Life around here

Life around here

Community, work and family life in three Australian communities

Kelly Hand, Matthew Gray, Daryl Higgins, Shaun Lohoar, Julie Deblaquiere

Research Report – February 2012
Life around here

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Executive summary

The Life Around Here study was designed to provide information about the factors that influence the participation of families in paid employment and their communities more broadly. In-depth interviews were undertaken with 59 households (involving 71 individuals) across Broadmeadows in Victoria, Mansfield Park in South Australia, and Carole Park* near Goodna in Queensland. These suburbs - along with Angle Park in South Australia and Goodna in Queensland - have been selected to be the test sites for the Family Centred Employment Project, as according to a number of indicators, such as high levels of family joblessness, they have been identified as being socially and economically disadvantaged.

The study was designed to cover a broad cross-section of people living in each of the areas, rather than a statistically representative sample, in order to gauge the range of issues facing families and to capture change where this was occurring. The participants in the study came from a variety of backgrounds and were at different stages of the life course. The study participants included families with children, retirees, working and non-working parents, and families from a variety of cultural backgrounds. These participants provided diverse accounts of their lives within Broadmeadows, Mansfield Park and Carole Park. However, many of their experiences were shared both across and between the study sites.

Of the 59 households participating in the Life Around Here study, 36 did not have an adult employed at the time of the interview. Of this group, 20 were families with working-age adults and children aged under 18 years, 8 were households with adults of working age and no children under 18 years, and 8 were households consisting of retirees.

Key findings about participants' experiences of their communities

The interviews with the families and reviews of the suburbs highlighted the following key themes about participants' communities:

  • Compared to the general Australian population, there were high levels of disadvantage within each of the three communities.
  • Education and income levels among the study sample were lower than the national average across all three suburbs, reflecting the population trends within these areas. Overall, many of the participants were experiencing multiple indicators of disadvantage in terms of their employment status, income, housing, education levels and health.
  • Residents of these areas were more likely than the general Australian population to have been born outside of Australia, and a higher proportion were in single-parent households.
  • Just over a third of jobless households in receipt of income support payments were receiving a Disability Support Pension. While about one-third of this group were suffering from physical disabilities or illnesses (such as back injuries), most were suffering from mental health issues such as depression, post-traumatic stress (relating to violence) and anxiety disorders.
  • Many participants noted that the cost of housing had increased in recent years - in terms of both renting and buying. This increase in rental costs was noted by both private renters and public housing tenants. Many felt that while the cost of housing had increased in their own communities, it had also done so elsewhere. For participants who were not happy living in the area, this could lead to a feeling of being stuck.
  • Many of the people who felt "stuck" and who had sufficient resources to allow them to do so, conducted most of their lives outside of the community where they lived. These participants worked, socialised and educated their children outside of the area. Many of the parents who chose this option spoke of trying to remove their children from what they saw as the negative influences of the area.
  • Feelings of safety were a significant theme in the interviews across all suburbs, and this affected the extent to which many participants became involved in their communities. While many felt that levels of safety were improving, few people in the study areas felt safe going out in the area at night. Drug and alcohol misuse was seen as a problem in all areas and was often referred to as being behind violence and other crimes, such as theft and property crimes.
  • The lack of reliable public transport in Carole Park and the reluctance of many participants in Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park to use public transport after dark (due to safety concerns) also contributed to a feeling among some participants of being stuck, and ruled out night-time employment for those without other means of transport (such as a car).
  • About half of the participants were involved in community activities such as volunteering at the community centre and getting involved in local issues-based groups. Others reported attending courses run by local services.
  • Generally, participants were aware of the services available in the areas in which they lived and were positive about the quality of services available to assist families. Participants across all of the suburbs reported gaps in services for young people and in parenting support and education services.

Key findings about participants' experiences of the labour market

The interviews highlighted the following key themes about participants' experiences of the labour market:

  • Overall, jobless households participating in the study tended to have lower levels of educational attainment than the other households. Over one-third of the jobless households included an adult in receipt of a Disability Support Pension.
  • Almost all participants, regardless of their current employment status saw work as being an important part of life and as an important contributor to their own wellbeing and that of their families.
  • Many mothers from single-parent households were keen to return to work, and to ensure that their skills did not get too out-of-date. However, among this group, absences of significant length had also led to a loss of confidence and a desire to undertake some training before returning to work. There was some confusion about what support was available to mothers prior to their youngest child turning 6. Some who had sought out support before their youngest child turned 6 and before the activity requirements applied were frustrated at not being seen as a priority by employment services. Partnered mothers in receipt of income support also spoke about this being an issue.
  • The difficulties of assisting families with complex needs and the fact that many of these families experience joblessness was a theme that emerged consistently in the research. Families living in the three suburbs were often observed to be grappling with issues such as drug and alcohol misuse, physical and mental health issues and ongoing violence and/or fearfulness.
  • Positive accounts about the assistance received by participants seeking employment often focused on what could be regarded as relatively "simple" or "small things". There was a sense that sometimes people with multiple and complex needs did not need only complex solutions. Rather, they also needed assistance in anticipating and overcoming "small things" in order to be able to re-enter and maintain their involvement in the labour market.
  • Not feeling safe and poor access to public transport limited the capacity of some participants to engage in paid work, especially outside of normal hours. A number of the jobless parents who were interviewed expressed concerns about the supervision of children, especially in relation to drugs, violence and other forms of antisocial behaviour.
  • There was a strong sense from participants (both jobless and employed) that education was the most important factor in improving employment prospects. Many of the participants talked about wanting to do a course, as they believed that this would increase their chances of finding employment, and for those who were employed, that it would improve the quality of jobs they could find.

The findings from the Life Around Here study offer important insights into the experiences of families living in Broadmeadows, Mansfield Park and Carole Park. These insights are relevant to the development and delivery of programs and services that are aimed at increasing participation in education and employment among families experiencing social and economic disadvantage in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

* Since this research was undertaken the residential area of Carole Park has been renamed as Ellen Grove.

1. Introduction

Although Australia has a relatively low level of joblessness overall, it has a relatively high level of family joblessness compared to many other OECD countries.1 This is because joblessness in Australia is more concentrated in specific households than in most other OECD countries (Whiteford, 2009). Family joblessness is the single most important cause of child poverty in Australia (Whiteford, 2010) and has been linked to poorer developmental outcomes for children (Daly, 2006; Gray & Baxter, 2011a, 2011b).

In the Australian and international research literature, researchers have identified factors influencing the participation in paid work of families with children who are experiencing long-term joblessness, particularly the participation of mothers. A number of qualitative studies have shown that parents may be unwilling to accept jobs that compromise their own values about the best way to care for their children.

For parents of younger children, there may be a lack of locally available child care that parents think is of suitable quality, or it may be that mothers of young children do not believe that it is appropriate to leave their young children in the care of others (Crisp, Batty, Cole, & Robinson, 2009; Duncan & Edwards, 1999; Hand, 2005, 2008). For parents of school-aged children and teenagers, concerns about being able to take children to and from school or about the safety of the area in which they live, and access to supervision of older children before and after school also limit the extent to which mothers will engage in the labour market (Hand & Hughes, 2005; Ridge & Millar, 2011).

