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Editor’s note: Click here for interactive digital maps that break down poverty rates by suburb/town and demographic group. Attached is a spreadsheet which also segments data by location and demographic.


New research shows that the poverty rate for regional NSW is higher than Greater Sydney, with young people (15-24) and older people (65+) seeing the biggest average increases in the last five years.

The research was commissioned by peak social service body NCOSS, and conducted by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra.

It found that the housing crisis is a key driver of poverty in regional areas, with mortgage holders experiencing the biggest increase in poverty, up by more than 80 per cent since 2016.

The report revealed the following key findings for Central West:

  • Bathurst – South: The rate of poverty for people owning a home with a mortgage has more than doubled (was 5.7%, now 12.1%)
  • Cowra: The rate of poverty for people owning a home with a mortgage has more than doubled (was 6.2%, now 14.8%)
  • Lithgow: The rate of poverty for people owning a home with a mortgage has more than doubled (was 5.6%, now 12.4%)
  • Mudgee Surrounds – East: The rate of poverty for people owning a home with a mortgage has more than doubled (was 7.4%, now 18.5%)

NATSEM analysed 2021 census data to reveal the dire state of poverty across NSW and how it has changed in the five years since the previous census.

Today’s release of the full report is accompanied by interactive maps which show the poverty rates in each suburb and town across NSW in 2021 compared to 2016, broken down by demographic groups.

NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the report is a wakeup call for the state’s leaders, urging the NSW Government to respond quickly.

“These statistics are devastating, showing the grim reality of poverty reaching into every suburb and town in NSW – but with some communities really bearing the brunt,” Ms Quilty said.

“What we are seeing is a housing crisis on multiple fronts – people experiencing poverty in rural and regional areas are most likely to be in the private rental market, but it’s those still paying off a mortgage who are increasingly struggling.

“And while public housing tenants in rural and regional NSW are small in number, the majority of them (more than 58 per cent) live below the poverty line.

“We know that the situation has only gotten worse since 2021, with relentless rate hikes and soaring cost of living pressures.

“People living in poverty are resourceful and do whatever they can to survive. But we know for some, this can mean forgoing medication, healthcare or food to cover housing costs, or living in overcrowded or unsafe situations because there is no other option.

“We are pleased the newly elected NSW Government has recognised the urgent need to address the state’s housing crisis.

“To help, we have put forward a set of actionable and practical recommendations for the NSW Government to consider, and we look forward to working with the Government on these solutions.”

NCOSS has called on the NSW Government to adopt a set of recommendations, including:

  1. Bolster supply of social housing in NSW to 10 per cent of all housing stock, via a long-term plan with established targets and identified locations.
  2. Make renting more affordable and secure, including increasing rental supply and capping rents, which build on commitments to remove ‘no grounds’ evictions and establish a Rental Commissioner.
  3. NSW Government should advocate to the Federal Government to lift the income support payment to above the poverty line, and increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50 per cent to enable an acceptable standard of living for recipients.

“I’d like to thank NATSEM for its thorough work on this report, and I look forward to working with the NSW Government on addressing these issues,” Ms Quilty said.

About this research:

  • The Mapping Economic Disadvantage in NSW report was undertaken by the National Centre of Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra, and was commissioned by NCOSS.
  • The report breaks down poverty rates by suburb and demographic – including age, sex, employment, family arrangement and housing tenure. It uses the most recent data available, the 2021 census data, and compares the trends from the previous census data in 2016.
  • NCOSS has published a Key Themes Report which provides an analysis of the key themes and trends, examining how poverty has changed between 2016 and 2021.
  • The Online Mapping Tool of interactive maps allows users to filter data by suburb and demographic across NSW.

Media contact: Billy Briggs | 0474 697 235