From Poverty to Power: Six celebrities who grew up poor

When we think of our favourite celebrities it is hard to imagine them having a life that is anything but glamorous. However, many celebrities overcame many trials and tribulations before they become famous and rich. These individuals are proof  that even if you are born into a ‘bad situation’ that people have the potential to pull themselves out of poverty. These actors, musicians,TV hosts and writers all grew up in poor or poverty stricken circumstances. Many of them struggled to obtain proper shelter and during their formative years. Our list of five celebrities who went from rags to riches:

Leighton Meester


Normally the Queen B of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as an affluent teenager on the CW show ‘Gossip Girl’, Meester’s childhood couldn’t be further away from the privileged life that she portrayed as Blair Waldorf. Her mother who was pregnant with Meester at the time, went to jail for drug trafficking. She gave birth to Meester in a hospital and nursed her in a halfway house before returning to prison.

Jim Carey

jim c1

Known for his comedic roles in movies like Dumb & Dumber, Yes Man and Liar Liar. Before all this, he went through a rough childhood. While his first few years were happy but this all changed when he became a teenager when his father lost his job. Carey said on Inside the Actors Studio, “When he lost his job that’s when everything fell apart. We went from ‘lower middle class’ to ‘poor.’ We were living out of a van. I quit school at age 15 to begin working to help support my family as a janitor.” Despite all that, Carey went on to have a successful career in the entertainment industry.

J.K. Rowling

j.k. rowling

Best known for writing the “Harry Potter” series, J.K Rowling began her career as a struggling, single mother who was living off handouts from the government. She found inspiration while delayed on a train for 4 hours. It was there that she turned something mundane into something magical.  With a seven book series, eight films and a copious amount of toys and games, it has made her into a billionaire.

Leonardo DiCaprio 

leonardo dicaprio

‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘ star wasn’t always a wealthy actor/playboy/mogul. Originally he started out by living in poverty in Hollywood where he was constantly surrounded by criminals and shady characters. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, where his mother worked two jobs to support her and her son. DiCaprio told The Independent  that there was a “major prostitution ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere.” Later on in his life he also battled homelessness for a time before catching his first big break.

Sarah Jessica Parker


This  Emmy Award winning actress dealt with the effects of poverty at a young age. Parker’s mother always had a steady job however she was one of eight and supporting that many children was always a struggle. Parker told The New York Times that “We were on welfare. I remember being poor. There was no way to hide it. We didn’t have electricity sometimes.”

Mark Walhberg 


The Fighter’ star started out as a common street rat. He dropped out of school at just 14 years old and took to a life of petty crime. After serving jail sentence for assault, he got his life on track and got a record deal. He went on to become a big-time actor and starring in many blockbusters such as the most recent “Transformers” film, which grossed over $100 million in its opening weekend.

All these celebrities faced poverty at a young age and came out of it with help from people, communities and the government.

Your Child Poverty Advocate,



The World vs. Poverty

Today, Saturday 17th October is the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Less than a month after the adoption of the UN’s new sustainable development goals, this 2015 occasion helps to establish the UN’s new agenda for the world. This new agenda replaces the Millennium Development Goals and outlines 17 new and ambitious goals for the world.

The Number 1 goal of the UN being to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.”

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But what does poverty actually mean? Well let me paint a picture for you with 11 astonishing facts about global poverty:

  1. Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day.
  2. 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
  3. 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. Food banks are especially important in providing food for people that can’t afford it themselves.
  4. More than 750 million people lack adequate access to clean drinking water. Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or approximately 2,300 people per day.
  5. In 2011, 165 million children under the age 5 were stunted (reduced rate of growth and development) due to chronic malnutrition.
  6. Preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia take the lives of 2 million children a year who are too poor to afford proper treatment
  7. As of 2013, 21.8 million children under 1 year of age worldwide had not received the three recommended doses of vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
  8. 1/4 of all humans live without electricity — approximately 1.6 billion people
  9. 80% of the world population lives on less than $10 a day.
  10. Oxfam estimates that it would take $60 billion annually to end extreme global poverty–that’s less than 1/4 the income of the top 100 richest billionaires.
  11. The World Food Programme says, “The poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.” Hunger is the number one cause of death in the world, killing more than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.


The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been around since 1993, when the United Nations General Assembly, designated that this day would promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty in all countries.