Being able to access part-time work that allows mothers to fit it in with their care responsibilities has also been found to be an important factor in enabling mothers to sustain employment (Morehead, 2002; Ridge & Millar, 2011). Furthermore, a lack of flexibility in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, tied in with poor access to child care, can also limit the extent to which parents who have experienced long-term joblessness or unstable employment can find and keep a job (McQuaid, Fuertes, & Richard, 2010).

Single mothers in particular have been found to face challenges in entering into and maintaining employment. In a qualitative study by Ridge and Millar (2011) found that single mothers face particular challenges in sustaining work. They found that "the sort of flexibility they need at work is currently dependent on informal social relationships. These can be very supportive, but employers can also be inconsistent and arbitrary" (Millar & Ridge, 2008, p. 118). In the Australian context, analyses by Baxter and Renda (2011) have shown that although single and partnered mothers who are not employed have a similar rate of movement into employment, employed single mothers are more likely to leave employment.

Other factors associated with family joblessness may include low educational attainment, low confidence, poor access to transport, poor or fair health, and unstable housing (Daly, 2006; McQuaid et al., 2010), as well as family violence, substance abuse, mental health problems and language skills (Australian Social Inclusion Board, 2011). However, it should be noted that "it remains unclear whether experiencing joblessness is a cause or consequence of other aspects of disadvantage" (Australian Social Inclusion Board, 2011, p. 18).

The existing research suggests that, in addition to these individual characteristics, living in disadvantaged areas in which there is a concentration of unemployment and joblessness also increases the likelihood of those living in these areas being unemployed (Daly, 2006; Tannous et al., 2009). So, in addition to being concentrated within families, joblessness in Australia is also concentrated within particular geographic areas. Geographic disadvantage has been linked to poorer outcomes for children (Edwards, 2005), poorer quality relationships between adults, lower income insecurity and poorer physical health (Heady & Verick, 2006). Living in a disadvantaged neighborhood has also been linked to reduced education and employment outcomes for people living in these areas (Daly, 2006; Hayes, Gray, & Edwards, 2008).

In areas where fewer jobs are available locally, a person may need to travel substantial distances in order to accept a job. This would involve higher travel and possibly child care costs and would therefore reduce any returns from working, particularly for parents with low levels of labour market skills, who may only be able to find low-paid employment (Daly 2006; McQuaid et al., 2010; Rafferty & Wiggins, 2011; Ridge & Millar, 2008; Tannous et al., 2009). Disadvantaged areas may also have poorer public transport infrastructure, which makes it difficult to travel to work (Australian Social Inclusion Board, 2011; Daly, 2006; Hayes et al., 2008; McQuaid et al., 2010).

A culture of joblessness may also develop in areas where there are relatively high rates of unemployment, which means that a person is unlikely to be supported if they are in paid employment or may become happy with the alternative of not working, given the social network within which they live (Buck, 2001, cited in Daly, 2006).

Further to this, one of the most common ways of finding employment is via informal networks of friends and relatives. People living in high-unemployment areas are less likely to have friends who are employed and therefore have a lower likelihood of finding employment (Stone, Gray, & Hughes, 2003).

In recognition of the potential negative effects on children of growing up in a jobless family, one of six priority areas for the Australian Social Inclusion Agenda is: "helping jobless families with children by helping the unemployed into sustainable employment and their children into a good start in life" (Australian Government, 2009b).

One of the social inclusion initiatives aimed at reducing the proportion of families with children that are jobless is the Family Centred Employment Project (FCEP). The aim of the Family Centred Employment Project is to develop and test integrated family-centred service delivery models that address the educational needs of jobless families, supports their capacity for employment and enhances their social inclusion (Australian Government, 2009a; Australian Social Inclusion Board, 2011).

The initiative involves developing a service model that:

  • is family-centred and focuses on the needs of the family unit rather than on any one individual;
  • takes account of all issues that families may encounter (such as housing, financial management, limited capacity to parent effectively, violence and conflict, low levels of education and mental illness); and
  • provides wrap-around services in an integrated and holistic way in response to the unique needs of jobless families.

The Family Centred Employment Project commenced in 2010 across three sites - Broadmeadows in Melbourne, Angle Park and Mansfield Park in Adelaide, and Goodna in Queensland. These areas have been found to be socially and economically disadvantaged in regard to a number of different indicators, and have high rates of family joblessness.

The Life Around Here study is in the tradition of other studies around employment and social participation in disadvantaged neighbourhoods (Bryson, Lazzarini & Winter, 1996; Peel, 1995, 2003; Winter, 1995; Winter & Bryson, 1997). The Life Around Here study seeks to provide a picture of the lives of families living in the three sites in which the Family Centred Employment Project is being trialled. For the Goodna site, the interviews were conducted in Carole Park, which is a suburb adjacent to Goodna and a part of the catchment area in the Family Centred Employment Project. In total, 59 households participated and 71 adults from these households were interviewed.

The study was designed to examine a range of issues, including:

  • how those living in jobless families interact with the community within which they live;
  • the impact of where they live on workforce participation;
  • the types of services and assistance that they see as being most likely to assist them to move into employment; and
  • how services can most effectively be delivered to them.

The Life Around Here study involved mixed-methods research undertaken with households living in the three suburbs that were identified as experiencing high levels of joblessness. Interviews were undertaken with residents from a variety of backgrounds within each of these suburbs to explore their experiences of living within their neighbourhood. Interviews were conducted with a broad cross-section of people living in the three sites, including families with and without children and lone-person households. The families interviewed included families with no employed adult (jobless families) and families with one or more employed adults. The employed families included some families who had been jobless recently.

It adds to our understanding of the reasons for the high rates of joblessness among families with dependent children in some Australian city neighbourhoods and how families relate to the area in which they live and the extent to which their neighbourhood supports or constrains their participation in social and economic life. This report uses findings from the Life Around Here study to explore the extent to which families engage with their communities through employment and other aspects of community life, and their perceptions of the services and other assistance available to them to support this engagement. Information provided by the participants is linked to a profile of the suburb in which they live to further enhance understandings of the relationship between joblessness, social participation and where people live.

The report begins with a description in Chapter 2 of the research methodology and recruitment processes undertaken, followed by an overview in Chapter 3 of the three study sites, using data from sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). A description of the participants from each of the three sites is then provided in Chapter 4. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 provide an overview of participants' views about the communities in which they live, the ways in which they engage with these communities, and their use and awareness of local services. Chapter 8 examines the involvement in employment of participants and others in their households, and explores the factors influencing their labour market participation, both in the past and present. Chapter 9 brings the findings together to consider the ways in which where people live and their family circumstances affects their participation in social and economic life.

1 "Jobless families" are those in which there is no adult member of the household who is in paid employment.

2. Methodology and recruitment

This chapter provides an overview of the methodology of the Life Around Here study and the processes undertaken to recruit participants into the research.

The sample was designed to provide information from a broad cross-section of people living in each of the suburbs rather than to provide a representative sample (in a statistical sense) of people living in each of the suburbs. This is appropriate given that the study is primarily an in-depth qualitative study.

2.1 Research methodology

The Life Around Here study involved mixed-methods research undertaken with households living in Broadmeadows in Melbourne, Mansfield Park in Adelaide and Carole Park (part of Goodna) in Brisbane.

A short questionnaire was administered to participants at the time of the interview.2 This questionnaire collected basic demographic information (age, gender, languages spoken, household composition, education, country of birth), labour market and educational participation and perceptions about the participants' neighbourhood. The data collected via the survey allowed for snapshots of participants from the three communities to be created.

