Social Justice Stocktake 2022

Social Justice Stocktake reveals issues of concern for Australia

Empowering Australians to take action about social justice 

Working for justice is at the heart of what The Salvation Army does in Australia. It is integral to our ethos, our mission and our vision.  

The experience of the pandemic has given us all greater insight into just how deeply social injustice is embedded in Australia. In late 2021, The Salvation Army did a nationwide Social Justice Stocktake to get to the heart of what people were seeing in their local communities. From there, we built a map of social justice priorities across Australia.    

We found that Australians care deeply about social injustice – but don’t always know what to do about it. 

We heard that many people feel overwhelmed, even hopeless, when asked how Australia can address the issues they see in their local communities. Some felt they needed government to act before they could do anything individually. Some despaired that governments (of any level and any political persuasion) don’t seem to care enough about the issues and social injustices going on around them every day. 

So instead of just providing our findings from the Social Justice Stocktake, we’ve tried to help alleviate that sense of hopelessness by also outlining practical solutions. We firmly believe that every social justice issue can be addressed. 

Every person can make a difference. 

Together, we can make an even greater difference.   

Our hope is that the following reports about social justice in Australia will show you how.  

Scroll down to read more, or you can click to skip to the National Report, State/Territory reports, or electorate reports.

Read state/territory reports

Find out what social justice issues are front of mind in your state or territory and what can be done about them.

Click a state to download.

Western Australia Queensland Victoria New South Wales South Australia Northern Territory Tasmania Australian Capital Territory

Understanding social justice in Australia

Explore issues of social injustice that matter to you, arm yourself with the facts and find out what we can all do about it as a nation, state or territory, community and individuals.

A person’s mental health is a central component of wellbeing. Mental ill-health, whether a condition is considered severe or not, undermines the quality of life of millions of Australians. There are many factors that can cause a person to experience mental ill-health. Some of the societal contributors include economic stresses, such as unemployment and homelessness, and social factors including family and domestic violence, substance use disorders and loneliness and social isolation.

Once a person is experiencing mental ill-health, it’s easy for minor conditions and setbacks to snowball, and for this to have monumentally negative impacts upon every part of a person’s life.

Mental illness does not discriminate. It’s important that anyone experiencing mental ill-health can access timely, non-judgmental and effective support so everyone can achieve and maintain mental health and wellbeing.

We probably can’t eradicate all underlying causes of mental ill-health, but we certainly can address much of the hardship that comes with it.

  • As a nation, we can design our support systems to recognise the societal, as well as medical contributors to mental ill-health. This means our national approach to mental health needs to acknowledge systemic issues such as poverty, housing insecurity and family and domestic violence. One ‘big thing’ the Australian Government can do is reform our social security system, so there is adequate income support for people who become unemployed due to mental illness.
  • As a state or territory, we can focus on early intervention – providing support before a person finds themselves in crisis. This will require a change in how services are delivered and will need diverse, ambitious, evidence-based trial programs based on the lived experience of people experiencing mental ill-health, as well as experts.
  • As a community, we can break down the stigma around mental ill-health and asking for help. If we treat mental illness in the same way we treat physical illness – recognising that the person with the condition is not to blame and needs appropriate support – we can change the conversation and provide an avenue for people to reach out for support.
  • As individuals, we can educate ourselves about mental illness and also about how to support someone experiencing mental ill-health. There are many resources online, as well as specific courses (such as mental health first aid) that can help us on this journey.


  • Every year, 3.2 million Australians (13.1 percent) experience an anxiety-related condition and 2.4 million (10 percent) experience depression or feelings of depression. These numbers are growing.[1]
  • Nearly half of Australians (46 percent) experience a mental disorder throughout their lifetime.
  • One in seven (13.9 percent) of children between 4 and 17 experience mental ill-health in any given year and more than three quarters of mental health problems occur before the age of 25.[2]

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). National Health Survey: First Results, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001.

[2] Kessler, RD et al. (2005). Lifetime Prevalence and Age-Of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in The National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry. 62: p. 593-602; Lawrence, D., Johnson, S., Hafekost, J., Boterhoven De Haan, K., Sawyer, M., Ainley, J., and Zubrick, SR. (2015). The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents Report on The Second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health.

Homelessness is a widespread and serious issue in Australia – well over 100,000 people are homeless in Australia.[1] The risk of homelessness is highest for those who have experienced family and domestic violence, young people, children on care and protection orders, Indigenous Australians, people leaving health or social care arrangements and Australians aged 55 or older – particularly women.[2]

People experiencing homelessness are amongst the most socially and economically disadvantaged in our society. Homelessness leads to increased impact and complexity of existing trauma, substance use and mental ill health.[3] The cost of homelessness to individuals, our community and economy is enormous and increases the longer the individual remains homeless. Homelessness is a result of systemic and structural issues, such as poverty, low income and a lack of safe, affordable housing.

Housing affordability relates to how much money a person has to spend on housing (mortgage payments or rent) relative to their household
income.[4] Any type of housing (including rental/home ownership, permanent/temporary, for-profit/non-profit) is considered affordable if it costs less than 30 percent of household income.[5]

Access to appropriate, affordable and secure housing is the foundation of any family or individual’s engagement in work, education and social relations. It’s also the single most critical exit point from homelessness services. The lack of affordable housing is one of the main factors for increasing homelessness across the nation.

Housing prices in Australia have been steadily increasing since the mid-1980s, while wages and support payments have not increased at nearly the same rate.[6] This is a significant factor driving the crisis of housing affordability.

The superficial solution to addressing homelessness and housing affordability is to just build more houses (or appropriate accommodation of any kind). Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but addressing housing supply, especially ensuring there are enough suitable accommodation options available, is a solid start.

Eradicating homelessness and addressing housing affordability issues are possible in Australia, but it is going to take concerted efforts.

  • As a nation, we can make a commitment to eradicate homelessness. Making the end of homelessness a key measure of the success of governments will drive action to address the structural causes of homelessness – poverty, low income and the lack of social and affordable housing. Accountability will also encourage governments at all levels to work together.
  • As a state or territory, we can focus on transparent population health and infrastructure planning. One of the barriers to effective action is that there hasn’t been enough focus on building evidence around the housing needs of Australians. There is more than enough evidence to get started on increasing social and affordable housing right now, but we also need to be looking at how to ensure that accommodation options meet the needs of the people who will actually live in them.
  • As a community, we can give people who are experiencing (or have experienced) homelessness a voice. Being homeless causes such extraordinary personal stress and disengagement that survival is the individual focus, rather than advocacy for structural reform. As a community we can support groups that assist people experiencing homelessness – we can fundraise, volunteer and advocate.
  • As individuals, we can treat people experiencing homelessness or housing stress with dignity and respect. If we see someone in the street experiencing homelessness, we can smile and say hello. If we are in the position of owning an investment property, we can be ethical landlords.


