People on Centrelink benefits are referred to as "dole bludgers". In the United Kingdom, the term is "benefit scrounger".
The narrative is deeply entrenched, but it's possible to change the way society sees the problem and as a result reduce the rates of poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's deputy director advocacy and public engagement Abigail Scott Paul.
UK-based Ms Scott Paul was in Canberra this week to speak at the Australian Council of Social Service national conference.
In her keynote address, she talked about the importance of "winning hearts and minds" to change the narrative to benefit not only those in vulnerable situations but whole communities.
"[The dole bludger] narrative is a huge barrier to getting the policy changes needed to help Australian families keep afloat when they are struggling to make ends meet,"Ms Scott Paul said.
She said some of the ideas she'd heard about, like the cashless welfare card for Centrelink recipients, were popular publicly because they tap into that narrative. She said politicians take advantage of that, so it's not in their interests to change the story.
"Instead of just saying '14 million people are living in poverty' and hoping that is enough to change people's minds, or get the policy action we want, we now talk about how people's opportunities and options are restricted by low incomes."
She said that was something the public does care about.
"We talk now about how it's not right that in a compassionate society such as Britain, more and more people are being swept into poverty by low pay, by the rising cost of living, by high rents and by cuts to welfare."
She said crucially, the discussion needs focus on hope and solutions.
"We know we can help families held back by poverty by building more affordable housing, by boosting pay and by having a social security system that keeps people afloat when times are tough. We can solve poverty!"
In the UK, these things are beginning to work. There are fewer headlines screaming "benefit scrounger".
Ms Scott Paul said talking about how ill health, disability or caring for a loved one can pull anyone under the poverty line is the key to the changing the conversation.
She said in Australia right now, there was a quick and easy solution to solving part of the poverty problem.
"It is clear to me on my visit here that there is a very quick and easy solution that would help families break free from poverty in Australia: by raising the rate of Newstart," she said.
"I think it is unacceptable that the rate has not been raised for 25 years.
"We all know just how much the cost of living has gone up in that time. I think it's time for those with the levers or power to do the right thing for Aussies who are drowning because of circumstances such as ill health and disability: just raise the rate! It's the right thing to do in a country as great as Australia."