The remainder of the interview followed a fairly unstructured format, using a narrative, life course approach. The interviews covered the following broad areas:

  • further discussion of the families' demographic characteristics and personal circumstances as required, including:
    • household and family structure; and
    • the family's personal economic circumstance;
  • participants' experiences of living in their local community, including:
    • when and how they came to live in the community;
    • how it has changed over time;
    • their hopes and aspirations for themselves and the community;
    • key community events, organisations and social infrastructure; and
    • broader comments about their suburb, as well as their immediate neighbourhood and the streets in which they live;
  • building on their survey responses, a more detailed examination of their participation in employment and that of others in the household, including:
    • their employment history;
    • factors influencing their participation in the labour market over time; and
    • current employment;
  • the extent to which participants were engaged with their local community, including:
    • types of participation;
    • ways in which they would like to be involved;
    • supports and barriers to greater community involvement; and
    • the extent to which they feel supported by others in their community;
  • ways in which the community in which they live affects their participation in employment, such as:
    • opportunities for employment within their communities; and
    • what factors influence their decision-making about participating in paid work;
  • participants' knowledge of and beliefs about local services, including:
    • the accessibility of local services;
    • the availability of services they need; and
    • how services can best support them to participate, both in their community and in employment.

Drawing on these topics, the focus within each interview varied according to the backgrounds and experiences of individual participants. One interview took place via the telephone. The interviewer took detailed notes during the interviews as well as noting their observations of the neighbourhood in which participants lived. Most participants agreed to having the audio of their interview recorded. Where more than one family member from a household participated in the research, participants were given the option of having joint or separate interviews. In all such instances, joint interviews were requested.

In this report, we use the term "participating households" to refer to households that participated in the Life Around Here study, and "participants" to refer to the individuals who were interviewed as part of the study.

In addition to the interview data, background information about each of the study sites was collected and synthesised.

2.2 Recruitment of participants

The recruitment of study participants occurred in two stages. In the first stage, letters were sent in late 2009 by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) to households in selected streets with high proportions of jobless families, inviting members of the household to participate in the research.3

All adults aged 18 years or over within the household were invited to participate.

A total of 324 letters were initially sent to Broadmeadows, 279 to Mansfield Park and 348 to Carole Park. Responses to the initial mail-out provided about 10 households from each of the suburbs that were interested in taking part. This was an adequate sample for each area to commence interviewing.

To increase the number of participants in the second stage of recruitment, additional streets were included following the initial mail-out and commencement of interviewing in each suburb. In Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park, the additional streets were selected after speaking with local residents and service providers about where jobless families in the area lived. For Carole Park, due to its small size (around 600 houses) and strong interest from local residents, all households were invited to take part.4

Recruitment of participants for both Carole Park and Mansfield Park was aided by the support and advice of staff from the local community centres (Elorac Place and Parks Community Centre respectively). These centres played an important role in assisting with recruitment.

For most of the participating households, one adult was interviewed, with two adults being interviewed in 12 of the households. In most cases, when two adults from a household were interviewed, they were a couple, although a small number were part of a shared household.

In total, 59 households participated in the study and 71 adults from these households were interviewed (Table 2.1). In Broadmeadows, 15 households participated and 17 adults were interviewed; in Mansfield Park, 21 households participated and 24 adults were interviewed; and in Carole Park, 23 households participated, from which 30 adults were interviewed. The households participating in the study lived in 25 different streets.

Table 2.1: Number of streets in which participating households live, by suburb, 2010
  Number of participating households Number of streets Number of participants
Broadmeadows 15 4 17
Mansfield Park 21 11 24
Carole Park 23 10 30
Total 59 25 71

Notes: The number of participants is the number of individuals who were interviewed as part of the Life Around Here study.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Table 2.2 provides information on the gender and age distribution of the participants. The majority of participants were female (52 out of 71; 73%). The majority of participants were aged 36-65 years (47 out of 71; 66%), followed by 18-35 years (16 out of 71; 23%) and over 65 years (8 out of 71; 11%).

Table 2.2: Participant gender and age, by suburb, 2010
  Total number of participants Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
Gender
Male 19 4 9 6
Female 52 13 15 24
Age
18-35 years 16 6 4 6
36-65 years 47 8 16 23
Over 65 years 8 3 4 1
Total 71 17 24 30

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Broadmeadows had a greater proportion of younger participants. One-third were aged 18-35 years in Broadmeadows, whereas 20% in Carole Park and 17% in Mansfield Park were in this age group. Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park had a greater proportion of older participants aged over 65 (18% and 17% respectively), in comparison to Carole Park (3%). The bulk of participants from both Carole Park and Mansfield Park were between the ages of 36 and 65 (77% and 67% respectively).

2. The interviews were all conducted by one particular member of the team. For some of the interviews, this person was accompanied by another staff member. This ensured consistency in the way in which the interviews were conducted.

3. A list of streets with a high proportion of jobless families was provided by DEEWR to AIFS and was based upon DEEWR's administrative data on government payments. Local councils provided lists of valid street numbers for each of the selected streets for Broadmeadows and Carole Park. Mansfield Park addresses were confirmed using Google™ Maps. AIFS sent a letter addressed "To the Resident" to all households within the selected streets, inviting them to take part in the research. Along with the letter of invitation, residents were provided with a participant information sheet and a form for them to indicate whether they would like to be interviewed. This form also provided an opportunity for the household to opt out at this stage.

4. Invitation letters were replaced with a colour flyer for the second wave of recruitment and reminder letters. The information provided with the invitation letter was simplified to promote responses from a greater range of families. In order to compensate participants for their time, the decision was made to provide participants with a $20 voucher from a major retailer as a gesture of thanks for their contribution. Those who had already participated were also sent a $20 voucher.

3. Profile of suburbs

This chapter provides a brief history and a profile of the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of each suburb. The purpose of the chapter is to provide the reader with key background information on each suburb and to provide a context to assist with the interpretation of the qualitative research, which is the focus of this report. In addition to ABS data, local reports and historical documents, this report draws upon research conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), which mapped jobless families' engagement with services in the three areas in which the Family Centred Employed Project is being tested. The aim of the SPRC research was to identify systematic barriers preventing better and more integrated help being provided to families in these areas.5

The statistical information used to profile the suburbs is from the 2006 Census (ABS, 2006a; 2006b; 2007a-i) unless otherwise stated, and is based on place of usual residence. The demographic and socio-economic characteristics provided are: population, age structure, housing tenure (including public housing), labour force status, family type, educational attainment, English proficiency, and median weekly income.

3.1 Broadmeadows

History of Broadmeadows

Broadmeadows is a suburb 17 kilometres north of the Melbourne central business district (CBD), in the City of Hume local government area (Figure 3.1). Following white settlement of the Broadmeadows area in the 1840s, large pastoral holdings were established and the land was predominantly used for sheep grazing. With the discovery of gold in the 1850s, dairying and market gardens were developed in the area to feed the people moving to the goldfields. A military camp established in Broadmeadows in 1914 was used in both world wars. From the 1950s, there was an increased pace of industrial development and accompanying growth in the population (City of Broadmeadows, 1957; Faulds, 2002).