“On this day we recommit to think, decide and act together against extreme poverty — and plan for a world where no-one is left behind. Our aim must be prosperity for all, not just a few.” – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Eliminating poverty still remains at the core of both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and was essential in the development of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

TOGETHER we need to tackle the issue of poverty and inequality around the world!

Your Child Poverty Advocate,


Child Poverty and the World

Over 1 billion children in the world are deprived of at least one basic necessity of life such as food, clean water, shelter or healthcare. Instead of running, laughing and playing with their friends, these children spend most of their formative years struggling to survive.


Poverty affects all aspects of a child’s life. Poverty limits their opportunities to obtain education, puts them at risk for health problems and increases the likelihood that they will be subjected to child labour or early marriage. These children are left hungry for days which increases the risk for malnutrition, underdevelopment, and stunting – all of which can have serious health consequences later in life.

“Poverty is a measure not only of children’s suffering but also of their dis-empowerment.”

Child poverty has a damaging effect on the the child’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual development. Child poverty here moves past the traditional definition of low household incomes or low levels of consumption. What is interesting to note is that the distinction between ‘child poverty’ and ‘poverty’ are hardly outlined clearly. Poverty places a strain on the life of any individual. However the overall negative effects are much higher in children.


Children experience poverty with their hands, hearts and minds. When a child starts their day without a nutritious meal or have to go engage in hazardous labour, this limits their emotional capacity, bodily growth and puts their health at risk. Children who live in an environment with little to none stimulation or emotional support can ruin the positive effects that growing up in a materially rich household. By limiting children’s participation and involvement in society their potential is inhibited.

With each generation, there is a possibility for change.

When children are given a chance to be educated, empowered and take part in society as equals, they are given all the skills and power to lift themselves out of poverty.

For more information have a look at: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s  interactive world map outlining the incidence of Child Poverty throughout the world.

Your Child Poverty Advocate,


Action to reduce Child Poverty

When we think of the issue of poverty, it seems like a huge concept that is too hard to grasp. Claiming that we want to end poverty is a great statement to make. However in reality what are the actual real changes that the government and organisations can implement to make an actual systematic change in society. The main way to eradicate child poverty is at a fundamental level we need to change many of the systems that increase poverty and inequality.

So what are some actions that can be taken to reduce child poverty in Australia?


Researchers and organisations have identified reform proposals that are relevant to reducing child poverty in Australia. As outlined in the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s research the common proposals include:

  • Improve the immediate living standards of children in low-income families especially through improvements to levels of income support to ensure all children are in families with an adequate income regardless of their parents’ situations, as well as improved access to low-cost services, particularly housing;
  • Prevent families with children becoming poor, especially by reducing unemployment, preventing low-wage poverty and providing better assistance to unemployed and jobless parents to obtain work;
  • Assist groups facing particular problems or risks including indigenous Australians, sole-parent and homeless families; and
  • Improve child development, especially to redress the disadvantage that certain children may face.


At the core of all these issue is 5 main priority areas:

  • Reducing unemployment without increasing wage poverty;
  • Improvements to education and training which include greater attention to preschool intervention. To focus on improving the quality and experiences of schooling for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Improvements to the affordability and security of housing in locations where employment and services can be readily accessed. To achieve this, the supply of low-cost housing must be increased along with action to prevent evictions and homelessness;
  • Improvements to the affordability of child care and access to a number of health-related and family support services; and
  • Improvements to income support arrangements such as payments to sole parents with older children and the easing of income tests.

If we want to make a tangible difference towards reducing child poverty we need to look at poverty as related to inequality. Poverty and inequality can isolate individuals from a lower socio-economic background because of their inability to afford the ‘culturally expected’ way of life.

Action to reduce child poverty cannot happen without some help. There needs to be political and community commitment and engagement for this issue to be addressed. Understanding how different strategies can improve disadvantaged families and children lives can help us develop into a better nation. Together we can create an Australia that is free from these social and economic inequalities.

Your Child Poverty Advocate,


How much of Australia is affected by Child Poverty?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been shedding some light on the prevalence and the issues surrounding child poverty in Australia and around the world. The question that still remains is how much child poverty actually exists in Australia and what is the extent of it?

There are a number of large variations in recent estimates of child poverty as it changes over time. The best estimate at this point is that 1 in 8 children in Australia are likely to be living in families with incomes below the half-average poverty line (before housing costs). While a higher proportion of children are living with families on low incomes that are only slightly above this figure. Once we take housing costs into account, this figure increases to 1 in 5 children in Australia that live in poverty.

