Call for Action on Disadvantaged Suburbs - Report
21 July 2015 at 10:32 am
A landmark national study reveals a that just a handful of suburbs across the nation overwhelmingly carry the burden of disadvantage.
The report, Dropping off the Edge, published by Catholic Social Services and Jesuit Social Services, found that experiences of disadvantage in Australia are not evenly distributed across the community, but instead are geographically concentrated, complex and persistent.
The report shows that just 3 per cent of communities bear the greatest burden of disadvantage within each State and Territory.
“Despite our nation's recent strong economic growth, some communities remain caught in a spiral of low school attainment, high unemployment, poor health, high imprisonment rates and child abuse, co-author of the report Tony Vinson from the University of Sydney said.
“Dropping off the Edge 2015 shows clearly that complex and entrenched disadvantage is experienced by a small but persistent number of locations in each state and territory across Australia.”
Vinson said the fourth report in a series spanning 15 years, DOTE2015, shows there are still a number of communities where existing social services – though they may largely work for the majority of the population – are failing to make a real difference.
“A new approach targeted at reducing the most severe deep-seated disadvantage is needed,” he said.
“This response needs to be coordinated across Government and departmental portfolios and in partnership with the communities themselves as well as business and social services. It must reflect a shared responsibility and be informed by the unique localised disadvantage.
“Critically, it must be sustained over the long term.
“Governments must also immediately commence a conversation with the community about how to turn this around and take concerted action to provide equal and fair opportunities in life for residents of these communities.
“In order to do this, Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia call on national and State Governments, in partnership with the community, to act immediately to put in place appropriate structures, plans and resources targeted to the communities in order to turn around this unjust situation.
“Without such action there is a significant risk that some of the country’s most severely disadvantaged communities will continue to ‘drop off the edge’.”
The report said that a major theme of Dropping off the Edge 2015 is the consistency with which localities identified as extremely disadvantaged in 2015 resemble those similarly ranked in earlier studies.
For example, in New South Wales, nine of the top 12 "most disadvantaged" postcodes in 1999 remain in the top 12 in 2015.
The report said further examples can be found in each State and Territory.
In two-thirds of New South Wales localities, the report found that criminal convictions were a dominant characteristic, and adult imprisonment and juvenile offending were at significantly high rates within communities additionally burdened by long and short unemployment, disabilities, lack of formal qualifications, deficient education generally, low family incomes, domestic violence and mental health problems.
“With one exception, criminal justice indicators were also prominent in the profile of Victoria’s disadvantaged areas, the exception being the lower frequency with which juvenile offending was to the fore,” the report said.
In South Australia unemployment, overall level of education, criminal convictions and unengaged young adults were the prominent features, a pattern similar to that of Queensland, South Australia, and Northern Territory and with a small number of LGAs involved, Tasmania.
The high frequency indicators in Western Australia’s disadvantaged areas placed more emphasis on NAPLAN deficiencies, internet access, unengaged young adults, overall education, prison and psychiatric admissions.
“This information actually offers some reassurance to Governments and finance controllers: to concentrate on the most cumulatively disadvantaged localities throughout Australia is not to ‘open Pandora’s box’ but offers an opportunity to commit to a manageable number of highly disadvantaged communities,” the report said.