Figure 3.1: Map of the Broadmeadows area

Map of the Broadmeadows area

[Large map of the Broadmeadows area]

Source: Google™ Maps

Throughout the 1950s, the Housing Commission of Victoria undertook large-scale construction of housing for industrial workers, with the number of houses in Broadmeadows doubling between 1955 and 1957 (City of Broadmeadows, 1957). Also in this decade, new industries such as the Ford Motor Company, Yakka, Nabisco and Martin and King established factories in Broadmeadows, which led to further growth in housing estates.

Since then, the construction of the Western Ring Road in 1999, linking the Hume Highway and the Tullamarine Freeway, has led to increased industrial growth along the Merri Creek corridor, including the establishment of Tubemakers Australia, Mobil Oil, Dunlop Tyres, Lanes Biscuits, Ericssons, Fairfax and Safeway and Franklins supermarket chain distribution centres. The nearby Melbourne Airport at Tullamarine is also a large local employer.

The recession of the early 1990s resulted in the retrenchment of thousands of factory workers, many of whom were female migrants with little knowledge of English (Faulds, 2002). Further retrenchments have also occurred recently, with the loss of over 900 jobs in textile and tyre manufacturing in 2008-09 (Tannous, et al., 2009).

Associated with the establishment of businesses in the area, new housing estates at Roxburgh Park, Gowanbrae, Meadow Heights and Craigieburn were developed throughout the 1990s and 2000s (Faulds, 2002; Tannous et al., 2009). Broadmeadows has become a hub for services and facilities for these new residential estates. There has been a great deal of development of the local area, including residential developments, the expansion of commercial and recreational facilities, and road construction, rail upgrades and the establishment of a police headquarters, Federal Magistrates Court and Centrelink, among other services (Faulds, 2002).

Local community life has a rich history in the Broadmeadows area, with many, often older, residents working to address local community issues. For example, the Broadmeadows Progress Association formed around 1971 during a campaign to prevent the Housing Commission from selling vacant land. The Broadmeadows Historical Society was established in 1975, and in 1991 the Broadmeadows Historical Museum was opened (Faulds, 2002,). More recently, a local group called the Broadmeadows Advisory Team has been involved in the Broadmeadows Community Neighbourhood Renewal Program, a partnership bringing government, residents, and local community groups and businesses together to address social disadvantage in the Broadmeadows area (Broadmeadows Community Hub, n. d.; Office of Housing, Victoria, n. d.).

Demographic and socio-economic profile of Broadmeadows

At the time of the 2006 Census, the population of Broadmeadows was 9,985. The working age population (15-64 years) was 6,318, with 2,377 people aged under 15 years and 1,290 aged 65 years and over. The median age was 33 years, somewhat younger than the national average of 37 years. One per cent of the population was Indigenous.

In Broadmeadows, 28% of occupied private dwellings were fully owned, 28% were being purchased and 32% rented. This compared to a national average of 33% being full owned, 32% being bought and 27% rented. The proportion of occupied rented private dwellings that were being rented from the Housing Commission of Victoria was 48%, which is much higher than the national average of 15%.

Broadmeadows now has a very diverse population, with a high proportion (48%) of the population born outside of Australia. This is much higher than the Australia-wide average of 29%. The most common countries of birth for those born outside of Australia were Iraq (6%), Turkey (6%), Lebanon (4%), Vietnam (2%) and New Zealand (2%).6 About one in six (16%) of those born overseas spoke English only, 57% spoke a language other than English and spoke English very well or well, and 25% spoke a language other than English and spoke English not well or not at all (Table 3.1).

Table 3.1: English proficiency for those born overseas, by suburb and nationally, 2006
  Suburb Australia (%)
Broadmeadows (%) Mansfield Park (%) Angle Park (%) Goodna (%) Carole Park (%)
Speaks English only 15.8 11.6 16.6 43.8 27.5 50.3
If speaks language other than English:

speaks English very well or well

57.1 48.3 48.8 42.9 49.2 38.7
speaks English not well or not at all 25.2 39.5 32.7 12.2 21.9 10.0
Not stated 1.9 0.6 2.0 1.1 1.3 1.0
Total 100.0 100.0 100.1 100.0 99.9 100.0

Note: Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Source: ABS (2007a-f)

At the time of the 2006 Census, there were 2,450 families in Broadmeadows, of whom 45% were couple families with children, 24% were couple families without children, 29% were single-parent families and 3% were other types of families (Table 3.2). Broadmeadows has a higher proportion of families that are single-parent families than the Australian average, a similar proportion that are couple families with children, and a lower proportion that are couple families without children. There were 733 lone-person households and 95 group households among the other types of families.

Table 3.2: Family type, by suburb and nationally, 2006
  Suburb Australia (%)
Broadmeadows (%) Mansfield Park (%) Angle Park (%) Goodna (%) Carole Park (%)
Couple families with dependent children 44.9 38.0 32.8 40.9 41.6 45.3
Couple families without children 23.8 24.5 32.8 27.3 19.5 37.2
Single-parent families 28.7 34.6 30.5 29.7 37.2 15.8
Other families 2.6 2.9 3.9 2.1 1.6 1.7
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 99.9 100.0

Note: Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Source: ABS (2007g-k)

The educational level of people living in Broadmeadows was much lower than the national average. About two-thirds of people living in Broadmeadows did not complete Year 12 education, compared to 53% of people Australia-wide (Table 3.3).

Table 3.3: Educational attainment (highest year of school completed), by suburb and nationally, 2006
  Suburb Australia (%)
Broadmeadows (%) Mansfield Park (%) Angle Park (%) Goodna (%) Carole Park (%)
Year 12 or equivalent 34.4 34.0 37.9 37.9 28.8 46.8
Year 9 to 11 or equivalent 41.5 41.2 36.1 50.1 55.9 44.2
Year 8 or below/did not go to school 24.1 25.0 26.0 12.0 15.3 9.0
Total 100.0 100.2 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Notes: Population 15+ years. "Not stated" responses have been proportionately allocated. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Source: ABS (2007a-f)

The employment rate in Broadmeadows (as a proportion of the adult population) was 38%, with 12% being employed part-time and 26% employed full-time (Table 3.4). The unemployment to population rate was 7% and the unemployment rate 16%. The employment rate in Broadmeadows is much lower than the Australia wide average of 61% and the unemployment rate about three times the national average of 5%.

Table 3.4: Labour force status, by suburb and nationally, 2006
  Suburb Australia (%)
Broadmeadows (%) Mansfield Park (%) Angle Park (%) Goodna (%) Carole Park (%)
Employment rate a 37.9 36.2 37.7 55.1 43.7 61.2
Part-time employment rate 11.5 10.2 10.4 15.3 13.8 19.3
Full-time employment rate 26.4 26.0 27.3 39.8 29.9 41.9
Unemployment to population rate b 7.1 5.5 6.3 5.6 5.3 3.4
Unemployment rate c 15.7 13.3 12.1 9.2 10.8 5.2

Notes: a The employment rate is defined as the number of employed persons expressed as a percentage of the population (aged 15+). b The unemployment to population rate is the number of unemployed persons expressed as a percentage of the population (aged 15+). c The unemployment rate is defined as the number of unemployed persons expressed as a percentage of the labour force (employed and unemployed). "Not stated" responses have been proportionately allocated.

Source: ABS (2007g-k)

Median individual gross income in Broadmeadows was $262 per week, 56% of the national median individual income (Table 3.5). While caution needs to be exercised in comparing family gross income in Broadmeadows to the national median due to possible differences in family sizes between Broadmeadows and the national average, it is clear that family income in Broadmeadows at $679 per week is much lower than the national average of $1,171 per week.

