity, Hands off our Charities and Change the Record to reduce the over-representation of First Nations’ people in prison.
Spreading the word: our collective impact
Partnering to inquire and illuminate: ACOSS and UNSW Sydney The Poverty and Inequality Partnership
This final year of the first five-year phase of the Poverty and Inequality Partnership (‘partnership’) produced six research reports that helped to build understanding of the initial effects of the COVID pandemic on poverty and inequality, especially on income support, rental housing and homelessness, and wealth inequality and build pressure for action. We also established the second five-years of the Partnership which will be launched next year.
The issues we worked on
Social security: Lifting incomes so everyone can cover the basics
As public health policies in response to the COVID pandemic continued, ACOSS successfully advocated for improved income support policies to help ease the financial pressures on many households unable to participate in paid work.
Raise the Rate
Along with hundreds of members and supporters, the ‘Raise the Rate’ campaign continued to call for a lifting of JobSeeker rate and related income payments, investment in social housing and an increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
COVID: Community-led COVID response (Health)
We influenced the political and national conversation on the state of the pandemic and the status of the vaccination rollout, especially regarding the safety of people at greatest health risk.
Concessional RAT program extended
We contributed to the Federal Government’s decision to introduce a concessional RAT program for people on low incomes, to help with accessing tests during the Omicron outbreak.
Taking effective action on climate, energy and disaster resilience
Extreme weather events, exacerbated by a third La Nina, have had a devastating impact on towns and cities across Australia. People on the lowest incomes have been worst affected and face additional barriers to rebuilding their lives.
ACOSS has been advocating for faster emissions reductions and solutions that prioritize and improve the lives of people on low incomes. We have also been working to build the resilience of communities to climate change impacts already locked in, by strengthening the community sector and local communities to better respond, recover and build resilience to extreme weather impacts.
Care services: Securing quality essential care services for all
The extraordinary care and assistance provided by community services bolstered the resilience of our community to the social and economic shocks of the pandemic. ACOSS, the COSS network and our members continued to advocate for adequate funding for essential community services, including for adequate indexation, and a flexible approach to contracting.
Our advocacy was informed by the results of the longest running survey of the community sector, by the community sector – the Australian Community Sector Survey. In a year where services were stretched to their limits, the survey showed the pandemic compounded strains on an already underfunded, overworked, and underpaid sector.
Employment: advocating for full employment and better employment services
We worked to ensure that major reforms to employment services would result in better services and that mutual obligation requirements are fair and effective:
Revenue: Raising the revenue needed to meet the big challenges
ACOSS continued to advocate for the abandonment of the wasteful and regressive ‘Stage 3’ tax cuts due to commence in 2024, though regrettably both major parties took their retention to the 2022 Federal Election.
In late 2021 we worked with members to develop a joint statement on Budget policy entitled ‘Guarantee to the Nation’ which argued for increased investment in essential services and safety nets and an increase in Commonwealth government revenue to pay for them.Work with members, peak bodies and unions on an advocacy strategy to secure these outcomes is ongoing.
Self-determination and justice for First Nations’ people
We have continued our strong support for the Uluru process and a voice to Parliament and facilitated a dialogue between First Nations leaders and ACOSS leaders about how the sector can support this historic campaign.
We hosted a CEO dialogue about effective and respectful partnerships between First Nations and non-Indigenous social service organisations, led by Life without Barriers and SNAICC, both ACOSS members.
Housing: Ensuring everyone has access to a safe, stable home
ACOSS maintained strong advocacy to improve housing affordability. We worked in partnership with the national housing and homelessness peak bodies and in alliance with the Everybody’s Home campaign and the National Affordable Housing Alliance. Our Election advocacy had a twin focus on housing and income support and contributed to the elevation of housing issues in the campaign. Our integration of housing research within the Poverty and Inequality Partnership has provided a powerful platform to highlight the links between poverty and housing.