13 June 2018

National Seniors and the Benevolent Society visited community groups in the northern NSW towns of Coffs Harbour and Lismore last week to talk about the 110-year anniversary of the Age Pension in Australia, and the importance of addressing poverty among older Australians.

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National Seniors’ Chief Advocate Ian Henschke, Benevolent Society’s Joel Pringle and National Seniors Coffs Harbour member Marcia Trew.

The Invalid and Old Age Pensions Act was passed by the then young Commonwealth Parliament in June 1908. This followed long community campaigns and was based on age pensions introduced in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

National Seniors and the Benevolent Society recently joined forces to address pension poverty with the Fix Pension Poverty campaign. The first joint presentation of the campaign was made at the Coffs Harbour National Seniors branch on Wednesday 13 June.

“An adequate age pension is crucial to the wellbeing of older Australians,” National Seniors’ Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said.

“When we survey our members, so many of them tell us they are struggling, particularly with the increasing cost of health insurance, out-of-pocket costs and electricity bills. 

“We need to address their needs. That’s why we’re joining forces with the Benevolent Society and calling for an independent tribunal to set a rate for the Age Pension that will put an end to poverty among older people.” 

Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of people over the age of 66 are experiencing poverty in Australia, which is double the OECD average of 13 per cent.

Benevolent Society Advocacy Campaigner Joel Pringle said its research had shown living in private rental was the biggest indicator of poverty among older Australians.

“The Benevolent Society campaigned for the introduction on the Age Pension in NSW in 1901, so we have a track record in championing the needs of older Australians,” Mr Pringle said.

“Now with National Seniors, we’re campaigning alongside a partner with branches around the country and a high level of respect in the community.

“The Age Pension is not adequate for people stuck in private rental accommodation, and it’s not adequate to cover out-of-pocket health costs, especially dental care.”

Mr Pringle urged the Mid North Coast community to join the Pension Poverty campaign, which was calling on the Federal Government to:

  • Base decisions on the rate of the Age Pension on evidence, adequacy and need
  • Provide free dentistry for people receiving the Age Pension
  • Increasing Rental Assistance by 30 per cent for couples and 50 per cent for singles, and index to rental increases instead of CPI
  • Introducing a new broadband rebate to keep people connected to essential services.