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‘Not one’ community is poverty-free

A new online ‘poverty atlas’ produced by VCOSS and economic modelling firm NATSEM gives a clearer picture of what poverty looks like in different communities.

We often think about prosperity in terms of ‘rich areas’ and ‘poor areas’, but poverty exists in every community in Victoria, according to the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“Our research reveals there is not a single pocket of Victoria that is poverty-free. Not one,” says VCOSS head Emma King.

Popular culture and media reporting “often reinforces this false view and can lead policy makers to overlook the real face of Victorian poverty. Public policy inevitably suffers as a result,” reads VCOSS’s new report, Every suburb, every town.

“For the first time, we break down poverty in Victoria, allowing policy makers to better target the needs of people in different places.”

VCOSS has created an interactive mapping site at povertymaps.vcoss.org.au to give a clearer picture of how poverty manifests in different places.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, or NATSEM, produced poverty estimates for different groups in different areas. They calculated poverty rates after housing costs to give a truer picture of available income for life’s other necessities.

Spatial distribution of poverty rates for Victorian SA2s. Melbourne region shown in inset. Source: VCOSS.

The report explores the different ‘faces of poverty’ across different suburbs and towns. For example:

  • In Melbourne’s outer western, northern and south-eastern suburbs (Wyndham, Melton, Casey, Hume and Cardinia), the common ‘face of poverty’ is a family struggling to get by. Families weren’t as dominant in the poverty data covering central Melbourne, the inner suburbs or regional areas.
  • In the council areas of Cardinia, Frankston, Melton, Mornington Peninsula and Moorabool, single parents were the most likely to live in poverty.
  • Across central Melbourne, more than 40% of people living in poverty are younger people aged 24 or under, reflecting a big student population.

King believes the new analysis should act as a wake-up call to politicians and policymakers.

“This data provides a blueprint for targeted policies that will ease the strain and give people a fairer go in life,” she said.

Other key findings include:

  • 774,000 Victorians live in poverty (13.2%)
  • Regional Victoria has a higher poverty rate than Melbourne (15.1% versus 12.6%)
  • More than 1 in 6 Victorian children live in poverty (18.7% or 198,600 children)
  • Women comprise the majority of adults living in poverty (54.1% or 311,800 women)
  • A majority of people experiencing poverty live in families with children (57.8% or 447,300 people)
  • A majority of people living in poverty live in owner-occupied homes (51.4% or 397,900 people)
  • More than one-third of adults living in poverty have a disability (34.3% or 197,600 people)
  • More than a quarter of adults living in poverty have a job (28.2% or 162,600 people)
  • Even the richest communities had poverty rates from 6%
  • High poverty communities had poverty rates of up to 40%

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne.