Mapping the potential: understanding persistent disadvantage to inform community change

Low socioeconomic status Economic indicators Economic modelling Socio-economic disadvantage Australia

This report will help decision-makers at every level understand the complexities of persistent disadvantage in Australia. It will support them to deliver effective community-based responses.

Long-term disadvantage, intergenerational welfare and poverty are major public issues in Australia. The gap between rich and poor features often in the lists of top concerns. Increasingly, research measures the depth and distribution of disadvantage. Yet, the real challenge is not just knowing the size and location of disadvantage, it is knowing what to do about it.

This project takes up this challenge. Its goal is to support community-led responses to community-based needs. It will help local service providers to partner in local action. Its contribution will be to target innovation and investment to where it is needed most.

However, the first step to finding solutions is defining the problem. That is the role of this preliminary research report. The following pages identify drivers of disadvantage in every Australian electorate. It also identifies which are most influential on persistent disadvantage in each.

Key findings:

  • Eighty per cent of federal electorates have some people experiencing persistent disadvantage. All regional electorates do. On average, National Party seats are the most persistently disadvantaged in Australia.
  • In the handful of electorates with least disadvantage, the gap between richest and poorest is narrow. In most other electorates, even the poorest, it is wide. This suggests that across much of Australia, rich and poor live nearby.
  • Of any metropolitan city, Adelaide struggles most with persistent disadvantage. Perth and Sydney struggle least. Brisbane has Australia’s widest range of results across its electorates. While Sydney outperforms the rest of Australia, it also has the widest spread of suburbs around its city average.

These findings should prompt discussion amongst Australian policy leaders and decision-makers. The findings also highlight the potential for local leaders to target areas where policy, investment and services are needed most.

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