Priest says poverty increasing in rural and regional Australia
Poverty can now be measured by location, according to the Policy Director of Jesuit Social Services, Fr Peter Norden, who was keynote speaker at yesterday's University of Ballarat Public Forum for National Anti-Poverty Week.
"We have clear evidence that there are areas of rural and regional Victoria that are becoming entrenched in poverty and disadvantage that may become permanent features of the landscape," said Fr Norden.
Providing evidence from the recently-released Jesuit report on locational disadvantage, Community Adversity and Resilience, he provided detailed measurements of 12 disadvantage factors in areas including the Victorian localities of Ballarat, Ararat, Horsham, Stawell and Beaufort.
"Our recent report on disadvantage proceeds to identify characteristics of local communities faced with severe social disadvantage that could be promoted to build greater social cohesion rather than social exclusion," he explained. "It presents hard data that demands a substantial public policy response".
"Social exclusion breeds social alientation and unless this is addressed in regional public policy decisions, Australians will continue to observe increased instances of child abuse and neglect, mental health disorders, youth suicide, substance misuse, and breaches of the criminal law," he explained.
"It is our belief that some communities that are marked by social disadvantage are not necessarily communities lacking innter strengths and the potential to progress given reasonable opportunitites," he said.
"Diversity is the hallmark of Australian society and some will make better use of the opportunities available than others, but it is important to ensure that the future citizens of regional Victoria can actually get to the starting line," he explained.
"If for the first time in Australia's history, one's destiny might be shaped by one's location, or even one's postcode, it might be time to rethink some of the rules of the game," he concluded.
Rural & Regional Poverty Increasing in Victoria (Jesuit Social Services 20/10/04)
Jesuit Social Services
PDF version of Powerpoint Presentation
Anti-Poverty Forum Program
Jesuit study confirms postcode influence on social divide (CathNews 9/3/04)
Priest laments election campaign poverty bypass (CathNews 19/10/04)
21 Oct 2004