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Jesuit study confirms postcode influence on social divide

Some areas of Victoria and NSW have far greater numbers of disadvantaged persons than others, according to a new report released today by the policy office of the Melbourne-based Jesuit Social Services.

The report sends out a warning to Federal and State governments to address the complex needs of these areas, or they may become "No Go Zones" in coming years.

In Sydney, the suburb of Redfern is identified as an island of disadvantage. Redfern was the scene of last month's violent clashes between police and members of the Indigenous community.

Forms of disadvantage include unemployment, poor education, as well as child abuse, mental illness, and a high proportion of residents on disability pensions and sickness benefits.

The report, titled Community Adversity and Resilience, presents authorities with a way forward that author Emeritus Professor Tony Vinson says requires a shift in thinking rather than major government expenditure.

"Building a sense of belonging to one's locality and increasing neighbours' interaction with one another can go a long way to shielding children and families from the full impact of social disadvantage," he said.

"However, such building of connections between the residents of disadvantaged areas needs to be accompanied by the creation of new opportunities in education, training and employment that open up life opportunities" he added.

Jesuit Social Services policy director Fr Peter Norden commented: "Social exclusion breeds social alienation and unless this is addressed in national public policy decisions in the coming year, Australians will continue to observe increased instances of child abuse and neglect, mental health disorders, youth suicide, substance misuse and spiralling prison populations ... at great economic and social cost to the wider community".

"Failing to act now will result in dramatic increases in expenditure for State and Federal Governments" he said, "in dealing with the serious consequences of social exclusion".

New Report Identifies "the Forgotten Australians"
Living in Urban, Rural and Remote Communities (Jesuit Social Services)

Abuse linked to problem suburbs (The Age 9/3/04)
Pick neighbours with care: it may determine your chances (Sydney Morning Herald 9/3/04)
On a roll across opportunity's great dividing range (Sydney Morning Herald 9/3/04)
Community Adversity and Resilience: Executive Summary
Community Adversity and Resilience: Maps
Jesuit Social Services

9 Mar 2004