The prevalence of Child Poverty
The prevalence of Child Poverty

Since the 1970s, the level of child poverty, that is the number of children in families with incomes below the poverty line, has increased to an extent.  This rate has not reduced however the actual depth of child poverty has been slowly reducing over time. This means that over time there has been fewer children in families with incomes that are significantly below the poverty line.

The driving factor in this increase in child poverty has come from the low earnings of parents as a result of: unemployment, and low-wage earnings growth for parents with low sills and who are on low wages. The Australian government has made improvements for low-income families with children by placing incentives and subsidizing services that will help these low income families.

Compared to other developed countries, Australia’s child poverty rates are incredibly high. This comparison may overstate the relative poverty and inequality present in society. However these results do demonstrate that we need to do much better.


The position of families with children relative to other families appears to have deteriorated over time. This should be an area of concern for all those interested in the welfare and safety of all children. Another main cause for increased child poverty rates in Australia is the rising rate of young people aged 16 years and over who are either jobless or in a low-wage occupation.

We need to understand the cause and prevalence of child poverty in Australia so that we can start to find a solution for the problem.

Your Child Poverty Advocate,


The UN’s new Global Goals

Yesterday, on Friday 25th September the World Leaders met to discuss and commit to 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years. These goals are based on: ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and finding a way to fix climate change. The United Nations outlined 17 new Millennium Development Goals that they hope to achieve for sustainable development in all countries all over the world. These Global Goals are for everyone and for all people.

These Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations at a summit meeting in New York. A vision for what we hope the future will look like by 2030 for people all around the world. These new ‘Global Goals’ will replace the United Nations’ previous guideline, the Millennium Development Goals that were adopted in 2000. Those goals were mainly targeted at developing countries and were met with varying degrees of success.

The 17 Global Goals outlined by the United Nations.
The 17 Global Goals outlined by the United Nations.

In the last 15 years, there has been great progress towards reducing poverty around the world. A large part of this reduction is due to the Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations committed to in 2000. Each of these goals carried out a 2015 deadline. The goal of cutting extreme poverty by half –  which is measured by the proportion of people who are living on less than $1.25 a day – and this was met five years ahead of schedule.

The new global goals are even more ambitious then their predecessor, and are meant to apply to every country and not just the developing world. These goals are accompanied with 169 specific targets that are aimed at advancing these goals in concrete ways.  Many of these goals are to be achieved by 2030 however some of them have shorter deadlines.

Global Goals to be achieved by 2030.

Australia as a nation, needs to make sure that the Global Goals of the world are their goals too. In a country as rich as ours, it is not acceptable that poverty (especially child poverty) exist. With a new government in place, we have the opportunity to change and eradicate poverty in countries such as our own. We need to work together to create a brighter future for Australia and the rest of the world.

WE have the POWER to CHANGE the WORLD

Your Child Poverty Advocate,


Why poverty is unacceptable

When we think about poverty, we don’t normally think of Australia. In our ‘lucky country’, the idea that people could be living in ‘poverty’ is just not something most of us can believe. In a country as rich as Australia where the average disposable income   is about $40,000 a year, which is well above the OECD average of about $30,000. So then why are there still so many people who are falling through the cracks despite the many years of prosperity?

“Poverty is unacceptable because it hurts the lives of those who experience it and because it undermines the nature of our society and also diminishes those who are not poor.” – Alison McClelland

Poverty embodies the idea of moral unacceptability and invokes a call for action. This is even more prevalent for child poverty, because of the vulnerability and blamelessness of children and the future impact that poverty has on adults.

In affluent countries like Australia relative poverty is high and often connected to inequality. There are three related problems arising from growing poverty and inequality:

  • Deprivation, isolation and hardship,
  • Greater inequality of opportunities, and
  • A decline in shared experiences and values—in social cohesion.
Poverty distribution in Australia

In Australia, poverty is defined through relative rather than absolute terms. Where individuals and families suffer from horrible living standards, where socially perceived necessities cannot be achieved and where deprivation and hardship are likely to be evident. Non-material poverty can be important however most people understand and measure poverty through some type of measure of well-being and deprivation. This is undertaken with reference to income, although other measures are sometimes used.

The Australian government needs to focus on creating programs for children from disadvantaged families so that they can be helped and specially funded so they don’t begin school being already behind and can keep up with their peers both in school and outside of school. In particular, we as a nation need to consider whether our childcare and welfare systems are actually helping poor and disadvantaged families or making the problem worse.

Your Child Poverty Advocate,