Table 3.5: Median weekly income (gross), by suburb and nationally, 2006
  Suburb Australia
Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Angle Park Goodna Carole Park
Individual $262 $246 $284 $394 $326 $466
Family $679 $591 $641 $940 $667 $1,171

Notes: Includes income from all sources (e.g., wages and salaries, government benefits, investment income).

Source: ABS (2007a-f)

3.2 Mansfield Park and Angle Park

History of Mansfield Park and Angle Park

Mansfield Park and Angle Park are adjacent suburbs located 10 kilometres north-west of the Adelaide CBD (Figure 3.2). They are located in the City of Port Adelaide/Enfield local government area; specifically, Enfield. From the 1840s, industries in the Enfield area included flour milling, lime mining and smelting. In the 1920s and 1930s, a number of industries moved into the area, including salt fields and a soap factory. Larger industrial chemical and steel factories followed from the mid-1930s and continued with the establishment of industrial estates and a crematorium in the late 1960s and 1970s (Lewis, 1985).

Figure 3.2: Map of the Mansfield Park and Angle Park area

Map of the Mansfield Park and Angle Park area

[Large map of the Mansfield Park and Angle Park area]

Source: Google™ Maps

Historically, the area of Enfield has also been a location for "noxious" industries, with a sewerage farm, garbage tips and animal by-product industries, such as tanning and fertilizer production, being situated in Wingfield, an adjacent suburb to Mansfield Park and Angle Park (Lewis, 1985).

During the post-war boom of the 1950s and 1960s, both Mansfield Park and Angle Park developed as residential areas and experienced rapid increases in population. Both currently have a large number of public housing residences owned by the former South Australian Housing Trust (now Housing SA) (Lewis, 1985)

Both Mansfield Park and Angle Park are part of what is known as "The Parks". The Parks is a public housing area built quickly of cheap materials by the South Australian Housing Trust in the post-war period. The houses are small, and more than 80% were built prior to 1969. The level of maintenance in the area has been low and much of the existing housing stock is in poor condition. Following the decline in manufacturing employment in the 1970s and 1980s, employment rates dropped (Baker, 2002).

By the mid-1990s, the high levels of disadvantage in The Parks area was of significant concern (Tannous et al., 2009). In response to this concern, The Parks Urban Renewal Project was developed and commenced in 1999. As part of this, The Parks was renamed Westwood. The Westwood Urban Renewal Project involves replacing and refurbishing public housing in the five suburbs that comprise The Parks area. The project is due to be completed in 2011, at which time nearly 3,000 homes will have been developed (Government of South Australia, Social Inclusion Initiative, 2009). With only an estimated 20-25% of the homes planned to remain public housing, this represents a significant decrease in the amount of public housing in the area (Baker, 2002; Tannous et al., 2009). Another component of the project is designed to strengthen the local community, with funding being provided for a range of community events and activities, including community gardens, sporting and recreational activities and the installation of public art (Government of South Australia, Department for Families and Communities, 2009; Government of South Australia, Social Inclusion Initiative, 2009).

At the time of conducting the fieldwork (March and April 2010), both Mansfield Park and Angle Park7 were in the process of being re-developed as part of the Westwood project. Much of the public housing stock is being demolished and replaced with a variety of housing, including house and land packages, refurbished homes and terraces and apartments (Government of South Australia, Social Inclusion Initiative, 2009). Many of these are being sold to private owners, which has led to significant numbers of the most disadvantaged people moving out of the area or into paying higher private rental costs. This is resulting in significant changes in the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the suburb, with people from a higher socio-economic background moving in (Tannous et al., 2009).

Demographic and socio-economic profile of Mansfield Park and Angle Park

At the time of the 2006 Census, the population of Mansfield Park was 2,755, of which 4% were Indigenous. The working age population (15-64 years) was 1,720, with 605 people aged under 15 years and 430 aged 65 years and over.8 The median age was 36 years, very similar to the Australia-wide average of 37 years.

The population of Angle Park at the time of the 2006 Census was 583, with 3% of the population identifying as being Indigenous. The working age population was 369, with 88 people aged under 15 years and 125 aged 65 years and over. The median age was 41, which is somewhat older than the Australian average.

In Mansfield Park, 22% of occupied private dwellings were fully owned, 17% were being purchased and 47% rented (compared to the national averages of 33%, 32% and 27% respectively). In Angle Park, 11% of occupied private dwellings were fully owned, 29% were being purchased and 52% were rented. The proportion of occupied rented private dwellings that were being rented from the South Australian Housing Trust was 67% for Mansfield Park and 70% for Angle Park, compared to the national average of 15%.

Half of the population in Mansfield Park was born outside of Australia; much higher than the Australia-wide average of 29%. The most common countries of birth for those born outside of Australia were Vietnam (21%), Poland (1%), England (1%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1%) and Cambodia (1%). In Angle Park, 43% of the population was born outside of Australia. Similar to Mansfield Park, the most common country of birth for those born outside Australia was Vietnam (14%). In Angle Park, this was followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina (5%), England (3%), China (2%) and south-eastern Europe (2%).

Of those living in Mansfield Park in 2006 and born outside of Australia, 12% spoke English only, 48% spoke English very well or well, and 40% spoke English not well or not at all. In Angle Park, of those born outside of Australia, 17% spoke English only, 49% spoke English very well and 33% spoke English not well or not at all (Table 3.1).

There were 697 families living in Mansfield Park, of whom 38% were couple families with children, 25% couple families without children, 35% single-parent families and 3% other types of families. There were 296 lone-person households and 29 group households among the other types of families. In Angle Park, of the 128 families living there, 33% were couple families with dependent children, a further 33% were couples without children, 31% were single-parent families with children and 4% were "other" family types (Table 3.2).

The educational level of people living in Mansfield Park and Angle Park were similar to that in Broadmeadows and Goodna, with two-thirds of people living in Mansfield Park and Angle Park not having completed Year 12 (Table 3.3), compared to 53% Australia-wide.

The Mansfield Park and Angle Park employment rates of 36% and 38% were very low (similar to that in Broadmeadows) and the unemployment rates were high at 13% and 12% (Table 3.4).

Income levels were also low (Table 3.5). In Mansfield Park, median individual gross income was $246 per week and median family income was $591 per week (53% and 50% respectively of the national median income). In Angle Park, the median individual gross income was $284 per week and median family income was $641 per week (61% and 55% respectively of the national median income).

3.3 Carole Park and Goodna

History of Carole Park and Goodna

Relatively little historical information is available specifically about Carole Park, with most of the historical information being for Goodna or the Ipswich area more broadly.

Carole Park is about 19 kilometres from Ipswich and 19 kilometres south-west of the Brisbane CBD (Figure 3.3). It encompasses both residential and industrial activities and is a suburb of both Brisbane and Ipswich. Goodna is about 14 kilometres from Ipswich, 20 kilometres from the Brisbane CBD and 5 kilometres from the Carole Park residential area. Carole Park is small in area and is surrounded by major roads. It has few footpaths, bike paths and limited bus services. (Johnson, 2006; Service Integration Project Goodna, n. d.).

