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A good start to life

15 April 2021

A good start to life

Ensuring young people can live with dignity and hope

The Salvation Army acknowledges that having a good start to life is often critical to success down the track. Unfortunately, many children and young people in Australia don’t get a great start, usually because of circumstances that are beyond their control. These include:

  • Conflict within the family or family breakdown
  • Sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the home
  • Rising housing costs and the unaffordability of the rental market
  • Difficulties in accessing Youth Allowance and other support payments
  • Lack of support when in, or moving from, state care
  • Drug and alcohol issues
  • Mental health issues
  • Overcrowded living conditions
  • The death of a parent.

Recent research (before the pandemic) found that of the 3.24 million people living in poverty in Australia, 774,000 were children and a total of 1.2 million were under the age of 24. Children were at higher risk of poverty, with one in six children, and 44.2 per cent of children in sole parent households, living in poverty.

Growing up in poverty can limit children’s chances of thriving at school, which in turn affects their potential and limits overall life outcomes, continuing the cycle of disadvantage.

Children who find themselves in out-of-home care (unable to live with their own families and so placed in alternative accommodation) experience additional barriers. Up to 40 per cent of clients attending The Salvation Army’s youth homelessness services have previously been in out-of-home care and have ‘aged out’. This means they had to leave that system when they turned 18. Care-experienced young people are at very high risk of homelessness and other forms of disadvantage.


AS A NATION we can make sure that income support levels are sufficient, so that a family reliant on JobSeeker and related payments can raise their children without falling into poverty. As a nation we can also ensure that the Youth Allowance is high enough to enable young people to live with dignity.

AS A NATION we can reconsider out-of-home care systems, particularly in relation to the age at which a young person is expected to be independent, to ensure they are meeting the needs of children and young people and setting them up with fair opportunities.

AS INDIVIDUALS we can make sure that we do not discriminate against young people on the basis of either their age or their start in life.

The Salvation Army – A Pathway to Social Justice. To download this report, go to


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