  • One in 200 people are homeless on any given night.[7]
  • Social housing, as a proportion of housing, has dropped from 4.6 percent to 4.2 percent between 2014 and 2020.[8]
  • In 2020, approximately one in three women and children escaping family violence seeking homelessness services were turned away due to a lack of accommodation.[9]
  • One third of people experiencing homeless in Australia are under 18 years of age.[10]
  • Rents have increased nationally by 8.2 percent over the 12 months ending August 2021, the largest rise in rents since 2008.[11]
  • A survey considering 74,266 rental listings showed that:[12]
    • zero percent of rentals were affordable for a single person on either JobSeeker or Youth Allowance anywhere in the country
    • only two percent of rentals were affordable for a couple living on the age pension (the most generous of government payments)

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, Cat. no. 2049.0,

[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021, December). Homelessness and Homelessness Services.

[3] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021, December). Health of People Experiencing Homelessness."

[4] Thomas, M. and Hall, A. (2016). Housing Affordability in Australia. Parliament of Australia.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Raynor, K., Dosen, I., & Otter, C. (2017). Housing Affordability in Victoria. The University of Melbourne.

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Everybody's Home. (2021, Jul). Boom Gather Speed While Social Housing Declines.

[11] Australian Human Rights Commission. (2020). Homelessness.,of%20affordable%20housing%20in%20Australia

[12] CoreLogic Report. (2021, Sept). As cited in Clarence Valley Independent. (2021). House Prices and Rent Continues to Soar Despite Economic Downturn.

[13] Anglicare Australia. (2021, April). Rental Affordability Snapshot – National Report.

The consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs can place a heavy burden on individuals, families and society. For individuals, it can affect health, relationships, jobs and education. For the community, the cost to the community from alcohol-related harm is estimated to exceed $14 billion annually. For illegal drugs it exceeds $8.2 billion.[1]

Alcohol and other drug related harm is both a driver for and result of other forms of disadvantage. Often a person experiencing alcohol or other drug harm is also experiencing multiple disadvantages at once. Alcohol and drug misuse itself can change an individual’s brain, making it harder for them to change behaviour – even when they want to.[2]

Alcohol and drug misuse is widespread in Australia. Around 43 percent of Australians aged 14 and over had illicitly used a drug at some point in their life (including pharmaceuticals used for non-medical purposes) and 16.4 percent had used one in the last 12 months.

There is a lot we can do to address the harm that comes from alcohol and drug misuse.

  • As a nation, we can invest in harm reduction. This means that we focus on solutions to mitigate the problems that come with misuse. In doing this, we need to acknowledge that alcohol and drug misuse often occur alongside other forms of disadvantage, so we need to ensure that policy responses are tailored and culturally appropriate.
  • As a state or territory, we can take a local approach that protects vulnerable people and communities. We need to understand local populations to provide accessible and effective alcohol and other drug treatment systems. Such systems need to be situated within the wider welfare support response to create pathways and services that better engage, maintain and successfully exit people from treatment.
  • As a community, we can provide social connection that is not reliant on alcohol or drug use. Community groups can ensure their events and activities are supportive and accepting as a way to create pathways for people to build hopeful, purposeful and meaningful lives.
  • As individuals, we can recognise that alcohol and drug misuse are health issues that take great effort and courage to seek help with. We can listen carefully and connect with people experiencing alcohol and drug misuse, and reduce the stigma associated with alcohol and other drug misuse.


  • It’s estimated that every year in Australia:[3]
    • 4,816 people die from alcohol-related injuries, illness and accidents
    • 75,772 people are hospitalised due to alcohol consumption
    • 2,070 people die from drug-related deaths
    • More people die from drug overdoses than die on the roads
  • More than one in five Australians (21 percent) aged 14 and over have been verbally or physically abused or put in fear by another person who was under the influence of alcohol.[4]
  • The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Australia who consume alcohol at levels that exceed lifetime risk guidelines was 18.4 percent in 2018–19. Over the same period, 23 percent of Indigenous Australians had used an illicit drug in the last 12 months.[5]

[1] Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (2021). About the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

[2] Office of the Surgeon General (US). (2016). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health.

[3] Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (2021). About the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

[4] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021), Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia – Social impacts..

[5] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021), Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Family and domestic violence is a major health and welfare issue in Australia that can have lifelong impacts for both victim-survivors and perpetrators. It affects all people of all ages and from all backgrounds, but most victim-survivors are women and children.

Family and domestic violence is not always physical. Financial abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or coercive control can be less obvious but just as harmful as physical violence. All these forms of abuse cause immediate and lasting harm to victim-survivors as well as others, especially children, who witness it.

Family and domestic violence is the leading driver of homelessness for women. Approximately 9,120 women a year are becoming homeless in Australia after leaving their homes due to family and domestic violence and being unable to secure long-term housing. An additional 7,690 women a year are returning to perpetrators due to having nowhere affordable to live.

In the last year, family and domestic violence has been labelled as the ‘shadow pandemic’[1] as lockdowns led to an increase in the severity and frequency of family violence while also making it harder for victim-survivors to seek help.

Gender inequality and inequity in Australia provide the underlying conditions for violence against women. Many of the drivers of family violence are ‘societal’ and how we, as a community and as individuals, respond to gender inequity and gender stereotypes can be a powerful force for change.

  • As a nation, we can ensure that when a victim-survivor seeks help, they receive it. This means that there is sufficient funding for supports and also that supports allow victim-survivors to be physically safe while continuing to be employed, pursue education and be connected. When someone leaves a violent situation, they need somewhere to go.
  • As a state or territory, we can make sure that first responders receive the training and support they need to identify family violence and provide appropriate support. Sometimes family violence is difficult to identify. Sometimes victim-survivors are even misidentified as the perpetrators of violence. First responders have a difficult task, and they need sufficient support.
  • As a community, we can have safe but challenging conversations about family violence. Having these conversations can equip us with the tools and resources to understand the nature of family and domestic violence as a pattern of behaviours over time. They can also demonstrate to victim-survivors that they are not alone, and they are not to blame.
  • As individuals, we can challenge our own ideas and language around family violence and question when others use language that minimises or excuses violence within the family or home. Everyone can call out negative behaviour. It’s important to do so in a manner that doesn’t shame the victim, but you can always say ‘that’s not ok’.

If someone tells you, explicitly or through subtle hints, that they’re experiencing family violence believe them. If you can, help them access support. If it’s safe to do so, you can ring 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or go to and use the web chat.

And always, if you hear or suspect someone is in immediate danger call the police on 000.


  • Almost a quarter of Australian women have experienced violence from a current or former partner.
  • On average in Australia, one woman every week is murdered by her current or former partner.[2]
  • One in three women with disability experienced emotional abuse from a partner.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to experience family violence than non-Indigenous women and 32 times more likely to be hospitalised because of injuries caused by violence.

[1] Boxall, H., Morgan, A. and Brown, R (2020). Boxall, H., Morgan, A. and Brown, R. (2020). The Prevalence of Domestic Violence Among Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Australian Institute of Criminology.

[2] Bryant, W. and Bricknell, S. (2017). Homicide in Australia 2012-13 to 2013-14: National Homicide Monitoring Program Report. Australian Institute of Criminology.

Australia is a wealthy country, but there are still millions of Australians who experience financial hardship and poverty. For a person in poverty, every decision is filtered through the lens of survival. Some of the choices can be as extreme as choosing between affording rent and paying electricity bills or choosing between medications and having food for dinner that night. In this context, it is extremely difficult to prioritise social connection – even though we know that social connection is critical for wellbeing.

