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Social Service Needs in Regional and Rural Victoria

Many regional and rural communities are supportive, vibrant, and thriving.  However, there are a number of communities that are doing it tough, where disadvantage has become entrenched and persistent. The demand and unmet need for services identified in this paper are similar to those in many metropolitan areas, but the lack of service accessibility and availability, the high cost of transport, energy and technology and the decreased opportunities for education, training and jobs, are factors that increase disadvantage for people living in regional and rural Victoria.

There needs to be greater coordination of infrastructure and service planning to address the long-term underlying causes of disadvantage – such as changes in rural economies, housing and access to education, training and job opportunities. There is a need for greater integration between social service, health and education planning and other strategies such as the Regional Growth Plans and Homes for Victorians, to ensure a whole-of-government approach that targets and addresses place- based disadvantage. This paper calls on Government to sustain and increase investment to ensure rural and regional communities have the foundations for human endeavour and flourishing.

This paper identifies service gaps that include: a need for more community mental health services, greater access to medical specialists and drug and alcohol treatment services, increased access to financial counselling and better support for those involved in the criminal justice system.  The paper describes a number of examples where place-based approaches at the grass-roots level are making a difference and makes a range of recommendations to address the social service gaps identified.

In rural and regional Victoria there are many vibrant communities that foster attachment to the local area and where diversity and inclusion are embraced and contribute to positive life outcomes for residents. Given the State’s economic wealth and resources, we all have a responsibility to ensure that the distribution of resources and services reach the areas in most need to ensure a just, equitable and compassionate society. Download report

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