Assessing the needs and opportunities of Australian communities, Nov 2003

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November 05, 2003
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

Assessing the needs and opportunities of Australian communities

What makes Hobart the most disadvantaged capital city in Australia and Canberra the least disadvantaged?

The assessment and comparison of the social and economic conditions of cities, towns, suburbs and neighbourhoods is now possible through the resource tool, Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) 2001, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Director of Census Products and Services, Michael Beahan said SEIFA 2001 uses demographic profiling to provide public and private sector organisations with a powerful strategic planning tool.

"SEIFA is made up of four indices. Each index combines a number of variables derived from the 2001 Census like income, education and employment to determine an index value for a wide range of areas across the whole of Australia," he said.

"The indices can be used to compare and rank different areas of Australia. It can show where the affluent, as opposed to just the high income earning live; where the disadvantaged, as opposed to the unemployed live; and where the highly educated and skilled, as opposed to the tertiary educated people live."

"Being ranked disadvantaged by SEIFA is not a negative reflection of a city. It simply provides decision-makers with the knowledge of where different needs and opportunities exist within our communities."

SEIFA's four indices:
  1. Index of Disadvantage is derived from variables like income, educational attainment, unemployment, and dwellings without motor vehicles.
  2. Index of Advantage/Disadvantage is a continuum of advantage (high values) to disadvantage (low values). It takes into account variables like the proportion of families with high incomes, people with a tertiary education, and employees in skilled occupations.
  3. Index of Economic Resources focuses on variables like the income, expenditure and assets of families (like family income, rent paid, mortgage repayments and dwelling size).
  4. Index of Education and Occupation includes variables relating to the educational and occupational characteristics of communities, like the proportion of people with a higher qualification or those employed in a skilled occupation.

"Any organisation or government agency, big or small, can use SEIFA to provide an insight into the demographics of their community."

Potential uses of SEIFA include:
  • Health agencies can identify areas with expanding and contracting health needs.
  • Educational bodies can allocate funding and resources to schools based on their level of disadvantage.
  • Welfare agencies can establish areas where their services are most needed.
  • Employment agencies can identify areas in need of assistance and support, as well as those areas where jobs are more likely to be available.
  • Justice agencies can identify 'hot spots' for crime.
  • Retirement planning authorities can review the need for aged care facilities for pensioners, as well as 'Self-Funded' retirees.
  • Businesses can review their existing client base and identify areas for future expansion.

SEIFA 2001 is available as either a stand-alone software package or as an Add-On to CDATA 2001. It varies in price depending on the area covered by the indexes - for all states and territories the price is $2,500.