Figure 3.3: Map of the Carole Park and Goodna area

Map of the Carole Park and Goodna area

[Large map of the Carole Park and Goodna area]

Source: Google™ Maps

White settlement in the Ipswich area commenced in 1827 and formed one of the earliest European settlements in south-east Queensland. The European presence in the Ipswich area initially centred on limestone mining and pastoral holdings (Habermann, 2003; Service Integration Project Goodna, n. d.). In the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th century, services and industries broadened to include coal mining, wool and flour milling, and rail workshops (Buchanan & Ipswich City Council, 2004; Service Integration Project Goodna, n. d.). In the 1860s, the Goodna Mental Hospital opened and quickly became a large local employer. Other institutional facilities followed and, today, the area accommodates Wolston Park Hospital (one of the largest psychiatric centres in Australia) and a number of jails (Queensland Government, 2010a; Service Integration Project Goodna, n. d.).

Between 1920 and the 1960s, mining and coal power were the major industries in the area and, in 1940, the Amberley Airforce Base was established. In the 1960s, following construction of the Ipswich motorway, there was a large increase in the population of the area. Employment in the traditional textile and engineering industries declined in the 1970s and 1980s, but there has been an increase in food processing and manufacturing operating in large planned industrial estates (including at Carole Park) in recent years. By 2004 the Defence Force had become the largest single employer in the Ipswich area, with 3,000 Defence Force personnel and 1,500 civilians (Buchanan & Ipswich City Council, 2004; Woolcock & Boorman, 2003).

Demographic and socio-economic profile of Carole Park and Goodna

At the time of the 2006 Census, the population of Carole Park was 1,869, of which 7% of the population was Indigenous; significantly higher than the Australian average of 2%. The working age population (15-64 years) was 1,164, with 626 people aged under 15 years, and 79 aged 65 years and over. The median age was 26 years, much younger than the national average of 37 years.

The population of Goodna was 7,939 at the time of the 2006 Census, of which 6% was Indigenous. The working-age population was 5,163, with 2,133 people aged under 15 years and 643 aged 65 years and over. The median age was 29 years, also much younger than the national median.

In Carole Park, 14% of occupied private dwellings were fully owned, 16% were being purchased and 56% rented (compared to the national averages of 33%, 32% and 27% respectively). The proportion of occupied rented private dwellings that were being rented from the Queensland Department of Housing was 77%, much higher than the national average of 15%. The housing tenure profile in Goodna differed somewhat from that in Carole Park, with 20% of occupied private dwellings being fully owned, 26% being purchased and 48% rented. The main difference is that in Goodna the proportion of occupied rented private dwellings that were being rented from the Queensland Department of Housing was much lower (28%) than in Carole Park, although still higher than the national average.

Under half (42%) of the population in Carole Park were born outside of Australia, which is higher than the national average but lower than in Mansfield Park or Broadmeadows. The most common countries of birth for those born outside of Australia were Vietnam (7%), New Zealand (6%), Samoa (3%), England (3%) and the Philippines (1%). Goodna has a similar profile to Carole Park in relation to country of birth, with 35% being born outside of Australia and the most common countries of birth being New Zealand (8%), England (4%), Vietnam (4%), Samoa (3%) and the Philippines (1%).

In Carole Park, among those born overseas, 28% spoke only English, 49% spoke English very well or well, and 22% spoke English not well or not at all. In Goodna, 44% spoke English only, 43% spoke English very well or well, and 12% spoke English not well or not at all (Table 3.1).

There were 435 families in Carole Park, of whom 42% were couple families with children, 20% couple families without children, 37% single-parent families and 2% other types of families (Table 3.2). There were 80 lone-person households and 16 group households among other types of families. In Goodna, there were 2,043 families, of whom 41% were couple families with children, 27% couple families without children, 30% single-parent families and 2% other types of families. There were 565 lone-person households and 108 group households among other types of families. For both areas, there were a much higher proportion of single-parent families and much lower proportion of families without children than the national average.

The educational level of people living in Carole Park and Goodna was lower than the national average, with 71% and 62% respectively not having completed Year 12 education (Table 3.3).

The employment rate in Carole Park (as a proportion of the adult population) was 44%, with 14% being employed part-time and 30% full-time (Table 3.4). The unemployment to population rate was 5% and the unemployment rate 11%. In Goodna the employment rate was 55%, the unemployment to population rate 6% and the unemployment rate 9%.

Median individual income in Carole Park was $326 and for families $667 per week, which is much lower than the national median (Table 3.5). In Goodna, while incomes were lower ($394 for individuals and $940 for families) than the national median, they were substantially higher than in Carole Park (and both Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park).

5. The SPRC at the University of New South Wales were commissioned by DEEWR to undertake this research.

6. In Broadmeadows, 28% of residents were born in countries other than the most common ones included in this list. In Mansfield Park it was 24% of the population, in Carole Park 22% and in Goodna 16%. We also have evidence from our interview data that there is increasing representation of people from African countries, which is not yet reflected in the Census data.

7. Interviews for the Life Around Here study were not undertaken in Angle Park as Angle Park was included as part of the Family Centred Employment Project after completion of fieldwork.

8. Based on place of usual residence.

4. Demographic and socio-economic characteristics of participants

This chapter provides an overview of the households and individuals who participated in the Life Around Here study. As reported in Chapter 2, a total of 59 households participated in the research - 15 from Broadmeadows, 21 from Mansfield Park and 23 from Carole Park. The information provided in this chapter is from the quantitative survey of participants.

Three of the participating households contained a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background - two in Carole Park and one in Broadmeadows (Table 4.1). In just over a third of participating households (21 out of 59; 36%) a language other than English was spoken at home. This included 53% of Broadmeadows households, 52% of Mansfield Park households and 9% of Carole Park households. These households included a number of families from African countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Vietnam. The length of time these families lived in Australia ranged from 6 months to over 30 years.

Table 4.1: Demographic and socio-economic characteristics of participating households, by suburb, 2010
  Participating households (%) Participating households (N) Broadmeadows (N) Mansfield Park (N) Carole Park (N)
Age of youngest child (mean) - 5.2 years 2.4 years 6.5 years 6.5 years
Person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background living in household 5 3 1 0 2
Language other than English spoken at home 36 21 8 11 2
Person < 18 years of age living in household 56 33 8 12 13
Number of children (< 18 living at home)
1 child 15 9 2 5 3
2 children 19 11 3 3 5
3 children 7 4 1 1 1
4 or more children 15 9 2 3 4
Children < 15 living elsewhere 2 1 0 1 0
Family type
Couple with children < 18 at home 31 18 5 6 7
Single parent with children < 18 at home 20 12 3 4 5
Grandparents with a primary care role for children < 18 5 3 0 2 1
Couple with no children < 18 at home 24 14 3 5 6
Single person with no children < 18 at home 20 12 4 4 4
Total   59 15 21 23

Source: Life Around Here study 2010.

More than half (33 out of 59, 56%) of the participating households included children under 18 years of age. A small number of households had adult children living at home. Of the 33 families that had children, 18 of them (55%) were in couple relationships and 12 (36%) were single parents. Three households (9%) included grandparents who played a primary care role for their grandchildren. A large proportion of these households had four or more children (27%), with each study suburb reflecting similar proportions (between 25% and 31%).

Participants in the Life Around Here study were asked whether they were in paid employment and whether other household members were in paid employment. Table 4.2 provides information on the employment status of study participants, the employment status of all adults living in participating households and the extent to which the participating households were jobless (i.e., did not contain an adult who was employed).

