New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that marginalised Australians living in poverty and facing intersectional disadvantages — including being born overseas — are three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their wealthy counterparts, reports The Conversation. 

Australian-born people had an ​​age-standardised death rate (a weighted average of the age-specific mortality rates) of 2.3 per 100,000 people, compared to those born overseas and living in Australia, with a death rate of 6.8 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the death rate for people from the Middle East and living in Australia was 29.3. 

Interestingly, those born in the United Kingdom and Ireland had a rate of 2.1. 

Gemma Carey and Ben O’Mara, a professor and adjunct fellow at the University of New South Wales, respectively, explained that despite the belief that Australia has good quality universal health care, those living in poverty realistically have a markedly restricted access to health services and support.

“These statistics are damning. They tell us you’re more likely to survive COVID-19 if you were born here, grew up speaking and reading English, are educated and earn a good income,” Carey and O’Mara wrote for The Conversation. “In short, poverty makes you sick.”

A lack of culturally relevant health communication and mistrust in authorities have been singled out as major failings. 

The distressing statistics must be a wake-up call for policymakers, Carey and O’Mara said.

The anti-poverty activists say “more listening, and less punitive approaches” must be implemented, with leaders paying specific attention to implementing policies that benefit refugee and migrant communities.

“Policy-wise, the federal government could extend access to Medicare and social safety net support for people experiencing issues with temporary visas, such as asylum seekers living in the community who are appealing a decision on a visa application and are not eligible for Medicare,” they explained. “Governments should also involve refugee and migrant communities in the development and implementation of actions to reduce COVID-19 deaths.”

A December report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia revealed over half a million children will be born into poverty in Australia over the next decade unless leaders work to fundamentally change how the country “supports and identifies people in disadvantage.” 

Today, 13% of the population live in poverty, including 17.7% of all children under the age of 15.


Defeat Poverty

People Living in Poverty 3 Times More Likely to Die From COVID-19 in Australia

By Madeleine Keck