Media release: Shattered myths about prosperity for all in Canberra

12 November 2019

Today the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) will release a new report, Shattered Myths, charting 20 years of ACTCOSS work on poverty.

Susan Helyar, Chief Executive Officer of ACTCOSS said, “In 1999, ACTCOSS and the ACT Government started the Poverty Task Group, beginning a concerted effort to quantify poverty in Canberra and highlight its lived experience. Twenty years later, we have published a retrospective snapshot of how this work has shattered myths about prosperity being available to everyone in Canberra.

“This publication traces ACTCOSS’s work to create a basic understanding that people in Canberra experience financial hardship, and to reframe poverty through the lenses of social exclusion and entrenched disadvantage.

“ACTCOSS has influenced the conversation on poverty in Canberra, asserting the primacy of lived experience testimony and shattering assumptions about who experiences hardship.”

Glenda Stevens, Chair of ACTCOSS said, “Shattered Myths shows that ACTCOSS has a long history of speaking up about uncomfortable realities: people sleeping rough in our extreme climate; families struggling with the cost of living; older women finding themselves in precarious housing and homelessness; and young people, people with disabilities, refugees and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Canberrans facing poverty traps constructed from exclusion, discrimination and a fraying safety net.

“Our work on poverty has been committed to engaging Canberrans and advocating for elimination of poverty. We have generated robust data that shatters the myth of Canberra as universally affluent. An indicator of the progress we have seen is all three party leaders in the ACT Legislative Assembly now recognise the existence of poverty in Canberra and have contributed insightful quotes to the publication.”

The release of Shattered Myths comes at the same time as the ABC highlights data from its Australia Talks National Survey, which shows that many Australians believe hard work is a way out of poverty.

Ms Helyar said, “The Australia Talks data shows the need to continue to work to build awareness that difficult circumstances create poverty, not individual failings.

“ACTCOSS is proud to see that the survey shows that people in the ACT are the least likely to believe that in Australia, anyone who works hard enough can get out of poverty. For decades, our work on entrenched disadvantage and the cost of living has shown that poverty is all too common and hard work is no protection from its affects. The Australia Talks National Survey data suggests most Canberrans understand this.

Shattered Myths shows that over recent years, there has been growth in the number of people who are described as ‘working poor’, and ACTCOSS continues to support the National call to raise the rate of Newstart and other allowances.”

Ms Stevens concluded, “Overall, we are starkly aware of the ongoing need to work on eliminating poverty. We hope this retrospective affirms the valuable work that has been done and ignites in all of us a passion to continue to lead positive social change.”

For more information or comment please contact

Craig Wallace, Policy Manager, ACTCOSS, on 0477 200 755 or 02 6202 7200.

Download Shattered Myths: 20 years of ACT Council of Social Service work on poverty.

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