Some Australians are in what we call ‘intergenerational poverty’ – they’re in financial hardship because their parents were in financial hardship and, without intervention, it’s highly likely their children will have the same experience.

Even short-term, circumstantial poverty can become a trap. Financial stress can draw people into unsustainable debt, it can impact on a person’s ability to gain or maintain employment and it can make it significantly harder to escape harmful situations such as domestic or family violence.

There are many contributors to poverty in Australia, including insecure and casualised work, housing stress and rising costs of living. Probably the biggest contributor though is the fact that welfare payments in Australia are set well below any recognised poverty line. The level of income support is so low that a person who is reliant on it doesn’t have scope to meet both basic needs and plan for the future. A person dependent on welfare risks long-term unemployment, social isolation, entrenched poverty and intergenerational disadvantage simply because the rate of JobSeeker and Youth Allowance is too low.

The upside of that is there are concrete actions we can take to eradicate poverty in Australia.

  • As a nation, we can increase social security payments to allow people reliant on them to live with dignity. More generally we can make eradicating poverty a stated goal and critical success measure for governments in Australia.
  • As a state or territory, we can focus on expanding the supply of social, community and affordable housing. Secure housing is the foundation for other supports to help people out of poverty.
  • As a community, we can be sensitive to the prevalence and stress of financial hardship for the people around us. With over 3.2 million Australians living in poverty, it’s highly likely that members of our community groups are experiencing financial stress. Ensuring that our social activities are financially accessible (such as by offering free tickets, bursaries or non-financial options for contributing) could be the difference between someone in financial stress being able to participate or not.
  • As individuals, we can give to or volunteer for groups that are working to support people in poverty. This is such a big problem that it can feel overwhelming but, there is already so much great work being done that we can get involved with. There are local and national groups working in this space who would welcome any support we can give.


  • In Australia, more than 3.24 million people or 13.6 percent of the population live below the poverty line.[1] Of this, 774,000 children, or one in six children, are in poverty.[23]
  • The poverty rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 31 percent, while poverty is twice as high in very remote communities (54 percent) as in major cities (24 percent).
  • Estimates suggest that between 22 percent to 32 percent of the Indigenous population are food insecure.[3]
  • In 2019, nearly one in five households (19.5 percent) were unable to raise $2,000 within a week for something important. There were also more households in 2019 that experienced a cash flow problem in the previous 12 months compared to 2014 (21.8 percent compared to 19.3 percent).[4]
  • 968,000 people or 38 percent of the 2.6 million people living in poverty (excluding self-employed people) came from households where wages were the main source of income. This is an increase from the 32 percent of people in poverty in the 2013–14 statistics.[5]

[1] Davidson, P., Saunders, P., Bradbury, B. and Wong, M. (2020). Poverty in Australia 2020: Part 1, Overview. Australian Council of Social Services in partnership with UNSW Sydney.

[2] Ibid.

ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No. 3, Sydney: ACOSS.

[3] Bowden, M. (2020). Understanding Food Insecurity in Australia. Australian Institute of Family Studies.

[4] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia.,in%20the%20last%2012%20months

[5] Davidson, P., Saunders, P., Bradbury, B. and Wong, M. (2018). Poverty in Australia 2018.

Employment underpins the economic output of a nation and enables people to support themselves, their families and their communities. In September 2021, Australia's unemployment stood at 4.5 percent,[1] however this figure doesn’t tell the whole story. People who are underemployed but work ‘one hour of paid work per week’ aren’t counted as unemployed. People who are not employed but have given up actively looking for work also don’t count in this figure.

Unemployment, underemployment and casualised employment can be a major source of stress that has the potential to compromise the health and wellbeing of individuals. The current JobSeeker payment is set at an unsustainably low level and forces many people to forego necessities or enter into debt.

Currently in Australia about 750,000 people are ‘long-term unemployed’, meaning they have been on unemployment payments of 12 months or longer. The longer a person is unemployed, the more their employment prospects diminish,[2] and the more likely they are to experience heightened levels of anxiety, depression and hopelessness.

Underemployment and long-term unemployment are the biggest challenges Australia faces in building an inclusive COVID-19 recovery in which no one is left behind, yet the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have not fallen with equal severity on all shoulders.[3] Low paid workers, many of whom are women, have been exposed to the full health and employment effects of the crisis, resulting in lower workforce participation rates than men and the additional stresses of at home child-care and schooling.[4]

  • As a nation, we can action the commitment to full employment as an urgent policy priority. This would mean that those who are available, able and actively seeking work can obtain it, including addressing structural and systemic barriers that prevent people from participating fully in the workforce, including gender pay gap and the casualisation of the workforce.
  • As a state or territory, we can implement state-based programs and engage with local expertise to find pathways for people who are unemployed or underemployed into new employment opportunities. Working alongside the Australian government, state and territory governments can promote features of innovative funding and grant arrangements, such as ‘social procurement’ options.
  • As a community, we can encourage and facilitate opportunities for people who are unemployed to learn new skills. Community-based organisations can seek out and welcome unemployed and underemployed people into their activities as volunteers, as well as provide work-related skills, experience and mentoring.
  • As individuals, we can listen to people’s experiences of unemployment and underemployment. We can make sure we aren’t judging people for being unemployed

Facts and infographics/statements

  • The two main unemployment benefits: JobSeeker Payment ($391pw including Rent Assistance for a single adult) and Youth Allowance, unemployed ($331pw) are the lowest in the OECD for individuals who have recently become unemployed.[5]
  • Only 48 percent of people with disability are employed, compared to 79 percent without disability.[6]
  • Recent research reveals there are 27 jobseekers competing for each entry-level job.[7]
  • In March 2021, an estimated 376,287 people receiving JobSeeker Payment were defined as having partial capacity to work. Over 60 percent of these people were aged over 45 years. Most were on JobSeeker Payment long term.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2021, Sept). Employment and Unemployment.

[2] Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). (2021). Faces of Unemployment.

[3] International Labour Organization. (2020). The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Jobs and Incomes in G20 Economies.

[4] Duckett, S. and Mackey, W. (2020, August). COVID-19 Hits the Poor and Vulnerable Hardest. Grattan Institute.

[5] Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). (2021). Faces of Unemployment.

[6] Australian Federation of Disability Organisations. Employment of People with Disability.

[7] Anglicare Australia. (2021). Jobs Availability Snapshot 2021.

The level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere acts as a blanket and has led to an increase of one degree Celsius since pre‑industrial times.[1] This has led to:

  • More frequent and extreme heatwaves and bushfires
  • More evaporation and therefore more rain
  • Rising sea levels due to melting polar ice caps
  • Coral bleaching and death, as over 90 percent of the increased heat is stored in the oceans[2]

Research shows that climate change impacts go beyond the environmental impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts with a ‘very high’ level of confidence that climate change will have strong impacts on health, including those resulting from lack of access to clean water and sanitation, changes to spread in diseases, increased natural disasters and poverty.[3]

We are already experiencing this in Australia, and it’s expected to get worse.[4]

Responses to climate change need to both address emissions and allow for adaptation to the changes that are already happening. Unfortunately, people already experiencing disadvantage are more likely to be impacted negatively both by climate change and by measures to adapt. This is because people who are already disadvantaged are less able to prepare for the impact (such as those experiencing poverty being less able to afford energy costs of maintaining a healthy home or modifications to achieve energy efficiency).

