Behind the Line: Poverty and disadvantage in Australia 2022

This Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report looks at how income poverty has changed through the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and examines how Australia’s states and territories compare in the prevalence of poverty and disadvantage.

It is the ninth report in the Focus on the States series, provides the latest examination of the prevalence of poverty within Australia, how this has changed over time, and which groups in society face the greatest risks of financial hardship and material deprivation.


The report contains the section ‘The Role of Housing Costs in Driving Poverty’ which focuses on how financially vulnerable people are forced to make spending decisions on really tight margins with little or no discretionary income. This is the situation currently estimated to impact on the 1.5 million renters across the country experiencing poverty.

Key Findings (Poverty Depth)

  • Severe poverty is assessed against a weekly income threshold of $270 per person after housing costs.
  • Single people in severe poverty have to live on less than $150 per week after housing costs are paid.
  • The poorest couples in Australia survive on less than $270 per week.


The report’s recommendations highlight the important intersection between housing and poverty and include increased investment in social housing and increased commonwealth rent assistance.

  • Increase base JobSeeker and related social security payments by $20 per day as a minimum amount to lift recipients above a threshold for severe poverty.
  • Increase the level of Commonwealth Rent Assistance maximum payment by 30 per cent to better align CRA support with rental costs.
  • Consider how CRA maximum payment rates can be indexed to an agreed basic measure of rental costs.
  • Increase investment in social housing to deliver new housing units on a scale that meets needs.
  • Invest in local services that provide immediate advice and support to newly jobless people in accessing government services, and connections to new employment opportunities.
  • Extend free public transport to all concession card holders and job seekers.
  • Ensure that household fees and charges for essential services remain affordable for low-income households.

Further Reading

Read the Behind the Line report here.