Everybody intuitively knows people live in poverty in every suburb, town and rural community in Victoria. Despite this, we can easily fall into the trap of labelling some places as ‘rich’ and others as ‘poor’.

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.

Even evidence-based poverty rates are reported as an undifferentiated headline rate, doing nothing to debunk the ‘rich’ versus ‘poor’ areas myth. This research confronts these myths head on, showing the people and places behind the headline numbers.

For the first time, we break down poverty in Victoria, allowing policy makers to better target the needs of people in different places. We have created an interactive mapping site, allowing everyone to better understand the specific nature of poverty in their local community.

By using complex modelling techniques, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) has produced poverty estimates for different groups in different areas. We calculated poverty rates after housing costs to give a truer picture of available income for life’s other necessities.

These estimates provide a more sophisticated picture of who experiences poverty, and where they live, than ever before – including their age, gender, disability status, employment, family arrangements, and housing tenure. They show the characteristics of people living in poverty vary markedly from one community to another.

This rare analysis allows organisations to effectively target local service delivery. We hope it will be used by governments, community planners and service providers for better services

People living in poverty may own their home, work fulltime, or be raising families. They include children, and older people in retirement. Importantly, the character of poverty can be profoundly different in different places.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ profile of poverty, and the differences in the composition of poverty in different places may have consequences for local policy development and service delivery.

We hope this report makes a contribution to bettertargeted and evidence-based policy responses to start reducing poverty in Victoria by meeting the specific needs of different groups facing different challenges.

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