  • As a nation, we can be a champion of ambitious climate action in a way that supports the people most vulnerable to climate change. We need to do this by pursuing a path that scales up Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target, while including measures that strengthen the resilience of communities and support people and the services they rely on to adapt to the effects of climate change.
  • As a state or territory, we can facilitate change in the private sector, especially in attracting investment into renewable technologies. Government policies around standards, taxes and incentives are a decisive force in driving corporate behaviour and can encourage investment, as well as target specific sources of emissions.
  • As a community, we can take action in our local spaces to both lower our own impact and build resilience. We can plant climate-friendly food and native gardens, organise clean up working bees, join or start community monitoring programs of plants and animals, or engage in resilience planning if our local community is at particular risk.
  • As individuals, we can minimise waste, recycle and reuse everyday items, shop ethically and sustainably. Small changes, implemented consistently by many of us together, can have a huge impact.

Facts and infographics/statements

  • Following COP26, the Australian Government forecast achievement of a 35 percent cut in emissions by 2030, however Australia’s actual 2030 emissions reduction target remains unchanged at between 26–28 percent.
  • Current state and territory interim targets combined translate to an estimated 37–42 percent reduction on 2005 emissions Australia-wide by 2030. While this is short of what is needed, it’s higher than Australia’s Paris commitment for 2030 of 26–28 percent below 2005 levels.
  • Research suggest that to remain within the remaining ‘1.5°’ carbon budget, Australia’s targets would need to be 74 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2035.[5]

[1] Climate Change: The Facts. Directed by Serena Davies. (2019). Produced by BBC Studios with IWC Media.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

[4] Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). (2020). Climate Change in Australia.

[5] The Climate Targets Panel. (2021). Shifting the burden: Australia’s Emissions Reduction Task Over Coming Decades.

Over the past two years, Australians have been put under significant strain. The necessary steps to keep people safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have led to many becoming isolated from their social communities and experiencing feelings of loneliness. Although a huge effort was made to move activities online and maintain connection despite lockdowns, not everyone felt connected and included.

Of course, social isolation and loneliness did not start with COVID-19. It has been a growing issue in Australia for some time, but it is largely hidden and not well understood.

We do know that people who are lonely have a higher risk of developing mental ill-health, particularly depression and anxiety. This can start a feedback loop, as people who are anxious or feeling depressed may isolate themselves further as a coping mechanism. Loneliness can have other implications too, including poorer physical health, pain and sleep disorders and even gastrointestinal disease.

  • As a nation, we can elevate addressing social isolation and loneliness as a policy priority. Other nations have created a ministerial portfolio for the issue of loneliness. Such a role in Australia could lead a national discourse on the issue and help drive action across all parts of our society.
  • As a state or territory, we can make sure that service delivery is holistic and focuses on wellbeing. As many of us access government services, there is an opportunity to design and implement services in a way that strengthens social connection, rather than pushing people experiencing family and domestic violence, homelessness, substance use and mental ill-health into isolation and loneliness.
  • As a community, we are in the driver’s seat for addressing social isolation and loneliness. This might involve dedicated outreach to attract more participants to events or activities or checking in and building deeper connections with currently active members. To really foster connection, social programs need to be both welcoming to a broad cohort, but also flexible and adaptable to the needs of a specific community.
  • As individuals, we can reach out. If we’re open to building a connection with new people and are welcoming of new people into our circles, we can make a huge difference to the social connection of the people in our lives.


  • Lonely Australians are 15.2 percent more likely to be depressed and 13 percent more likely to be anxious.[1]
  • Recent statistics suggest 55 of respondents had felt lonely since the start of the pandemic in 2020.[2]
  • Men are twice as likely to experience isolation and loneliness (males 38 percent to female 18 percent) and those that live alone are significantly more likely to experience loneliness.[3]

[1] Swinburne University and the Australian Psychological Society. (2018). Australian Loneliness Report.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021, Sept). Social Isolation and Loneliness Snapshot.

Racism can take many forms and includes “prejudice, discrimination or hatred directed at someone because of their colour, ethnicity or national origin”.[1] Racism can be overt (where disadvantage against a particular group is openly enacted or spoken about), covert (where it is subtle such as a ‘joke‘ or seemingly universal rules only actually affect one group) or structural (where processes or systems either purposely or inadvertently disadvantage a particular group).

Unfortunately, racism is a common occurrence in Australia. While legislation protects against discrimination based on race, many people experience racism daily. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrants and refugees often experience racism at a higher rate than the general population. Racist attitudes and behaviours often become more pronounced, and less veiled, according to topical and current affairs in Australian society. This can sometimes lead to an increase in racial discrimination against specific groups in society at a given time. Sadly, we have seen examples of this during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the heart of racism is the failure to recognise that we are all inherently equal and valuable, so that is where we need to start in addressing racism.

  • As a nation, we can ensure that the voice of culturally diverse peoples is not only heard, but valued, in policy formation. This might provide opportunities that focus on all-of-society cohesion, as well as ways to strengthen protections against racial discrimination.
  • As a state or territory, we can address laws and policies that allow structural racism to remain. States and territories can undertake law reform where laws are implemented in a way that leads to racist outcomes (such as raising the age of criminal responsibility) and operational decisions that lead to disadvantage due to cultural background (such as the provision of enhanced medical facilities so Aboriginal women can give birth on Country where safe to do so). Valuing culturally diverse voices in the policy process would help determine where priority action needs to be taken.
  • As a community, we can examine whether our own structures lead to racial disadvantage. Some of the organisations we are involved with may have developed their rules and policies a long time ago and it may be that they need a refresh. Involving people from diverse backgrounds in this reconsideration is a great way to avoid inadvertently perpetuating racism.
  • As individuals, we can challenge our own ideas and language around other cultures. We can also question when others use language that minimises or discriminates against another person.


  • A recent study by the Australian Human Rights Commission identified that 20 percent of Australians have experienced racism in the form of race hate talk and about five percent have been attacked because of their race.[2]
  • Seven in 10 students report having experienced racism during their childhood.[3]
  • In Australia,the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 exists to bring equality between all people regardless of their race, colour, descent or place of
    origin.[4] It’s against the law to discriminate on the basis of “age, disability, race, sex, intersex status, gender identity or sexual orientation in certain areas of public life”.[5]

[1] Australian Human Rights Commission. (2021). What is Racism?

[2] Australian Human Rights Commission. (2021). Who Experiences Racism?

[3] All Together Now. (2021). Racism in Australia.

[4] Australian Human Rights Commission. (2021). About Racial Discrimination.

[5] The Salvation Army Australia. (2020). A Pathway to Social Justice. p. 13.

