The richest 20 per cent of the population (with 61 per cent of the nation’s wealth) is sitting on an average net worth of $2.2 million per household, while the poorest fifth (with one per cent of the wealth) has an average of just $31,205 per household.
Put another way, the most prosperous half of Australians own almost 90 per cent of the country’s assets. And the top 10 per cent hold almost half of all the wealth in this country, while the bottom half split a share of only 12 per cent of the nation’s net worth.
Most troubling of all, the divide between rich and poor has been widening in recent decades, following a long period of contraction from Federation to the 1970s.
This is not just unfair – a widening gap is counterproductive to growth, social cohesion and long term prosperity.
The Reichstein Foundation is invested in a number of major projects designed to reduce inequality in Australia. These include:
High quality employment for people with disability
Support for the AED Legal Centre and People with Disability Australia to undertake systemic advocacy work on issues of wage discrimination and inequality experienced by employees with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs). These workers are among the lowest paid employees in the country.
The Foundation assisted the AED Legal Centre to mount a representative action in the Federal Court for wage justice and an improvement in the economic well-being of 20,000 employees with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises. Alongside this is an education, research and policy advocacy program led by People with Disability Australia focused on Government, ADEs and employees to reduce the level of inequality and economic disadvantage experienced by employees with disability; promote alternatives to segregated employment; and policy reforms to implement genuine supported employment options.
Background: In 2012 the full Federal Court found that the predominant tool used to determine wages and conditions in the disability enterprise sector – the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) – unlawfully discriminates against people with intellectual disabilities.
In late April 2014 the Australian Human Rights Commission granted the Department of Social Services a one-year exemption from certain sections of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to allow the continued use of the BSWAT.
That meant that even after BSWAT was shown to enable discrimination, employees with disability continued to be paid under the scheme for some time afterwards.
Nine peak organisations including AED Legal and PwDA were critical of this situation: Australian Human Rights Commission supports continued discrimination of employees with disability.
To find out more about the legal actions see here.
In supporting AED and PwDA, the Reichstein Foundation will work with the disability employment sector to:
- Ensure the bulk of ADEs become viable using the supported wage
- Non viable ADEs are supported by Govt to become viable and maintain employment and social capital;
- ADE employees experience higher wages
- New models of ADEs emerge with greater prospects for employees to work in open employment
The situation in Disability Enterprises is a snapshot of a larger challenge in disability employment, with the Australian Government shedding workers with a disability at a shameful rate.
Early years pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children
Support for the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) to develop a research and advocacy project aimed at ensuring sustainable, equitable funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child care services into the future. With several funding programs currently under review, there is a unique opportunity to create a policy framework and reformed funding model that will strengthen the provision of high quality services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
Gambling law reform
Support for the Whittlesea Inter-agency Taskforce on Gambling to raise awareness of problem gambling and to advocate for changes to how machines are operated so as to reduce losses of problem gamblers. Whittlesea has one of the highest levels of lost income due to gambling in Victoria. Three of the highest grossing venues are located in Whittlesea. The Taskforce will seek significant policy changes including: limits to number of cash withdrawals at gaming venues imposed; limit of maximum bet to $1 and maximum loss per hour to $120 imposed; and the non-renewal of current licenses of Electronic Gaming Machines in shopping centres.
The Reichstein Foundation is also proud to support the Alliance for Gambling Reform, a new alliance of community groups who seek to reduce the harm created by an industry whose transfer of wealth out of some of Victoria’s poorest suburbs is virtually untrammeled. For more information visit this page: http://www.pokiesplayyou.org.au/
Renewing retailing in Rapanyup
Support for the Rupanyup Minyip Finance Group to develop a blueprint of how the local community will progress to developing a fully-fledged model of community retailing in this remote northern Victorian township. The goal is the development of an attractive retail hub that has the ability to win back local shoppers and provide retail choice for local residents. The longer term aim is to create a community/private partnership model for retail development that can be replicated across rural Australia.