This study exploring poverty and disadvantage through the lens of young Australians has found a significant number are missing out on items and experiences deemed essential for living a normal life, like fresh fruits and vegetables every day, internet access at home, school excursions, family holidays and some money of their own. Researchers from UNSW Sydney say the study sheds important new light on the nature of child poverty, including its impact on well-being and attitudes to schooling.
There was strong consensus among young people who participated in the research about which items are essential: having three meals a day (96.1 per cent GHS; 96.4 per cent LFL); fruit or vegetables at least once per day (96 per cent GHS; 94.6 per cent LFL); clothes needed for school (94.7 per cent GHS; 96.7 per cent LFL); access to public transportation (92.1 per cent GHS; 93.4 per cent LFL).
Significant proportions of both groups experience severe deprivation, that is, they are deprived of at least three essential items. About one in five (18.7 per cent) of the government high schools sample and two in five (40.4 per cent) of The Smith Family Learning for Life sample experience severe deprivation.
Those experiencing higher levels of deprivation (identified using a new Child Deprivation Index derived by the researchers) were shown to have lower levels of well-being in many dimensions, such as overall life satisfaction,positivity about the future and connectedness to family, friends and community. Those experiencing higher levels of deprivation were also generally less satisfied with their schooling, less likely to be doing well at school and to regard getting good school marks as important.
While a majority of both groups feel safe at school, significant proportions indicate that they don’t enjoy school, nor do they feel part of their school community. This is important given the relationship between young people’s sense of belonging at school and their likely longer-term engagement in education.