Older Australians generally live longer and healthier lives than those in earlier generations, but many older people still experience considerable hardship. Older people (65 years plus) are especially at risk of falling into poverty, homelessness and housing insecurity. The single Aged Pension, with additional supplements is around $25,000. With the high cost of living in Australia, this amount leaves many in need. Home ownership is the most important determinant of the wellbeing of people on the full Aged Pension[1], and about 14 percent of pensioners who don’t own their home say they have suffered financial hardship – for example, they skipped meals, did not heat their home or were unable to pay bills on time.[2]

Access to appropriate aged care can also be especially difficult for groups already experiencing disadvantage or discrimination, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) peoples, Veterans of the Australian Defence Force and their families, older people living in rural or remote areas, those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, older women in private rental accommodation and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and questioning (LGBTIQA+) people.

Older Australians can also face ageism which remains the most accepted form of prejudice in Australia.[3] Ageism has economic costs, with recent research suggesting that an extra three percent in workforce participation by people aged 55 years and over would lead to a $33 billion boost to Australia’s GDP.[4] Older Australians are also one of the groups most vulnerable to loneliness, marked by transitional life changes that can increase the risk of, or act as a trigger for loneliness, especially for older men.

Older Australians have made, and continue to make, an enormous contribution to Australian society and we need to ensure they can live with dignity in their retirement years.

  • As a nation, we can provide adequate funding for the care of older people. This involves ensuring there is appropriate health, aged care and social services, with wrap-around supports that allow all people to age ‘in place’ where they feel safe and connected.
  • As a state or territory, we can develop programs for older Australians informed by lived experience and evidence-informed research about the needs of older Australians. These might include education around digital literacy and safety, accessible transport, financial literacy, elder abuse, social connection and loneliness, training to (re)enter the workforce and increased volunteerism.
  • As a community, we can reduce stigma associated with ageing. We can do this by providing welcoming spaces for older Australians that are inclusive of their many varied roles in society, including as carers, grandparents, mentors and volunteers.
  • As individuals, we can connect with older people in our community. This might be to offer help when needed (like mowing the lawn or picking up groceries) but could also be to learn from and enjoy the company of our elders.

Facts and infographics/statements

  • In 2017, there were 3.8 million Australians aged 65 and over (15 percent of the total population). The number and proportion of older Australians is expected to continue to grow with the population of older people expected to comprise 8.8 million people (or 22 percent of the population) by
  • Apart from income, a major indicator of poverty in Australia is age. In Australia, the poverty rate for those over 65 years is 19.5 percent, rising to 28.7 percent for those over 75 years.[6]
  • A third of older Australians have experienced some form of age-related discrimination, most commonly as employment-related discrimination.[7]

[1] SuperGuide (2021, September 20). Age Pension Rates (September 2021 to March 2022).

[2] Benevolent Society. (2016). The Adequacy of the Age Pension in Australia.

[3] Grattan Institute (2019, April 10). Why Australia’s Old-Age Poverty Rates Are Far Lower Than You Might Think.

[4] Australian Human Rights Commission. (2021, September 14). What’s Age Got To Do With It?

[5] Ibid.

[6] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Older Australia at a Glance.

[7] Jericho, G. (2019, April 15). Australian Poverty in Graphs: It’s a Desperate State of Affairs. The Guardian.

[7] Australian Human Rights Commission. (2021, September 14). What’s Age Got To Do With It?

Gambling harm is any adverse consequence related to gambling activity that affects the health or wellbeing of an individual, family unit, community or population.[1]

Gambling, like any other addiction, is a chronic disease, not a personal weakness or a moral failing. Gambling harm is not limited only to those who gamble at risky levels or compulsively. It’s also experienced by the family and friends of those who gamble (even if not compulsively) and the wider community.[2] Gambling harm might include relationship difficulties, health problems, emotional or psychological distress, financial problems, issues with work or study, cultural problems and criminal activity.[3] Australians spend more per person on gambling than any other country in the world (almost double that of New Zealand).[4] More money is spent on gambling than on other activities that can be addictive and dangerous including alcohol, tobacco and all illegal drugs.[5]

For every person who gambles in a harmful way in our country, another seven are directly impacted, including family and friends, causing a multiplying impact of ‘affected others’ within communities.[6]

  • As a nation, we can take a public health and holistic approach to gambling harm. This would involve ensuring that gambling harm minimisation, prevention and consumer protections are at the centre of any gambling-related legislation and policy across the country. It would also involve regulation to reduce the proliferation of gambling advertising and gambling products.
  • As a state or territory, we can focus efforts on consumer protections. This might involve reducing availability of poker machines in the most stressed communities, identifying gambling behaviour that could lead to harm and providing proactive interventions, including better training for staff at gambling. For some states and territories, it may involve reducing the government’s own reliance on gambling revenue.
  • As a community, we can be aware, and raise awareness, of the considerable harm that comes from gambling. Being sensitive to the possibility that members might be experiencing gambling harm might lead a community group to avoid gaming venues for social events or forego ‘office sweeps’ on sporting matches.
  • As individuals, we can support people experiencing gambling harm and suffering the stigma attached to it. We can recognise that a person exhibiting concerning addictive behaviour around gambling is dealing with a health issue and not a personal weakness.


  • Australians lost $25 billion on gambling in 2018–19. This means that $1,277 was lost on gambling per person in that year.[7]
  • Approximately 9.9 million Australians gamble regularly:[8]
    • 6 percent play the lottery or scratchies (losing $2.5 billion annually)
    • 9 percent play poker machines (losing $8.7 billion annually)
    • 4 percent participate in betting (losing $4.2 billion annually)
      • 2 percent who participate in betting do so online
    • The COVID-19 pandemic increased online gambling activity in Australia:[9]
      • Approximately one in three people signed up for a new online betting account during 2020 lockdowns
      • People who gambled four or more times per week rose from three percent to 32 percent between June and July 2020
      • Men aged 18–34 lost $1,075 per month, up from $687 over the same period

[1] Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. (2016). Fact Sheet 1 - A Conceptual Framework of Gambling Harm.

[2] Productivity Commission. (2010, February 26). Gambling, Report no. 50, Vol. 1.

[3] Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. (2021, March 18). Reducing the Harm Caused by Gambling. Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

[4] Alliance for Gambling Reform. (2021). About – Alliance for Gambling Reform. The Pokies Play You.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. (2021, March 18). Reducing the Harm Caused by Gambling.

[7] Queensland Government Statistician's Office, Queensland Treasury. (2021, April 28). Australian Gambling Statistics, 36th edition.

[8] Roy Morgan. (2020, May 22). The Pandemic Lockdown Reduced Betting Options, But Half of Bettors Were Already Betting Online.

[9] Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Gambling Research Centre. (2021, September). Gambling in Australia. gambling-australia

Young people are active agents of change and key actors in society. Unfortunately, many young people in our country do not get a great start in life, facing numerous challenges that are beyond their control and that affect their development.