Table 4.2: Paid employment and family joblessness, by suburb, 2010
  Total Suburb
Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
Employment status of all study participants
Employed 23 4 9 10
Not employed 39 10 11 18
Retired 9 3 4 2
Number of participants 71 17 24 30
Employment status of all adults living in study households
Employed 34 7 13 14
Not employed 49 13 17 19
Retired 12 4 4 4
Number of participants 95 24 34 37
Household employment arrangement
Employed adult in household 23 5 8 10
Jobless household (no adult employed) 28 7 10 11
Number of participating households a 51 12 18 21

Notes: a Excludes households in which all adults are retired.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Of the 71 participants, 9 (13%) were retired, 23 (32%) employed and 39 (55%) not employed.9 Across the participating households, there were a total of 95 adults who lived in the households (an average of 1.6 adults per household). Twelve of these adults (13%) were of retirement age and were not employed, and 83 (87%) were of working age. Over half (49; 59%) of these working-age adults are not employed.

Of the total 59 households, 36 (61%) had no adult who was employed. This includes 8 households where all adults were retired. When "retired households" were excluded, there were 51 participating households, of which 28 (55%) were jobless with no adult employed, and 23 (45%) contained one or more employed adults. The jobless household category included 7 couples with dependent children, 11 single parents, 3 couples with no dependent child and 3 single people without a dependent child. About half of all households in each of the suburbs were jobless - 7 of 12 in Broadmeadows, 10 of 18 in Mansfield Park and 10 of 21 in Carole Park.

Of those working-age adults who were employed, most were working full-time (20 of 34; 59%), with the exception of Broadmeadows participants, where 4 of the 7 workers (57%) were employed on a part-time or casual basis.

Across the three study suburbs, there were slightly more rental households (31; 53%) than households where homes were being purchased or were owned (28; 47%) (Table 4.3). Of the 13 rental households in Carole Park, only 2 (15%) were private housing tenants. In contrast, Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park had higher proportions of private rentals (5 out of 7, 71%, in Broadmeadows and 4 of the 11, 36%, in Mansfield Park).

Table 4.3: Household ownership and rental details of households by suburb
  Total Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
Own/paying off 28 8 10 10
Rent or board 31 7 11 13
Private 11 5 4 2
Public 20 2 7 11
Number of participating households 59 15 21 23

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Participants were asked what their highest level of education was and whether they or any other adult in the household was studying (Table 4.4). A substantial minority of the participants (25%) did not provide information on their highest level of educational attainment. Of the participants who gave information about their qualifications, 58% (31 out of 53) completed high school or less and no participants reported having a postgraduate qualification.

Table 4.4: Education attainment and current study, by suburb, 2010
  Total Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
Highest level of educational attainment
Postgraduate 0 0 0 0
Bachelor degree 8 2 4 2
Diploma/trade certificate 14 5 4 5
Upper secondary 9 2 3 4
Lower secondary 17 3 3 12
Primary 5 0 4 1
Not stated 18 5 6 6
Number of participants 71 17 24 30
Number of adults in household who are studying
No adults studying 49 12 16 21
One adult studying 9 3 4 2
Two adults studying 1 0 1 0
Number of participating households 59 15 21 23

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

The participants in Carole Park had the lowest level of educational attainment, with 43% having not progressed beyond a lower secondary education. Participants from Broadmeadows reported higher rates of post-school qualifications, with 7 from 13 participants (54%) completing a diploma/trade certificate or higher.

Most households (83%) did not have an adult engaged in study activities at the time of the interview. Of those where an adult was involved in study, 9 out of 59 households (15%) had at least one adult studying and only one household (2%) had both adults studying. A more detailed analysis of education levels and current study arrangements among jobless households is provided in Chapter 8.

A number of participants declined to answer the question about their level of income (32 missing cases, 54%) (Table 4.5). Of the 26 households who reported their income, 42% reported they earned less than $349 per week per household. Of the 5 households (19%) that reported earning $1,200 or more, 4 were from households where both adults worked. These households were mainly from Mansfield Park and had bought houses as part of the new development currently being undertaken.

Table 4.5 Weekly household income, by suburb, 2010
  Number of households Suburb
Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
Less than $349 per week 11 3 3 5
$350-1,199 per week 10 3 3 4
$1,200 or more week 5 0 4 1
Don't know 1 1 0 0
Not stated 32 8 11 13
Total 59 15 21 23

Notes: The "not stated" category includes participants who preferred not to say or did not answer the question. The categories have been collapsed for reporting purposes.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

9. Those 65 years of age and over and who were not in paid employment were classified as being retired.

5. Participants' experiences of living in their communities

This chapter provides an overview of the participants' experiences of living in their local community, using both the qualitative and quantitative data.

5.1 Arriving in their community

The length of time participants had lived in the area varied from a few weeks to over 50 years. Across the three sites, those who owned their own homes and those living in public housing tended to have lived in the area for longer than those who were in private rental accommodation. Some of those who owned their own homes or were in public housing had lived in the area for many years.

Among older participants, those who had bought their homes tended to have bought public housing that they had originally rented. Younger participants who were buying their homes - especially in Mansfield Park, where considerable building redevelopment is currently occurring - had bought new homes that were part of a house and land package.

A small number of participants had either moved to the area to be with a partner or had grown up in the area and stayed on, either in the same or a different house.

Housing availability/affordability

Public housing tenants and those who had bought their homes from public housing usually indicated that they had moved to the area because it was where a house had become available. Very few indicated that they had actively sought out a home in the area they were living in.

For those who had bought or were renting privately, the low cost of housing in the three areas were the main reason for living there.

Intention to leave and sense of identity with neighbourhood

When asked if they planned to stay in the area, many said that they did not feel they were able to move elsewhere. This was particularly the case for those living in public housing and for home owners in Carole Park, where there was a common perception that the value of houses in the suburb would not catch up to other areas.

This higher level of "feeling stuck" in Carole Park is reflected in participants' more negative responses to the statement: "You feel a strong sense of identity with your neighbourhood" (Table 5.1). Twelve out of thirty participants in Carole Park (40%) - compared to 18% in Broadmeadows and 25% in Mansfield Park - indicated that they did not have a strong sense of identity with the area in which the lived. However, in Mansfield Park 10 participants did not answer this question (42%).

Table 5.1: Participants' agreement with statement "You feel a strong sense of identity with your neighbourhood", by suburb, 2010
  Number of participants Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Not stated
Broadmeadows 17 9 1 3 4
Mansfield Park 24 8 0 6 10
Carole Park 30 13 1 12 4
Total 71 30 2 21 18

Notes: The "not stated" category includes declined to answer, not asked because of language/conceptual difficulties, or the participant indicated they were unable to say whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

5.2 Perceptions of neighbours

There were mixed responses in regard to neighbours in all three suburbs. Some participants said they knew their neighbours well; others spoke of being on "friendly nodding terms". A proportion also spoke about having significant problems with neighbours either currently or in the past. A common theme where problems had occurred related to neighbours having drug and alcohol issues and/or were involved in selling drugs or other illegal activities. Many also said that the best way to deal with this and avoid problems was to "keep to yourself" and not take too much of an interest in what other people did.

