Anti-Poverty Week webinar – Tackling child poverty in the wake of COVID-19

Hosted by UnitingCare Australia

To mark Anti-Poverty Week, UnitingCare Australia hosted an event to shine a light on the issue of child poverty in Australia. Bringing together an expert panel, the speakers talked about key issues facing children and families, and what support is needed to ensure they have the best chance at a future full of hope. For a high level overview of the issues, read our media release here.

As the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to ramify across communities, the number of children and families living in poverty is set to escalate.

Before the pandemic, rates of child poverty in Australia were already stubbornly high, with more than one in six children living below the poverty line. In the 1980s Australia led the world in implementing measures to guard against child poverty, reducing it by over 30 per cent through reforms to the family payments system. These reforms, however, have been steadily unwound over the past two decades, with a succession of cuts to family payments and decisions to slash social security payments to low-income families.

This webinar brings together a panel of speakers to examine child poverty in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on the role of social security and family payments in alleviating child poverty. The panel of speakers consider some of the key factors contributing to high levels of child poverty in Australia, the implications of the pandemic-induced recession, and the political enablers and policy reforms needed to drive a new national effort to tackle child poverty in Australia.

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Download Miranda's PowerPoint presentation
Download Terese's PowerPoint presentation


Claerwen Little

Claerwen Little


Claerwen Little is the National Director, UnitingCare Australia, the national body of the Uniting Church’s community services network, one of the largest networks of providers in the country. Claerwen is a passionate and committed professional with over 38 years experience in the not for profit sector. She has held a number of senior executive roles in service delivery, advocacy and innovation across a range of social service areas. Claerwen has spent her career seeking solutions to our most challenging social issues, finding positive outcomes for individuals, families and communities. Claerwen holds a Masters of Policy (Social Policy), is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a Graduate of the Stanford Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders. 

Brian Howe

The Reverend the Honourable Professor Brian Howe AO

Reverend the Honourable Professor Brian Howe AO Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Studies at the University of Melbourne. He was a Minister in each of the Hawke and Keating Governments serving mainly in social policy related Ministries (1983-1996) and Deputy Prime Minister (1991-1995). He has continued his interest in social policy while teaching and researching at the university since leaving politics.

He led the Hawke Government’s Family Payments Package which reduced child poverty in Australia by 30 per cent. He is also an ordained Uniting Church Minister.

Miranda Stewart

Professor Miranda Stewart

Miranda Stewart is Professor and Director of Tax at Melbourne University Law School and a Fellow at the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute (TTPI), the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. Miranda was the inaugural Director of TTPI from 2014 to 2017. Miranda researches, teaches and consults on a wide range of tax law, policy and budget topics in Australia and globally. Recent publications include the edited book Tax, Social Policy and Gender (2017, ANU Press); ‘Behavioural insights in tax collection’ (2019) eJournal of Tax Research; and ‘Australia’s Company Tax: Options for Fiscally Sustainable Reform’ (Australian Tax Forum, 2018). Miranda is a member of the Permanent Scientific Committee of the International Fiscal Association. She is a co-editor of blog and a frequent public commentator on tax and budgeting. Miranda was named as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence in 2018.

Terese Edwards

Terese Edwards

Terese Edwards is the CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children.

She was the winner of the Unsung Hero award at the 2019 HESTA Community Sector Awards, which was awarded for her work advocating for single mothers and connecting them to vital services and support networks to help them overcome isolation, hardship, and violence.

Bronwyn Internal

The Honourable Bronwyn Pike

Bronwyn Pike is the CEO of Uniting Vic.Tas and has extensive experience across the public, private and community services sectors.

Bronwyn was the Victorian State Member of Parliament for Melbourne from 1999 to 2012. Her 13-year parliamentary career included 11 years as a Minister for Housing, Aged Care, Community Services, Health, Education and Skills.

Before entering parliament in 1999, she was the Director of Justice and Social Responsibility in the Synod of Victoria, which provided children, youth, family and aged care services as well as social justice advocacy.

Bronwyn has considerable governance experience at national and state level. She has chaired the Boards of Western Heath, the South Australian Urban Renewal Authority (Renewal SA) and UnitingCare Australia and has been a Board member of Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Leap In! and Uniting NSW.ACT. She is also the Victorian Co-chair of Anti-Poverty Week 2020.

Bronwyn is a lifelong member of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Resources and useful links

550 Reasons to Smile is a collection of stories submitted by people in Australia who have been temporarily raised out of poverty by the $550 Coronavirus supplement.

In conjunction with the 550 Reasons to Smile campaign, the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children undertook a survey to examine the impact the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement has had on families. The results of this survey can be found on the Anti-Poverty Week website.

From 25 September, the Government cut the Coronavirus Supplement by $300 per fortnight. The 300 Reasons to Cry Survey has been set up to capture the experiences of people who have had their income drop due to cuts to the Coronvirus Supplement.

Debts and disappointment: mothers’ experiences of the child support system is a joint report from the Swinburne University of Technology and the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children. The report was released in December 2019 and reveals why the child support system in its current form does not work for vulnerable women and their children, and how this is in turn contributes to the high rates of child poverty in single parent households.

Anti-Poverty Week has produced a range of resources that highlight the extent of child poverty and the factors underlying such poverty. This includes a Fact Sheet and infographic videos and digital screens which illustrate the extent and ramifications of child poverty in Australia.

Our 2018 Report Child Social Exclusion, Poverty and Disadvantage in Australia details the multi-dimensional nature of disadvantage and its impact among child in Australia. This report was produced in partnership with the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling.