NSW communities experience complex web of criminal convictions, no internet access, unemployment and domestic violence

ByAndrew Yule July 21, 2015

A small number of New South Wales 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 11 New South Wales postcodes – 1.8% of the total – account for 21.4% of the most disadvantaged rank positions – an eleven-fold overrepresentation. Additionally, the ranking of 24 of the 40 most disadvantaged communities in New South Wales has not improved since the 2007 report, and many have been in a depressed state since earlier studies were undertaken in 1999 and 2004.

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 the most dominant factors in the most disadvantaged New South Wales postcodes include criminal convictions, no internet access, unemployment, domestic violence, a lack of qualifications, young adults disengaged from work or study and limited education.

“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