Just one Northern Territory SLA experiences no extreme disadvantage

ByAndrew Yule July 21, 2015

A small number of Northern Territory communities experience a web of disadvantage and structural barriers that make it almost impossible for residents to overcome economic and social disadvantage, according to a landmark national report released today.

Dropping off the Edge 2015, produced by Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia, maps disadvantage across the country based on 22 social indicators and shows that while Australia’s social support system is adequately meeting the needs of most communities, a number continue to suffer entrenched disadvantage.

Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards says Dropping off the Edge 2015 demonstrates that current policies are not working for the most disadvantaged communities.

“This report identifies where the system is failing individuals and communities, and outlined how residents in these communities aren’t just dealing with one form of disadvantage but multiple and complex barriers to individual wellbeing and community participation,” says Ms Edwards.

Dropping off the Edge 2015 shows that just four statistical local areas in the Northern Territory – 25% of the total – account for 47% of the most disadvantaged rank positions. Additionally, the report reveals that only one of 16 statistical local areas recorded no ‘most disadvantaged’ rankings.

The report is authored by Professor Tony Vinson and Associate Professor Margot Rawsthorne from the University of Sydney. Professor Vinson authored locational-based studies in 1999 and 2004 as well as the ground-breaking 2007 report Dropping off the Edge, which received over 284 scholarly citations and supported the establishment of the Australian Social Inclusion Board.

Catholic Social Services Australia CEO Marcelle Mogg says that disadvantage in the Northern Territory is dispersed, with the Tiwi Islands recording low internet access, low family income and young people not engaged in work or study, East Arnhem ranking highly in unemployment and unskilled workers and disadvantage in Katherine reflected in the rankings for criminal convictions, prison admissions and domestic violence.

“These communities are not failing – Australia is failing these communities. To provide better opportunities to these communities will take sustained effort and commitment on behalf of government, business, the community sector and the communities themselves,” she says.

Dropping off the Edge 2015 was compiled using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, NAPLAN, the Australian Early Development Index and state and territory government human services agencies. The report calls for a new approach targeted at reducing the most severe deep-seated disadvantage, taking into account the unique characteristics and circumstances of each community.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to improving outcomes for these communities,” says Ms Edwards.

Dropping off the Edge 2015 is a road map to communities that don’t have access to opportunities allowing them to flourish – like education, employment and safe and affordable housing. This report may be stark and confronting, but poses a challenge that we as a nation can rise to.”

Media enquiries: Kathryn Kernohan, 0409 901 248 or email