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Despite reaching the remarkable milestone of 135 years of philanthropy this year, the Wyatt Trust is not about to rest on its laurels.

In 2019/20 Wyatt assisted more than 6,000 individuals and households via $3.7 million in philanthropic funding. Wyatt CEO, Stacey Thomas, says the Trust is always looking at ways it can best achieve impact into the future, acknowledging that eradicating poverty requires systemic change and a multi-faceted strategy guided by research.

Understanding the Poverty System in South Australia, an upcoming report from the state’s peak body for health and community services, the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS), contributes valuable research that will be used to inform Wyatt’s future work and impact.

“For Wyatt, the research is a starting point for us to interrogate where we can have the greatest impact,” Stacey explains.

“The data of those experiencing or susceptible to poverty is well documented but having a single report that pulls this together in the South Australian context will be a wonderful resource.”

Having taken an early look at the research, Stacey says the report not only “brings this data together, but identifies the underlying systems, structures and ideologies that mean alleviation of poverty isn’t as simple as ‘fixing’ one thing like employment or housing.”

Poverty as a structural and systemic issue

One of the most enduring and concerning dimensions of poverty in South Australia that the report’s authors have called out is the structural nature of the social security system itself.

“We’re particularly concerned about the ways in which the poverty system does not aim to lift people out of poverty or minimise susceptibility, but in reality, does the opposite,” says Susan Tilley, Senior Policy Officer at SACOSS and one of the report’s authors.

“Rather than playing a preventative role by supporting people to avoid poverty, it instead prompts people into poverty (primarily due to the below-poverty social security payments) and keeps them there because it does not enable pathways out of poverty.

“The system therefore becomes self-reinforcing rather than acting as a force to enable people to escape poverty.”

Susan cites critical changes such as increased public awareness of the systemic causes of poverty rather than focusing on apparent individual deficits, plus a desperately needed increase to social security payments such as JobSeeker (currently $44 per day) as two key actions to reduce poverty.

The proliferation of compliance frameworks and penalties directed at individuals, she says, “reflects a system that is punitive and that individualises and blames people for poverty, rather than addressing poverty as a structural and systemic socio-economic issue and political choice.”

By listening, learning and building knowledge, Wyatt aims to help even more South Australians in the years ahead.

“The best way for us to ensure our future work achieves impact is to prioritise the voice and leadership of people and communities with lived experience of financial hardship,” Stacey says.

“We are excited about working closely with all of our stakeholders to drive what new grant programs at Wyatt could look like.”