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‘What I Learned About Poverty’

How does a mature well-educated, white middle class woman suddenly find herself facing homelessness and poverty? Jane Gilmore believes she is ‘lucky’. Her education, her mum and her ability to access resources has meant poverty but survival. It has also meant dealing with humiliation, shame and loss of hope.

‘Divorce, debt and redundancy had crashed me out of my comfortable existence and into a chilling moment where I lost my job and was within days of losing my home and my children as well,’ writes Jane.

The spiral and hardship of poverty Jane experienced makes compelling reading – older women are the largest growing demographic at risk of homelessness. This is why COTA Victoria’s 2018 State Election Platform calls for action on the rising rate of older women facing homelessness and poverty. As Jane so clearly describes:

‘I’m one bad choice, one serious health issue, one mistake away from joining the hidden homelessness statistics I used to write about.’

COTA Victoria is also calling on the Victorian Government’s proposed Gender Equality Bill to be more inclusive of older women. Our recent submission recommends addressing the complex disadvantage faced by older women across policy and programs spanning financial literacy, carer support, housing and employment.

As we write in our submission: Lasting social change requires ‘giving younger women and girls much better opportunities to access equally paid work across the life course, but particularly in the decades directly preceding retirement. Women suffer from age discrimination more frequently than men and that this is a major barrier to gender equality in the workplace’

You can read Jane Gilmore’s full article, ‘What I Learned About Poverty’, here.

For more information on how you can support COTA Victoria’s State Election Platform and work for Older Women, please contact Donna Swan, at

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