Search for Equality - Mission Australia Report
24 April 2006 at 1:04 pm
A new report by Mission Australia calls on a whole of government approach – in co-operation with business and community organisations – to improving equality between rural/regional and metropolitan centres across a range of areas.
The report, The Search for Equality in Rural and Regional Australia: Change, Challenge and Capacity says additional investment and new initiatives are needed to improve the health, job opportunities and quality of life for the 36% of Australians living in rural and regional communities.
These changes are needed to bring them in line with levels enjoyed by people living in metropolitan centres, according to the Mission Australia report, funded by the Macquarie Bank Foundation.
The report’s key recommendations include:
– Develop a national Rural Mental Health strategy; plus additional resources to meet the growing health needs of rural communities, with a particular focus on early intervention and prevention.
– A new national apprenticeship program, specifically aimed at girls and young women in rural areas, to improve training and career development.
– Greater use of mobile outreach and information technology based service delivery – particularly in the area of education – to improve service delivery and reduce social isolation in rural and remote communities.
– Additional resources for existing rural assistance programs (eg: Rural Finance Counsellors and Drought Support Workers programs) to provide comprehensive assistance to people experiencing high levels of stress (includes additional counsellors in the areas of domestic violence, drugs and men’s health).
– Enhance core funding for existing services for victims of domestic and family violence in rural/regional areas.
– Further develop programs such as the Indigenous Youth Mobility Program, which provides young Indigenous people from remote areas with access to a range of training and employment opportunities in major regional centres.
– Review current eligibility criteria for Youth Allowance and Austudy to ensure equitable access to higher education for young people in rural/regional areas.
– Expand rural assistance initiatives for farmers, rural businesses and communities that are linked to sustainable agricultural practices.
– More robust and comprehensive assessments of the impact of government policies on rural and regional communities.
Mission Australia’s spokesperson, Anne Hampshire, says rural and regional Australia comprises a great diversity of communities that had shown incredible resilience to the dramatic economic and social changes of the past two decades – but some have still fallen behind metropolitan Australia in a number of ways.
Hampshire says the report uses the idea of ‘capital’ – economic, human, institutional, social and natural – and considers the resources required in each of these areas to develop functional, resilient communities.
She says researchers analysed the available data and also studied Mission Australia’s wide network of services in rural and regional Australia to write the report and base its recommendations.
The report statistics tell a diverse story of disadvantage across a range of areas, for example:
– 72% of students in metro areas complete Year 12, compared to 62% in regional centres.
– Income levels in non-metropolitan areas tend to be lower with 16.3% of non-metropolitan households having a weekly income of $300 or less (compared with 12.8% of metro households).
– Supported accommodation services are provided to victims of domestic violence at a rate of 2 per 1000 people in metro areas, compared to 11.8 in ‘remote’ areas and 17 in ‘very remote’ Australia.
– The rate of alcohol-related deaths among young people in non-metro areas is 1.7 times higher than the same group in the major cities.
Anne Hampshire says that one of the biggest mistakes made in regard to rural and regional Australia is treating it as a homogenous entity, made up solely of farming families.
She says the reality is that large numbers of Australians live outside our capital cities and are engaged in a range of activities –they’re not a fringe population group – and they’re contributing economically, socially and environmentally in significant ways.
She says that as governments, the business sector and the community engage in a debate on tax reform and possible tax cuts, Mission Australia believes this report provides sobering food for thought – both in regards to the scale of the inequality that exists in rural/regional Australia compared to metro centres, and the programs and commitment needed to help tackle the problem.
The Macquarie Bank Foundation funds Mission Australia’s social research effort under a three-year partnership designed to raise community awareness of key social issues and drive appropriate program development.
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