1 in 10 Australian children live in disadvantaged families

Over 662,100 children are living in jobless families in Australia today.

Not all children get an equal start in life. Today, one in ten Australian children are living in jobless families, where even life’s basics are hard to come by.

These low-income families face significant challenges everyday including sickness, disability and unemployment all of which can make it really difficultly to cover basic living costs. Sometimes these are families who have experienced many generations of disadvantage. For others, their situation may be a more recent change in health or employment that has affected them so badly that they are no longer able to meet the costs of their day to day living.

With limited financial resources the daily life of the family changes significantly. If the parents are working, they are more likely to be working irregular hours or having to travel long distances for work. Medical appointments or limited mobility put more pressure on other family members, including children to keep the household running. For some families this is as drastic as not having somewhere permanent to live.

Without extra support, everyday expenses like rent are hard to meet.

And because they don't fit in, they struggle at school.

Without extra learning support, disadvantaged Australian children are at risk of falling behind at school.

And because they don't fit in, they struggle at school.

With so much focus on just ‘getting by’, many of these kids don’t have something as simple as a school bag, complete uniform or the schoolbooks they need to make the most of their education. They are often teased or left out by other students. 

And because they don’t fit in, they end up struggling at school, or failing altogether. For some, it can set up a pattern of underachievement that can last the rest of their lives.

As these children get older, they have fewer role models, and access to mentors and networks that are critical for creating educational opportunities to help them build their aspirations and be motivated to learn.

The impact on their learning is clear

The impact of this experience is substantial and affects a child’s ability to succeed at school from as early as when they start school.

  • One in three children from Australia’s most disadvantaged communities do not meet one or more key developmental milestones when they start school. 2
  • Disadvantaged students are on average 2-3 years behind in reading and maths by the time they are 15 years old.3
  • The reading gap between the most disadvantaged students and their better off peers is equivalent to almost three years of schooling.4
  • Year 12 completion rates are significantly lower (68%) for students from disadvantaged backgrounds than for students from more advantaged backgrounds (79%).5
  • Young people from advantaged backgrounds are three times more likely to attend university than students from vulnerable backgrounds.6
The impact of disadvantage on Australian students is shocking

The impact of disadvantage on Australian students is shocking

We need to ask some big questions.


The number of Australian children living in disadvantage is increasing.

We need to ask some big questions.

Alarmingly, there has been a 3.8 percentage point rise in the number of children living in poverty in the last ten years, now 11.3% (662,100 children).1

How do we empower young Australians to lift themselves out of poverty and onto a better path?

These children need our help more than ever. This world will require them to be highly adaptable to the pace of life and work in the 21st century. To be disadvantaged in this rapidly changing world means being even more dependent on the skills developed in the first twenty years of life.

How do we help these children break a self-perpetuating cycle?

The Smith Family is dedicated to helping these kids achieve the future they deserve. And we are very focused on this vital work.

For Steven, support from The Smith Family helped him overcome extreme hardship. He hopes that by sharing his story, in his words, he can help other disadvantaged children see there is hope for a better future.

There are thousands of disadvantaged Australian children, just like Steven who need the life-changing, comprehensive support that a Sponsorship through The Smith Family can provide.  Find out how you can help a child like Steven fit in and catch up at school.

1 ABS Labour Force Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, June 2015 Data, Released August 2016

2 Source: Australian Government (2016) Australian Early Development Census National Report, 2015: A snapshot of early childhood development in Australian, DET: Canberra.

3Thomson et al, 2011, Challenges for Australian Education: Results from PISA 2009.

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2011, Review of school funding final report.

5 Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2012. National Report on Schooling in Australia 2010: Additional statistics.

6 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008, Review of Australian Higher Education Final Report.