Our challenges

Victoria’s people and communities are our greatest strength. Our diverse communities greatly contribute to the state and make Victoria one of the best places in the world to live.
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Our challenges

Victoria’s people and communities are our greatest strength. Our diverse communities greatly contribute to the state and make Victoria one of the best places in the world to live.

Acknowledging the strength and value of our diversity does not mean we can overlook barriers. Many people in Victoria face longstanding barriers to safety, inclusion, wellbeing and participation because of discrimination and inequality.

Our department delivers services to many people. We have a broad focus on supporting children, young people, people with disability, carers, older people, families and communities experiencing challenges. We must shape our initiatives to meet the different types and frequency of our interactions.

Our aim is to create a fairer Victoria by:

  • removing barriers to getting involved
  • helping people and communities recover from hard times
  • supporting people to safely contribute to society in a way they choose.

Sometimes our support is short term as people overcome emergencies or temporary hardships. For some people, we offer support for a much longer period.

As the world becomes more complex, so do the challenges people face. We can respond to these pressures by changing how we approach crisis and recovery. We can do this by helping people earlier to prevent a build-up of disadvantage. We can listen and then change the ways we work to better suit the needs of people and communities. We must continue to elevate the voice of Victorians going through multiple and intersecting forms of disadvantage.

We understand that the diversity and complexity of people’s lived experience means there can be multiple barriers to receiving inclusive and responsive services. This can also affect how people take part in the economy and community life. We must take an intersectional approach and work closely with our communities to create and roll out the most effective supports we can. We must design our policies and programs in partnership with the communities we serve. Our work benefits the whole community, but we must continue to create and build our connections to these groups.

There are also longstanding challenges we are working to address. Historical and intergenerational trauma continues to echo across Aboriginal communities. This is from the effects of colonisation including child removal, racism and cultural destruction.

In 2020, reports of racial abuse doubled from those in reported in 2019.27 We must continue to take down racism and build inclusive and respectful communities, and services and initiatives to support them. The department also has a role in driving a positive vision for a fairer and safer Victoria. This includes through whole-of-government leadership in policy and programs that respond to diversity and are designed in partnership with communities.

Population change

Victoria’s demographics change with population growth and decline. The uneven rate of growth and decline can be challenging when providing services. Victoria’s population will continue to grow overtime28, and demand for services will continue to grow with it.

Despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, international migration will still drive Victoria’s population growth.29 This will keep changing and enhancing the cultural and social diversity in our state. Some new Victorians, such as refugees and asylum seekers, may have complex needs. They may need extra support to recover from trauma caused by mistreatment or living in war zones.

Housing type and size needs to change to reflect demographic change. The large families of the 1960s and 1970s are less common. Individuals now make up a significant proportion of people requesting social housing. These people are more likely to have severe and multiple disadvantage and experiences of discrimination.

Our population is ageing, and the population groups experiencing homelessness are changing along with it. Women over the age of 55 make up the largest growing group within the homeless population.30

The NDIS has changed the way we provide specialist disability supports. Around 105,000 Victorians with disability will be eligible for an NDIS plan.31 All people with disability, regardless of whether they have a plan, rely on mainstream services being accessible and inclusive.

Our ongoing use of data analytics will help us track these changes. It will also help predict service demand and population needs outside the historical nine-to-five business model.

Geographical change

Many people who use our services live in rural and regional areas and the outer suburban growth corridors of Victoria. These locations face unique challenges – economic growth in some areas, decline in others. In these areas, it can be difficult to shift services and other infrastructure quickly. It can be a challenge to respond to the fast-changing community needs.

We will build on the lessons from our response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and continue to trial new ways of working. Emerging digital technologies will allow us to reach out and deliver services and programs in new ways, while ensuring we do not leave those on the other side of the digital divide behind.

Preparing, responding and recovering

Some individuals, families and communities in Victoria face greater challenges now than ever before. Poverty, disadvantage and trauma have left some exposed to greater hardship when large-scale social and economic emergencies occur. Ongoing pressures on our communities and services include:

  • the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  • the effects of climate change
  • the increasing intensity and frequency of bushfires, storms and other large-scale events.

This pressure is particularly true for people in insecure work, especially:

  • women and young people
  • those isolated from family and friends
  • people with disability
  • people with unpaid caring responsibilities
  • families at increased risk of violence
  • older people
  • newly arrived migrants

temporary and provisional visa holders.

We know Victorians enjoy better long-term wellbeing in vibrant, inclusive and cohesive communities. In such communities people support one another, are empathetic and respectful, and can adapt to change.

We will form partnerships with these communities as we work to support them through these challenges. We will also use and trial new ways to address complex issues. This will include:

  • local initiatives
  • better integrating programs across service systems
  • earlier intervention
  • better connection to and accessibility of services.

We will reflect on our ways of working and business practices and make them more person- and family-centred and easier to navigate.

We will continue to improve our emergency management responses as we plan for future large-scale emergencies. This will help deliver service continuity and have relief and early social recovery responses ready. We will learn from what our communities and people tell us about what works best for them.

Our stories – Emergency management response to a severe storm event

Victoria had a severe storm event from 9 to 11 June 2021. Our Readiness, Response and Emergency Management Branch and Operations Division activated emergency management operations with the Department of Health. These operations directly supported affected communities across the state. Yarra Ranges experienced the most extensive physical damage, including destroyed houses, trees blocking roads, fallen powerlines and power and phone outages. In addition to damaged property, the impacts of the storms on the mental health and wellbeing of the broader community was significant.

Our Emergency Management staff in East Division and more than 60 operations surge staff from across the state worked closely with local councils and emergency and community services to help people affected by the storms. The department provided 278 emergency relief Personal Hardship Assistance Payments totalling $307,160 across the eastern metropolitan region. These payments helped meet immediate food, material aid, accommodation and other relief needs in Yarra Ranges. The department gave out 653 payments totalling $727,360 across the state.32

Local Community Hubs provided a safe and warm gathering place for communities to receive assistance, information, support, counselling and access to food, power, showers and the internet. Staff at the Community Hubs gave locals the opportunity to work through their psychosocial support needs and identify referral options. Staff conducted daily welfare checks by phone (and some in person) to 418 people. The department is coordinating a broad and dedicated social recovery program to ensure support is there to help the community with ongoing recovery efforts.


27 Source: Reducing racism during COVID-19, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

28 Source: Insights from Australia’s first Population Statement

29 Source: Insights from Australia’s first Population Statement

30 Source: Australian Human Rights Commission 2019, Older Women’s Risk of Homelessness: Background Paper

31 Source: About the NDIS in Victoria

32 Source: Internal data from the Personal Hardship Assistance Program (PHAP) system, 12 August 2021