Public rental homes – ‘social housing’ – surprisingly to many only account for 4 percent of Australia’s 9 1/2 million households. There are only 400,000 public rental homes nationwide. Within these homes, after the homeless, live the poorest Australians. Only the lowest income Australians are eligible to rent social housing – but at 25 percent of their household income, after utility costs, they are left very little to afford much more than food.

The Australian suicide toll and poverty intersect. I estimate thereabouts 25 percent of Australia’s suicide toll were of individuals who lived in public housing. Of suicide affected Australian families that have become known to me over the last several years more than a quarter live in social housing. Of the most elevated population risk group to suicide – First Nations peoples – nearly 100 percent of suicides are of individuals who lived in public or community housing. This year there have been 42 suicides of First Nations people – 40 were residents of public housing.

Of the 3,128 suicides of Australians who suicided in 2017, of whom nearly a third were migrant born, I estimate that a quarter of the toll were of public housing residents – that’s an alarming disparity when you understand that public housing comprises only 4 percent of Australian households.

The Budget promises a return to surplus and a gradual slog to debt amelioration but at the aggressively total expense of the homeless, who are always undercounted and who are increasing in numbers, and at the total expense of the extremely impoverished who are also undercounted and who are accumulating more stressors and hardships and of whom more are suiciding than ever before.

The Budget has viciously left behind those most in need and it’s bitterly cruel when there are surpluses forecast for every financial year hence.

More than two-thirds of Australia’s suicide toll is of people who lived below the poverty line – and the deeper and more abject the poverty the higher the suicide rates. The increasing First Nations, migrant born, youth and child suicide crises are narrated by poverty levels intertwined with an arc of negative stressors and issues that are much more dangerously pronounced for those living below the poverty line.

As the Budget was being read, more than 750 Australians thus far this year had suicided – 62 suicides a week – with more than 500 of the suicide toll this year comprised of Australians living below the poverty line. Four children aged 12 years have suicided this year – all four lived below the poverty line. As the Budget was being read, at least 42 First Nations Australians, mostly youth, had taken their lives this year – with 41 having lived below the poverty line. Nine in every 10 lived in public rental housing or were houseless altogether. As the Budget was being read, more than 250 migrant born Australians had taken their lives, the majority relatively newly arrived – median average 5 years – the majority lived socioeconomic disadvantage.

The Budget neglected the poorest four percent of Australian households; the 400,000 public rental households where crushing poverty is felt and where often there’s an overwhelming accumulation of life stressors, where few dollars are left after rent and utilities for the household. The Commonwealth, through COAG, needs to drive a relief and empowerment agenda for these households that includes departments of housing reducing the thereabouts 25 percent of assessable income that’s taken as rent to between preferably 5 percent and no higher than 10 percent. School uniforms and books should be free, subsidised, for children living in social housing.

The Budget neglected the 200,000 Australian families on the public housing waiting lists. The triage needs basis was done away with and the majority of 200,000 families waiting, well they’ll never be housed and the lack of the firmament of housing will play out toxically for them.

The homeless – underreported at 117,000 – are forgotten altogether and the 10,000 street present homeless not a quid their way. Australia is the world’s 12th biggest economy with its jurisdictions boasting among the world’s highest median wages. Australia’s Budget describes a nation that doesn’t care about its poorest, the houseless, homeless or its increasing suicide toll and of other social carnage and the social return shall be a quarter of Australians by 2030 living below the poverty line, a doubling of both the homeless and of the suicide toll by 2030.

The Budget and the Budget response unless they revise and prioritise those most in need are nothing more than utterances and meanderings of heartlessness with a moral compass not skewed but shattered.

We’re at the end of 2019’s first quarter and tragically the Australian suicide toll stands at 750 thus far.

Suicide is the leading cause of unnatural deaths, yet suicide prevention is not a national priority.

The Australian suicide toll is:

  • more than two and a half times the national road toll;
  • more than 30 times domestic violence homicides;
  • one in 50 Australian deaths;
  • one in 17 First Nations deaths is a suicide;
  • the leading cause of death of Australians aged 15 to 35;
  • in 2017, there were at least 3,128 suicides, with nearly a third comprised of the migrant born; and
  • between 70 to 100 Australian children aged 17 years and less suicide each year.

Suicide crises and suicide prevention are not on our governments’ agendas.

In 2019:

  • harrowingly, four children aged 12 years have lost their lives to suicide; four of these children lived in substandard housing, in public housing rentals.


  • Gerry Georgatos, national coordinator – National Critical Response Trauma Recovery Project – suicide prevention and poverty researcher