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Census analysis reveals sector challenges

September 16th, 2022

The first strategic analysis of the 2021 Australian Census provided for not-for-profit leaders and philanthropists reveals a challenging picture for key demographic groups, but also identifies opportunities for social sector leaders to respond.

The Census 2021: Numbers that matter report from Perpetual, with analysis from Seer Data & Analytics, delves into the first tranche of Census data on First Nations, age, women and girls, health and wellbeing, homelessness, mental health, and volunteering, and supplements the analysis with commentary from sector leaders with direct experience of the issues.

“We must rise to meet the challenges of our times,’’ Cat Fay, Managing Partner, Community and Social Investment, Perpetual Private and Jane Magor, National Manager, Philanthropy & Non Profit Services, Perpetual Private, write in the report. “We feel positive about the sector stepping up to that challenge because we have more tools to use – like the data in this report. And we have the insight and judgement and sheer hard work of people like the civil society leaders who’ve contributed to this paper.’’

One identified challenge sits under the health, disability, and wellbeing category. The number of girls and boys aged from five to 14 with a core activity requiring assistance has increased markedly in the past 15 years, underlining the role the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plays in supporting many families.

The data shows the number of girls aged from five to 14 needing help with an activity essential to everyday life had increased by 158 per cent between 2006 and last year.

In the same period, the number of boys in the same age group needing help with self-care, mobility, and communication – considered core activities – saw a 170 per cent increase.

Yooralla CEO Terry Symonds wrote in the report that there are 500,000 Australians eligible for the NDIS but ‘perhaps 600,000 in the next year.’

“The data reminds us that the vast majority of people with disability who need help and access to resources and providers aren’t in the NDIS,’’ Terry said. “But if they don’t get the help and support, they need, they will end up in the Scheme and that in turn will affect its cost, reach and effectiveness.’’

In the age category, there are gaps, in a policy sense as well as a practical level. The former Head of Strategic Partnerships at Illawarra Retirement Trust, Tobias Dawson, described in the report the complexity of the aged care service provision, but also pointed to other issues.

“Today, there are over 20,000 homeless Australians aged 55 or over and women are massively over-represented within this population,’’ he wrote. “Woman or man, aged homelessness is a tragedy. Most people in that population die within five years.’’

“We need lots of different service models that have one thing in common – they’re focused on the person. Because that person is my mother or father – and your mother and father. And one day it will be me. And you,’’ he wrote.

The 2021 Census marked the 50th anniversary since the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been included in the count. In the first count in 1971, 0.9 per cent of the Australian population was listed as Aboriginal. Fifty years later, it is 3.2 per cent.

Sharna Meinertz, Senior Financial Adviser at Perpetual and a Yued Whadjuk Noongar women, wrote: “The raw data does not address the differences in the last 50 years; namely the increased willingness to participate in the Census, the value of anonymity to feel safe enough to disclose and acknowledge one’s identity and many from the Stolen Generation feeling ready to make a connection back to community.’’

“The Census may provide the data, however we ask you to engage with the stories, to hear our voices, to see the work carried out by our communities and in our communities, to witness the strength of our determination,’’ Sharna wrote. “Trust in our voice that we can help design a better future for ourselves, for our children and for all Australians.’’

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