Landmark report reveals complex, entrenched disadvantage


The report mapped disadvantage based on 22 social indicators, including long-term unemployment, criminal convictions and domestic violence. 


Catholic Outlook, August 2015

A small number of communities across Australia have disproportionately high levels of unemployment, low family income and education, housing stress, domestic violence and prison admissions.

This results in severely limited life opportunities and places significant social and economic costs on the broader community, according to a landmark national report released last month.

Dropping off the Edge 2015, produced by Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia, maps disadvantage across the country based on 22 social indicators, including long-term unemployment, criminal convictions and domestic violence.

The report is authored by Prof Tony Vinson and Assoc Prof Margot Rawsthorne from the University of Sydney. Prof Vinson authored locational-based studies in 1999 and 2004 as well as the ground-breaking 2007 report Dropping off the Edge.

This report received more than 284 scholarly citations and supported the establishment of the Australian Social Inclusion Board.

Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards said the report showed disadvantage was entrenched in a small number of communities across Australia, most of which have remained similarly disadvantaged for more than a decade.

“The ranking of 10 of the 12 most disadvantaged communities in Victoria has not improved since the 2007 report, likewise nine of the 12 most disadvantaged communities in NSW and eight of the 12 most disadvantaged communities in South Australia,” she said.

“While our social support structures work for many Australians, the 2015 report shows clearly that there are a small but significant number of communities that we have failed and that a new structure and a new approach is needed.”

Catholic Social Services CEO Marcelle Mogg said current policies were not working. “People can’t overcome structural disadvantage when all the odds are stacked against them. These communities are not failing – Australia is failing these communities,” she said.

“Dropping off the Edge 2015 outlines that residents in these communities aren’t just dealing with one form of disadvantage but multiple, complex barriers to individual wellbeing and community participation.

“What we need now is for government, the business and community sectors, and the communities themselves to develop and implement tailor-made, long-term and sustainable solutions to build better futures.”

In NSW, just 11 postcodes (1.8% of total) account for 21.4% of the most disadvantaged rank positions. Dominant factors in these postcodes include criminal convictions, unemployment, no internet access, domestic violence, lack of qualifications and young adults not fully engaged in work or study.

Dropping off the Edge 2015 was compiled using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, NAPLAN, the Australian Early Development Index and state and territory government human services agencies.

The report calls for a new approach targeted at reducing the most severe deep-seated disadvantage, taking into account the unique characteristics and circumstances of each community.

Dropping off the Edge 2015 is supported by an interactive website that allows users to view colour-coded maps of five states and search for a particular location to see where it ranks on a range of indicators.

To read the report in full visit:



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