Engaging with students about poverty

Providing practical information and access to resources to people in the community who are experiencing poverty or disadvantage.

Alliances Stories 2 ACOSS

We know that too many people in Australia are living in poverty, and uni students are often the hardest hit. We wanted to tell students about resources and support that is available to them on campus, and share some of the latest research and findings from ACOSS Poverty and Inequality Partnership.

Current estimates suggest that one in eight people in Australia are living in poverty.

We know that students face real barriers to full participation in their academic and social pursuits when they are experiencing hardships due to poverty. When overwhelmed by financial instability, and juggling study, it can be difficult to identify where support options exist- these need to be more visible and accessible.

The ACOSS PIP research demonstrates the role played by public policy – especially social security and taxation, but also housing and employment policy, among other areas – in determining the rate of poverty and inequality in Australia.

ACOSS has developed a suite of policy reform proposals to address to reduce poverty and inequality in Australia in the following areas:

  • Quality community services
  • Action on climate change and affordable, clean energy
  • Economics & tax
  • Income support & employment
  • Quality health services for all in need
  • Housing & homelessness

In May 2023, the Alliances team facilitated the Founders/EDI & PVCES SDG Challenge hackathon for participants to consider the Poverty & Inequality Partnership problem statement: “How might we engage community support for policies and programs that will lower poverty in Australia?”.

Following a survey in September 2023 of more than 600 students to better understand their attitudes and opinions, the Alliances team investigated how to better engage with the community – students and staff – on this issue.

With support from the divisions of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and External Engagement, inclusion of student voices, and research input from the Social Policy Research Centre, the Alliances team developed and produced a short video, released during 2023 Anti-Poverty Week targeted predominantly to students, to address these questions.

"High-quality research, expertise and policy advocacy, such as those at the heart of the Poverty and Inequality Partnership between ACOSS, Sydney and our partner organisations, are essential if we are to influence and effect lasting change in how wealth is distributed in Australia.

"The report Inequality in Australia 2023: Overview shows that tackling poverty and inequality continues to be an area of great national need. It also demonstrates the capacity of research to inform evidence-based public policy that can have a very real impact on the lives and livelihoods of all Australians."

Professor Attila Brungs, Vice-Chancellor and President, Sydney

“This report builds on the Government’s recent wellbeing framework to show that while income inequality has remained relatively steady, wealth inequality has increased over the past decades. We can reverse this trend through more affordable housing and a fairer tax and superannuation system. Additionally, increasing income support payments permanently will reduce income inequality.”

Sciential Prof Carla Treloar, Social Policy Research Centre, Sydney


This video campaign was a collaborative effort, with research input from the Social Policy Research Centre, funding and support from the Divisions of Equity Diversity and Inclusion and External Engagement, and students with lived experience. The video actively promotes and supports diversity, belonging and inclusion for all students across .

has partnered with the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) since 2016 to undertake a research and impact collaboration to sharpen the national focus on poverty and inequality in Australia, monitoring trends in poverty and inequality, exploring the drivers of poverty and developing solutions to tackle policy changes.

Organisations that have supported this partnership and instrumental in empowering the pursuit of social justice are: 54 reasons (part of the Save the Children Australia Group), ARACY, cohealth (a Victorian community health service), Foodbank Australia, Jesuit Social Services, Life Without Barriers, Mission Australia, SSI, and The Smith Family. Backing and support provided by philanthropic partners: Hart-line and the Social Justice Fund, both of which are part of the Australian Communities Foundation, and with the invaluable support from John Mitchell.

Special thanks to Scientia Professor Carla Treloar and SRC President Paige Sedgwick for their time and expertise.