Youth unemployment has been increasing over the last few years in Australia. Even when employed, many young people are also underemployed, or working in casual and part-time jobs, but wanting or needing more stable, full-time work.[1] Poor employment prospects can substantially impact a young person’s wellbeing. Being unemployed can limit access to a wide range of services and opportunities, including housing, transportation and covering basic needs. Unemployment at a young age can also lead to poverty, exposing young people to isolation and exclusion from society, and can significantly reduce the person’s long-term potential in life.[2]

Unemployment barriers amongst young people are often linked to social and economic disadvantage, primarily the lack of a stable home, lack of training or skills development, the absence of entry-level employment opportunities and disengagement with education in general.[3] The extremely low rate of the Youth Allowance payment means that employment, or access to intergenerational wealth, is the only way to avoid poverty.

  • As a nation, we can ensure that our policies will lead to equitable outcomes for young people, irrespective of their start in life. Prioritise the development of a more effective national employment placement, support and workplace training model to facilitate young people into suitable, sustainable work.
  • As a state or territory, we can develop social policies that place young people at the centre, listening to young people’s needs. This means that resources, supports and interventions need to be tailored, flexible and responsive to the actual needs and experience of each young person.
  • As a community, we can help prepare young people for adulthood. We can seek out the insights, experiences and skills of young people, particularly those from disadvantaged cohorts, when making decisions or choosing leaders. In this way we can help mentor and support young people in their aspirations.
  • As individuals, we can celebrate young people as active agents of change and key actors in society. We can treat and listen to young people with the dignity and respect they deserve.


  • Unemployment among young people aged 15–24 reached a 23-year high (since 1997) of 16.4 percent in July 2020, an increase from 12 percent (or 264,000) in 2019. This represents approximately 3,337,224 young Australians unable to find work. With these figures, youth unemployment is higher than the post-GFC peak of 14.4 percent in 2014.[4]
  • If we combine unemployment and underemployment for young people, this results in one in three young people in the labour force unable to get enough hours of work to make ends meet.[5]
  • Research before the COVID-19 pandemic showed that 1.2 million Australians under the age of 24 are living in poverty. This represents 37 percent of the total population living in poverty in Australia, estimated at 3.24 million.[6]
  • On any given night in Australia, 116,427 Australians are homeless. 27,680 of these are young people aged 12­–24 years.[7]

[1] Brotherhood of St. Laurence. (2020). December 2020 Youth Employment Monitor.

[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021, June 25). Australia’s Youth: Engagement in Education or Employment.

[3] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Australia’s Youth: COVID-19 and the Impact on Young People.

[4] Brotherhood of St. Laurence. (2020, December). 2020 Youth Employment Monitor.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Davidson, P., Saunders, P., Bradbury, B. & Wong, W. (2020). Poverty in Australia 2020: Part 1, Overview. ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No. 3. ACOSS

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018, March 14), Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness. cat. no. 2049.0.

Gender inequality is a social condition that stems from the unequal value placed on men and women. Although women make up over half the population in Australia, they are underrepresented in almost all places of influence. Across all positions, women are paid less than men and they are also disproportionately more likely to be doing unpaid work at home. Gender inequality also provides the underlying conditions for violence against women.

We need gender equality urgently. Gender equality prevents violence against women and girls and is essential for economic prosperity. Gender equality and women’s economic security will benefit boys and men too, through increased personal wellbeing, happier quality, greater economic growth and more peaceful societies.[1]

Societies that value all genders equally are safer and healthier – it’s in everyone’s interests to achieve gender equality.

  • As a nation, we can actively implement policies that promote women’s independence and decision-making both in public and private. For example, some countries have explored ways of encouraging men to increase their use of paternity leave when their child is born – the increased use of paternity leave has seen a more equal division of labour in the home and better for parents and children.
  • As a state or territory, we can tackle the gender pay gap. State and territory governments can set an example by ensuring equitable paid leave and superannuation arrangements for public sector workers, so that informal care and pregnancy don't lead to long-term disadvantage.
  • As a community, we can model gender equity. Community groups can look to own leadership and decision-making structures and ensure that women have an equal place at the table. Community groups can also take a zero-tolerance approach to sexism and misogyny within our own membership.
  • As individuals, we can challenge our own unconscious bias that allows for gender inequality to foster in our own lives. All individuals, irrespective of gender, need to call out sexism – both overt and covert. We can challenge language and images that suggest that women are less than men.


  • Australian women retire, on average, with less than 60 percent of the super than men.
  • Australia’s full-time gender pay gap is 13.4 percent, with women earning an average $242.20 per week less than men.
  • The World Economic Forum annual global gender gap index indicates that Australia’s overall pay gap has worsened from 23rd position in 2010 to 50th in 2021.
  • The ‘typical’ Australian man spends fewer than five hours a week doing housework, but the typical Australian woman does between five and 14 hours.
  • In 2019, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reported that only around 17.1 percent of CEOs or heads of business were women.

[1] Hudson, V. et al. (2014). Sex & World Politics. Columbia University Press; Schieman, S., Ruppanner, L. & Milkie, M.A. (2018) Who Helps with Homework? Parenting Inequality and Relationship Quality Among Employed Mothers and Fathers. J Fam Econ, (39), 49–65.; McKinsey Global Institute. (2015). The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth. industries/public%20and%20social%20sector/our%20insights/how%20advancing%20wom ens%20equality%20can%20add%2012%20trillion%20to%20global%20growth/mgi%20power%20of%20parity_full%20report_september %202015.pdf

Approximately one in six Australians live with disability.[1] A person might have an impairment (physical, sensory, intellectual or psychosocial), but this is only a disability when our society makes it one. That means when our community is organised in such a way that that impairment means a person is not able to participate in society fully.

Barriers that people with disability experience include issues with physically accessing a space but can also include barriers to effective communication (information not provided in a suitable form, such as an easy English translation or live captions in a meeting), absence of support (such as personal care support or an assistance animal) or even discrimination (such as deliberately excluding a person because of their impairment or because making an adjustment would be inconvenient).

When people with disability are denied the opportunity to fully participate – socially, politically and economically – our whole society misses out, not just the individual who is being excluded.

These barriers can also make people with disability more vulnerable to other forms of disadvantage and sometimes, they make people with disability more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. We need to address this vulnerability by removing barriers to participation and providing support necessary to ensure people with disability are treated with the respect and dignity that all people deserve.

  • As a nation, we can redesign government services to ensure both equity of access and equity of experience for people with disability. This is particularly the case for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with a disability. We should also recognise the great contribution of carers.
  • As a state or territory, we can ensure that all services (not just specialist disability services) are designed with and for people with disability. There needs to be a focus on inclusion and belonging – not separation – recognising that all people benefit when all abilities are recognised and celebrated.
  • As a community, we can include people with disability in decision-making and leadership roles, recognising the huge contribution people with disability can and do make to the community. Doing this will ensure that community groups are accessible and safe for people with disability to participate fully.
  • As individuals, we can be an ally to people with disability. It’s important to view people (friends, colleagues and strangers) through their strengths, not their disability.


  • People with disability experience higher rates of violence, abuse and neglect than people without disability. 47 percent of adults with disability have experienced violence compared with 36 percent of those without disability. Evidence also shows that people with intellectual disabilities are ‘significantly’ more likely to experience sexual abuse.[2]
  • People with disability are more likely to leave school at younger ages and to have a lower level of educational attainment. 34 percent of people aged 20 and over with disability have completed year 12, whereas 66 percent of people without disability have completed Year 12.
  • 48 percent of people aged 15–64 with a disability are employed. This is significantly lower than those without disability (80 percent).[3]

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). People with Disability in Australia.

