FEDERAL Minister for Social Inclusion, Mark Butler, last week welcomed the release of the second edition of the 'How Australia is faring' report by the Australian Social Inclusion Board, saying it tells a compelling story about nation's progress.
Mr Butler said the report, which provides an updated statistical view of the nature and extent of social inclusion in Australia, makes clear the government's commitment to addressing disadvantage is having a positive impact.
"It shows that Australians are doing well in a number of areas with more Australians finishing school, older people being employed at higher rates than ever before, high and increasing life expectancy," Mr Butler said.
"Our economy continues to defy international trends and outperform other advanced economies with solid growth and low unemployment, yet 640,000 Australians still face complex and multiple levels of disadvantage each year," the Minister said.
Lin Hatfield Dodds, the newly appointed Chair of the Australian Social Inclusion Board, said the report shows that while Australia is prosperous and faring well compared to other nations, a small but significant group of people are still missing out.
Ms Hatfield Dodds said homeless people, long-term unemployed Australians, people living with mental illness and other disability or a combination of all these things, still struggle to move beyond debilitating disadvantage.
"For the most part, Australians are doing really well… But around 640 000 people, or one in twenty working age Australians, experience multiple and entrenched disadvantage that makes it impossible to engage in a way most of us take for granted," Mr Hatfield Dodds said.
"Also of concern is Australia's rising income inequality, and the finding that we continue to have the fourth highest proportion of children living in jobless families in the OECD.
"I am optimistic that more intensive services provided for as long as it takes to a very small proportion of the population will help some of the most disadvantaged Australians live a better life.
"The Board will continue to work with government, community organisations, business and individuals to realise a vision for a more socially inclusive Australia," Ms Hatfield Dodds said.
Mr Butler said the report will help to guide the government's continued investment as a nation in areas including health and disability, employment, reducing financial stress, education, access to services, housing, public safety, and community engagement.