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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 optimise the value and frequency of different types of interactions.
Our aim is to create a fairer Victoria by:
- removing barriers to participation
- 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, for example as people overcome emergencies or temporary hardships. However, 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 and to prevent disadvantage becoming entrenched. We can listen and then change the ways we work to better suit the needs of the people and communities we serve. We must continue to elevate the voice of Victorians experiencing multiple and intersecting forms of disadvantage.
We understand 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. While our work benefits the whole community, it is essential we 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 2019.1 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.
Victoria’s population will continue to grow over time.2 Projections anticipate the population will increase by an average of one per cent every year between 2022 and 2032, reaching 7.9 million by 2030.3 The population will keep changing and enhancing the cultural and social diversity in our state.
Victoria’s demographics also continue to change. The uneven rate of growth, particularly between metropolitan and regional areas, can be challenging when providing services. The department will continue monitoring these dynamics.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, between 30 June 2020 and 2021, there was a population decrease in Victoria of 0.7 per cent – the only Australian state to record negative population growth. Yet, despite the pandemic, overseas and interstate migration will still drive Victoria’s population growth in future.4 Historical trends indicate population growth and change will continue to be strong as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
Alongside demographic change, demand for services will also grow and evolve. Housing type and size needs to change to reflect demographic changes. Today, 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 experience multiple, complex disadvantage or discrimination. 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.
Our population is also ageing. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of Victorians aged over 65 grew by 35 per cent. By 2056, 21.2 per cent of Victorians will be aged 65 or older – an increase of around 5 per cent from 2018.
Housing stress and homelessness are major issues for a growing number of Victorians. Research conducted in early-2021 suggests that fewer than 18 per cent of private rentals are affordable for households on the minimum wage – just 2 per cent were affordable for people on income support.5 Women over the age of 55 make up the largest growing group within the homeless population – increasing by more than 30 per cent between 2014 and 2019.6
The NDIS has changed the way we provide specialist disability supports. Around 105,000 Victorians with disability will be eligible for a NDIS plan.7 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.
Many people who use our services live in rural and regional areas and outer suburban growth corridors. Some of these communities also face place-based disadvantage, characterised by high levels of housing stress, low household income, greater disengagement from education and employment, higher prison admissions, and domestic violence. 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 access to digital platforms is not a barrier to anyone receiving the support and information they need.
Preparing, responding and recovering
Some individuals, families and communities in Victoria face greater challenges now than ever before. Poverty, disadvantage and trauma mean that some Victorians are exposed to greater hardship when large-scale emergencies occur.
Ongoing pressures on our communities and services include:
- the effects of climate change
- the increasing intensity and frequency of bushfires, storms and other large-scale events
- the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
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 our diverse 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. We will learn from what our communities and people tell us about what works best for them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had major impacts in Victoria, with more than 900,000 cases recorded across the state as at June 2022.8
Now into the pandemic’s third year, Victoria is transitioning to living with COVID-19, with high vaccination numbers represented in communities at higher risk of serious illness, including NDIS participants and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (with over 86 per cent and 88 per cent of the population aged 16 and over being fully vaccinated, respectively).9
Across the state, over 70 per cent aged 16 and over are vaccinated with three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine10, and over 43 per cent of 5-to-11-year olds are double-dosed.11 12
The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated existing disadvantage, including housing and socioeconomic status, family violence, mental ill-health, health literacy, and cultural marginalisation. Some people and communities are likely to continue facing barriers accessing COVID-19 supports and staying COVIDSafe. As Victoria transitions to living with COVID-19 it will be important to ensure that all members of our community are supported to stay healthy and safe, and to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
Our stories – Emergency management response to a severe storm event
Victoria experienced a severe storm event from 9 to 11 June 2021, resulting in flooding and storm damage across the State, including damage to over 260 properties. Prolonged power outages meant some households were without power for weeks.
Our DFFH operational divisions activated emergency management operations with the Department of Health and worked with Readiness, Response and Emergency Management (RREM) to directly support affected communities across the State.
Communities in the Dandenong Ranges, Central Highlands, Macedon Ranges and Gippsland experienced extensive physical damage, including destroyed houses, trees blocking roads, fallen powerlines and power and phone outages. In addition to damaged properties, the impacts of the storms on the mental health and wellbeing of the broader community were significant.
The RREM staff 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 approved over 750 emergency relief and re-establishment payments totalling more than $2 million the Personal Hardship Assistance Program. These payments helped Victorians with the cost of clothing, food, shelter, and repairs. Staff also conducted welfare checks for more than 400 people.
Local Community Hubs provided safe and warm gathering places for communities to receive assistance, information, support and access to food, power, showers and the internet, giving locals the opportunity to work through their psychosocial support needs and identify referral options.
The Victorian Government continues to implement its over $14 million Recovery Support Package to provide Victorians with access to services and supports.
Due to ongoing demand, the Victorian Government has approved further funding of over $700,00 in the 2022-23 Budget for the Victorian Recovery Support Program.