[2] Frohmader, C. (2011). Submission to the Preparation Phase of the UN Analytical Study on Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA),

[3] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). People with Disability in Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are part of the oldest living culture in the world, but they are also amongst the most disadvantaged Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities experience lower life expectancy and poorer health outcomes, while encountering higher rates of infant and maternal mortality, family and domestic violence, suicide and incarceration.

There are both historical and current contributors to this disadvantage and the experience of colonialism and suppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures has an ongoing negative effect on people from these cultures. Many of the drivers of disadvantage are systemic and structural. This means that as well as addressing disadvantage as it’s experienced, we also need to address the underlying structures that lead to discrimination and hardship.

In Australia, successive governments have committed to ‘closing the gap’ between outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those enjoyed by non-Indigenous Australians. The most recent report from the Government showed that much more work is needed in order to meet the target of closing the gap by 2030.

Indigenous people have shared a pathway with us to address this social justice issue – now we need to walk along it.

  • As a nation, we can implement the recommendations of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.[1] This involves creating a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to the Parliament and Makarrata Commission. On a very practical level, we can also increase cooperation and cross-sectoral funding for the full implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
  • As a state or territory, we can address laws, policies and systems that perpetuate disadvantage. This is most urgently needed in the criminal justice system (such as raising the age of criminal responsibility), but we can also ensure that services, such as health and educational resources, are culturally appropriate, accessible and fit for purpose for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • As a community, we can be respectful of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and wisdom. We can include Welcome to Country/Acknowledgement of Country in our gatherings and ensure that our events and activities are actively welcoming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and delivered in a culturally safe way.
  • As individuals, we can commit to learning more about the shared history of this land – even when that history is challenging or painful. We can then use that knowledge to show support and respect, such as using Indigenous place names or supporting Indigenous organisations, businesses and events.


  • Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up around two percent of the national population, they constitute 27 percent of the national prison population.
  • Indigenous youth are 22 times more like to be in juvenile detention than non-Indigenous.
  • Rates of out-of-home care for Indigenous children have almost tripled in the past 15 years.[2]

[1]The Uluru Statement from the Heart,

[2] Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision. (2020). Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2020. Productivity Commission.

Children have a right to a full life and the early years of a child’s life provide the foundation for future health, development and wellbeing. According to the five Australian Early Development Census (AECD) domains, around one in five Australian children are developmentally vulnerable by the time they start school, and these children are overrepresented in the most disadvantaged settings.[1]

There is a strong correlation between poverty in the first thousand days of a child’s life and adverse health and wellbeing outcomes in later life[2] including poor educational and employment outcomes. Families who attract the attention of child protection services most often have ongoing lived experiences of poverty, domestic and family violence, substance misuse and mental health conditions. Indigenous children are faced with additional hardships and children with disability have nearly four times higher risk of experiencing violence than children without disability.[3]

Children have so much potential. To address this social justice issue we need to provide the foundation for that potential to be realised.

  • As a nation we can uphold the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. This will include platforms for children to express their views (voice) equally as adults and freely on all matters affecting them. We can also implement child-centred policies and programs (not just for parents and families), including those that provide early intervention and prevention support for the first five years of a child’s life.
  • As a state or territory, we can provide funding for programs that provide specialist and safe including culturally safe support for children. For example, we can provide child support workers, including for families experiencing family and domestic violence and young parents. We can also better coordinate services used by children and families (schools, health and community centres), especially in communities that are most disadvantaged.
  • As a community, we can design and invest in community spaces for children. Soft-entry spaces can provide a ‘hub’ for community connection and targeted support which are more effective in delivering outcomes for disadvantaged children.
  • As individuals, we treat children as fully realised people. We can see the children around us. Smile and be genuinely curious. We can seek out connections with children in spaces that are safe, appealing and welcoming to children.

Facts and infographics/statements

  • In 2020, (based on pre-COVID-19 research), almost one in six children up to the age of fifteen years (17.7 percent) were living in material poverty,[4] not including opportunity or relational
  • At 30 June 2018, just over 45,800 children were in out-of-home care in Australia. Indigenous children are 11 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children[5] and approximately 14 percent of children in out-of-home care were reported as having a disability.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on children and young people. 46 percent of Australian children and young people are at risk of adverse effects by being physically disconnected from school and youth employment dropped to 67 percent at August 2021[6].

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020, April 3). Australia’s Children. transition-primary-school

[2] Moore, T.G., Arefadib, N., Deery, A., Keyes, M. & West, S. (2017). The First Thousand Days: An Evidence Paper – Summary. Parkville, Victoria: Centre for Community Child Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

[3] Wayland, S., and Hindmarsh, G. (2017, October). Understanding Safeguarding Practices for Children with Disability when Engaging with Organisations. Australian Institute of Family Studies

[4]Australian Council of Social Service and University of New South Wales. (2021). Poverty in Australia. Poverty and Inequality in Australia.

[5] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021, May 18). Rate of Children in Out-of-Home Care Remains Stable.

[6] Brown, N., Te Riele, K., Shelley, B. & Woodroffe, J. (2020). Learning at Home During COVID-19: Effects on Vulnerable Young Australians. Independent Rapid Response Report. Hobart: University of Tasmania, Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment.

The United Nations defines a refugee as “any person who, owning to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country”. An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking protection as a refugee and is still waiting to have their claim assessed. Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention and Protocol that provides a framework for the protection and fair treatment of all people seeking asylum.

Data from the United Nations Human Rights Council indicates that at least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes at the end of 2020, including 26.4 million formally recognised refugees.[1] While Australia has consistently resettled refugees and asylum seekers, the number it accepts is low compared to many of our OECD counterparts.[2] Some experts have also raised concerns around whether the ways in which Australia assesses and treats asylum seekers is consistent with the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

The numbers and nationalities of people seeking asylum can vary significantly and dramatically with changing political realities. Those nations who can accommodate refugees, including Australia, need to have programs and services that remain agile in responding to the humanitarian crises that often follow political instability, totalitarianism and war.

  • As a nation, we can ensure humane standards of treatment and conditions for refugees and asylum seekers in line with relevant international conventions and commitments. This includes ensuring that having a status of refugee or asylum seeker does not make a person more vulnerable to other forms of harm, such as family violence. We can also increase Australian intakes and actively resettle refugees in Australia, with appropriate support.
  • As a state or territory, we can focus on social cohesion and support. We can offer grants and programs that promote social cohesion, education opportunities and safe, affordable housing when refugees and asylum seekers are based in the community.
  • As a community, we can create welcoming spaces and events that actively include refugees and asylum seekers. If it’s appropriate, we could even sponsor refugee families to settle in local communities.
  • As individuals, we can be friends. We can intentionally engage with refugees and asylum seekers when our paths cross and provide opportunities, where possible, for employment, training and social interaction. We can speak up when we hear or see racism or bias against refugees and asylum seekers.


