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Financial distress in Australian households

An empty wallet

Do you feel your finances are stretched more than ever? You’re not alone.

Many of us are noticing that we’re trying to stretch our finances further than ever before. With living costs on the climb, it’s an everyday reality that’s biting into our budgets. From groceries to fuel – we’re feeling the impact. 

Cost of living, inflation pressures and rising rental stress are pushing more people into homelessness at a time when there’s very limited availability of affordable homes to rent,” says Sharon Mallister, CEO of Mission Australia.

Sharon Callister, CEO of Mission Australia.

Two in five households that receive CRA experience rental distress

The Productivity Commission’s latest Report on Government Services (released January 2024) shows that 42.9 per cent, or two in five households are experiencing rental stress despite receiving Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA). 

People on low incomes are particularly susceptible to housing instability, due to higher private housing prices. 

In 2019 – 2020, 52.5 per cent of lower income households were experiencing rental stress (paying more than 30 per cent of gross household income or housing costs.) 

Alongside rental distress, relationship breakdown (including domestic and family violence), increased the risk of homelessness and the need for social housing. Interpersonal and relationship issues was the reason 49 per cent of people sought specialist homelessness services. Of these, 73.3 per cent identified as domestic and family violence.

Mental health, medical issues or problematic substance abuse accounted for why 24.1 per cent of people accessed specialist homelessness services. Disability, alcohol and drug misuse and unemployment were also contributing factors.

“Housing has become a burning issue for Australians both for those who could not afford a home and for those worrying about their children,” Former NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet said while giving a talk to the Property Council of NSW in mid February 2024.

Unfortunately, housing instability and homelessness can increase vulnerability to worse economic circumstances, through “poorer outcomes in education, employment and health and increased risk of involvement with the justice system,” the Productivity Report states.

Students dropping out of high school

The Productivity Commission’s Report on education services (issued January 2024) has found that 79 per cent of students in government high schools completed Year 12, compared to 83.3 per cent five years earlier. For non-government schools, the proportion who finish was a healthier 87.2 per cent. This is the lowest retention rate in high schools over the last 10 years.

The HSC attainment rates increased as socio-economic status increased. And, across remote areas in Australia, the attainment rates were substantially lower in very remote areas compared to other areas. 

The Productivity Commission report also suggested that enrolments at universities were continuing to trend downwards too. According to Lenore Taylor’s report in ‘The Guardian’, nationally in 2023, 65.7 per cent of people between 20 and 64 had a qualification at certificate III level or above, down from 66.2 per cent in 2022.

What can be done?

Address the inequality for the young people in our care.

Disadvantaged students have been found on average to be two to three years behind in reading and maths compared to their peers, and the likelihood is that they will earn less income and could become unemployed in the future.

The Burdekin Association’s targeted educational support assists children and young people in our Out of Home Care program who are unable to engage in their local school, but excel when provided with customised support, improving their access to opportunities such as employment, healthcare, housing, family and community.

Our Housing, Support and Community Intervention services provide support to children and young people between the age of 9 and 24.

Our Model of Care is innovative and based on extensive research and an understanding that the needs of the young people we assist are far greater than just providing safe accommodation.

Our program areas are focused on disrupting the risk factors within our community. Our programs and support results in 95 per cent of our young people being engaged in education or employment.

Learn more about the success of our programs here.

We acknowledge the Aboriginal people of the Cadigal and Gayamaygal Clans. We acknowledge the Country on which we live, work, and gather as being Aboriginal land.

We acknowledge the lands, waterways and skies that are connected to Aboriginal people. We honour them and pay our deepest respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

We respect their rightful place within our communities, and we value their ancient cultural knowledge and practices.

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We deeply respect that this will always be Aboriginal land and we will honour and follow the first peoples’ values in caring for the Country and for preserving their culture.

We deeply value that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the oldest living culture in the world and we will continue to work with their peoples and communities to ensure their cultures endure and remain strong.