  • One in every 97 people globally has fled their home as a result of conflict or persecution.[3]
  • 42 percent of all refugees are children aged under 18 years old.[4]
  • Between January 2009 and December 2018, Australia recognised or resettled almost 181,000 refugees. This represented 0.89 percent of the 20.3 million refugees recognised globally over that period. Australia’s total contribution for the decade was ranked 25th overall, 29th per capita and 54th relative to national GDP.[5]

[1] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (2021). Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2020. UNHRC.

[2]hThe World Bank. (2020). Refugee Population by Country and Territory of Asylum – OECD Members.

[3]Australian Red Cross. (2022). Refugee and Asylum Seeker Facts.

[4] 4 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (2021). Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2020.

[5] Refugee Council of Australia. (2022). How generous is Australia’s Refugee Program Compared to Other Countries?

Although Australia has made progress toward equality and equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer people and other sexuality and gender diverse (LGBTQIA+) people, there’s still a really long way to go. It has been illegal to discriminate against any person on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status since 2013, but the fact is that discrimination still occurs.

Many LGBTQIA+ people live healthy and happy lives. Research demonstrates that a disproportionate number experience poorer mental health outcomes and have higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. Compared to the general population, LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to have attempted suicide, had suicidal ideation and engaged in self-harm in their lifetime. These health outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTQIA+.[1]

At the heart of disadvantage for LGBTIQA+ people is the failure by some people in our society to recognise that we’re all inherently equal and valuable. Addressing this social justice issue needs to start from a recognition of the inherent worth of LGBTIQA+ people.

  • As a nation, we can ensure that the national conversation about human rights, discrimination and religious freedoms recognises the inherent value and equality of people irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. This recognition flows to a commitment to appropriate research and data collection (such as through the Census) to inform policy and ensure that LGBTQIA+ people are included in all policy discussions that impact them.
  • As a state or territory, we can address the laws and policies that allow discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people to remain. We can ensure that all services funded by government are inclusive, non-judgmental and accessible for LGBTQIA+ people. We can reform laws that perpetuate hardship, such as criminalising all change and suppression (gay conversion) practices.
  • As a community, we can make sure that our community spaces and groups are welcoming and safe for all people, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex. We can also reassess whether places that currently legally exclude LGBTQIA+ people (such as for religious reasons) should continue to do so and acknowledge the significant pain that exclusion causes.
  • As individuals, we can treat all people with love, respect and dignity. We can examine our own language and behaviour and call out discrimination, exclusion and oppression whenever we see it.


  • LGBTQIA+ people aged 16–17 were almost three times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past 12 months and almost five times more likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetime.
  • Transgender people aged 14–25 are 15 times more likely to have attempted suicide.
  • 71 percent of LGBTQIA+ people aged 16–27 indicated that they did not use a crisis support service during their most recent personal or mental health crisis. Of this group, 32.6 percent indicated that their decision was due to anticipated discrimination.[2]
  • Over 23 percent of LGBTQIA+ people aged 14–21 have experienced one or more forms of homelessness in their lifetime and 11.5 percent had this experience in the past 12 months.[3]
  • Over 41 percent of LGBTQIA+ people aged 18 and over reported having ever been in an intimate relationship where they felt they were abused in some way by their partner/s and 38.5 percent of LGBTQIA+ people aged 18 and over reported ever feeling abused by a family member. [4]

[1] LGBTIQ+ Health Australia. (2021, May 13). Snapshot of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Statistics for LBGTIQ+ People, 2.

[2] Ibid

[3] Hill, A. O., Lyons, A., Jones, J., McGowan, I., Carman, M., Parsons, M., Power, J., & Bourne, A. (2021). Writing Themselves in 4: The Health and Wellbeing of LGBTQA+ Young People in Australia. National Report, Monograph Series No 124. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health. and Society.

[4] Jones, T., Carpenter, M., Hart, B., Ansara, G., Leonard, W. and Lucke, J. (2016). Intersex: Stories and Statistics from Australia. Open Book Publishers.

Modern slavery is a non-legal term used to describe economic exploitation achieved through force, fraud, coercion or abuse of vulnerability. It’s a crime described as ‘hidden in plain sight’ because victims are often working right in front us – on farms, in restaurants, massage salons and as cleaners – but are too scared to seek help.

Australia has made some progress in recent years, but we’re still lagging compared to similar countries, with the majority of victims going undetected[1] and conviction rates remaining low.[2] Some of the reasons for this are that the community has not been given the chance to learn how to detect modern slavery or given the tools to respond effectively if they see signs of exploitation.

There are also issues with how we provide support in Australia. Right now, government support is only available through engagement with law enforcement. This is an issue because there is strong evidence to suggest that victims’ legitimate fear of police prevents them from seeking help.[3]

Without a critical rethink, Australia will continue to under-identify victims of this terrible crime, leaving many to either remain in slavery or take enormous personal risk to negotiate their own safety. Additionally, traffickers will continue to go unpunished.

  • As a nation, we can provide victim-centred pathways to timely, needs-based, unconditional support. We can also provide tools and education for service providers and the general public to know the indicators of modern slavery and take appropriate action. In this way we can increase the support available to victims and increase visibility of this crime.
  • As a state or territory, we can build our understanding of modern slavery risks and ensure we aren’t contributing to it. States and territories can support research and data collection to inform the national understanding of modern slavery. States and territories can also update public procurement rules to make sure that government spending is in line with human rights and sustainability principles.
  • As a community, we can learn more about the indicators of modern slavery. We can be alert to modern slavery risks in our own communities and seek information and advice from anti-slavery organisations if we see any risk signs.
  • As individuals, we can consume ethically. We can look into the modern slavery credentials of the companies where we spend our money and make decisions that support companies that are taking an active stand to eradicate modern slavery.

To seek help, or make a referral, contact The Salvation Army Trafficking and Slavery Safe House on 1300 473 560 or You may also contact the Australian Federal Police on 131AFP (131237). If someone is in immediate danger, call 000.


  • For every one victim identified in Australia, four remain undetected.
  • The Global Slavery Index estimates up to 15,000 people are in some form of slavery in Australia.
  • Less than 30 individuals have been prosecuted for slavery and trafficking crimes in Australia.
  • There are over 40 million people in modern slavery around the world. Most are women and girls.
  • The average modern-day slave is sold for $90–$100[4]

[1] Lyneham, s., Dowling, C., Bricknell, S. (2019). Estimating the Dark Figure of Human Trafficking and Slavery Victimisation in Australia. Statistical Bulletins No. 16 Australian Institute of Criminology.

[2] Australian Government. (2018). Ninth Annual Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery 1 July 2016- 30 June 2017, pp 70, 78 and 93.

[3] Ezeilo, J. (2012). Report of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Mission to Australia, United Nations General Assembly, p12. G12/135/48/PDF/G1213548.pdf?OpenElement US Office to Monitor Trafficking in Persons. Trafficking in Persons Reports 2012-2020.

[4] Bales, K. (1999). Disposable people: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

After exploring the above links and resources, learn more about what The Salvation Army is doing for social change on our Policy and Advocacy Pages.
View our Social Impact Policy References.

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Social Justice Stocktake

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