In Mansfield Park, participants who had moved into the new housing built as part of the Westwood development tended to view the area quite negatively, but hoped that it would improve over time:

I wasn't all that keen to move here because I'd worked in the area. It's a bit feral and I didn't want to move in next door to my clients. (Female, partnered, 36-45 years, 2 children, works part-time, Mansfield Park)

The changes in the demographic and housing profile of Mansfield Park may account for the smaller proportion of respondents who felt they could trust their neighbours or were willing to help them, compared to participants from Broadmeadows and Carole Park (Table 5.2).

Table 5.2: Participants' assessment of neighbours, by suburb, 2010
  Number of participants People around here are willing to help their neighbours Most people in the neighbourhood can be trusted
Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Not stated Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Not stated
Broadmeadows 17 10 2 3 2 9 1 4 3
Mansfield Park 24 5 2 10 7 4 2 7 11
Carole Park 30 16 3 6 5 13 6 8 3
Total 71 31 7 19 14 26 9 19 17

Notes: The "not stated" category includes declined to answer, not asked because of language / conceptual difficulties or the participant indicated they were unable to say whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

5.3 Housing

As discussed in Section 3, residents in the three study suburbs were more likely to be living in rental accommodation (either private or publicly owned) than in homes that were fully owned or were being purchased by their occupants, compared to the Australian average. In addition to this, of those renting, the proportions who were doing so through public housing was significantly greater across the three study suburbs compared to the national average.

According to participants, house rental prices were going up across the three areas. While still cheaper than many other suburbs, both private and public housing tenants reported finding the cost of housing to be a struggle:

Rents are very expensive but you have to accept it. You have no choice. (Male, partnered, 46-55 years, 4 children, not employed, Mansfield Park, public rental)

Our rent is not reasonable: it's gone up twice in 3 years - by over $50 a fortnight. It's a big jump and its not affordable at all. We're disputing the rent with them at the moment. (Married couple, 36-45 years, 4 children, not employed, Broadmeadows, public rental)

The Westwood project in Mansfield Park, South Australia is expected to lead to a significant shift in the mix of public and privately owned housing in this area. Participants from Mansfield Park viewed this increase in home ownership positively, with an improvement in the quality of housing stock and the perception that people are "taking more care" of their houses now.

In Carole Park, a recent initiative to start renovating Department of Housing residences10 was seen as a positive development by both public housing tenants and other residents. They spoke of the improvements in the area, which made everyone feel better and encouraged people to look after their homes and gardens.

5.4 Physical space

The large number of vacant blocks of land in Mansfield Park was seen as a problem by some residents, although others felt that this would improve once the redevelopment project was completed.

It's red. It's very barren, very stark and in most cases quite unattractive. (Female, single, aged 46-55, no children, Mansfield Park)

Others also saw the number of existing parks as a positive:

There's a lot of really nice parks and playgrounds. (Female, partnered, 36-45 years, 2 children, works part-time, Mansfield Park)

In all areas, however, participants noted the need for more green spaces and spaces where children and young people can safely socialise and play. While many areas had parks, they were often deemed unsafe, with discarded needles, poor lighting and poor upkeep of the park and play equipment. For example, one mother said:

Before my kids can play in the park I have to go in there and clean it up so it's safe for the kids to play in it. (Female, partnered, 36-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Carole Park)

This participant said that she regularly had to remove beer bottles and syringes from the parks.

This issue was raised among both Carole Park and Mansfield Park participants. In Broadmeadows, participants described the large amount of building being undertaken and how the expansion of the suburb provided fewer places for children and young people to congregate and play:

It would be good to see some community gardens. More green space. (Female, single, 36-45 years, 3 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

In Carole Park, the implication of being surrounded by motorways was an issue for many participants. Many noted that the noise from the motorways continued to be a problem, especially at night. The barriers that were put up to try and deal with the noise are large grey concrete walls that border people's back gardens. They reported that little had been done to improve the appearance of these walls. As one participant who lived opposite one of the walls said:

You feel like you're in prison. (Male, partnered, 46-55 years, 1 child, employed, Carole Park)

Others said that the high traffic volume on the roads around the area made it difficult to leave, further creating a sense of isolation.

Broadmeadows residents also had concerns about the busy roads running through and around their suburb and the noise and safety issues they created.

Carole Park residents consistently raised the lack of footpaths in the area as a safety issue. As many of the verges had uncut grass, people were forced to walk on the road. This was seen as being particularly difficult and dangerous for mothers with young children and prams.

5.5 Safety

Feelings of safety were an issue for participants across all suburbs (Table 5.3). About half of the participants said that they had not had any problems and that they "kept to themselves and did not get involved". The other half had experienced problems such as aggressive and threatening neighbours, break-ins and damage to cars:

Sometimes other kids would bully us. They would attack us for no reason. They were vicious. It's a little bit like that still. Sometimes I still get comments when I walk home and I'm an adult! Usually they're younger kids and they're like, "What are you looking at?" (Female, single, 18-25 years, no children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

Table 5.3: Participants' perceptions of safety in the neighbourhood, by suburb, 2010
  Number of participants Safe for children to play outside during the day Safe neighbourhood
Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Not stated Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Not stated
Broadmeadows 17 3 2 10 2 7 1 7 2
Mansfield Park 24 6 1 10 7 3 7 6 8
Carole Park 30 19 1 7 3 17 3 7 3
Total 71 28 4 27 12 27 11 20 13

Notes: The "not stated" category includes declined to answer, not asked because of language/conceptual difficulties, or the participant indicated they were unable to say whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Almost all participants said that it was not safe to go out in their neighbourhoods at night and many had high fences and gates that were locked when they were home. This is perhaps reflective of the mixed feelings about their trust of neighbours and willingness to help out, particularly for Mansfield Park residents:

People scream in the streets here and no one comes out. (Female, single, 46-55 years, no children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

For participants without cars, lack of safety - particularly at night - limited their ability to participate in both community activities and employment out of regular business hours. One man said:

I'm sad in some ways that I'm frightened when I go out … I find that people are having trouble communicating with each other because of language. People get left out. There's a lot of people with chips in their shoulders. (Male, partnered, over 75 years, adult children, retired, Broadmeadows)

Others said that while they had heard about problems, they had not experienced them personally:

This street is very good. I hear about Broadmeadows, I hear rumours, but I haven't seen anything bad. (Male, partnered, 36-45 years, 4 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

However, the same participant said he would not walk around the area at night and also noted that there were places he would not even walk around during the day.

Participants often identified particular areas within their neighbourhood where safety was a greater concern. For example, in Broadmeadows, one set of local shops was frequently mentioned as a site for violence and drug dealing:

When I went to the kinder, my friend told me there'd been a stabbing at [local shops] last week and there's cops there all the time and people drinking in public areas. (Female, single, 26-35 years, 2 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

A number of women also noted being harassed by men at these shops:

You don't feel comfortable walking down to the shops when there's a whole bunch of men - sitting, staring. It's disgusting! (Female, partnered, 18-25 years, 1 child, employed, Broadmeadows)

Some identified safety concerns as a change that had occurred to their neighbourhood:

It used to be a lot safer when I was growing up around here. (Female, single, 26-35 years, 4 children, not employed, Carole Park)

It's gotten less safe over the years. There's gangs, there's more knives. Times are changing. Kids are changing. (Female, single, 36-45 years, 6 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

However, a small minority also suggested that safety was improving. As noted above, for some this was because the people they believed to be causing the problems were moving out of the area or, in Carole Park, some saw an increased police presence as benefiting the area. However, most agreed there was a way to go.

5.6 A place to bring up children

Participants were asked about how they felt about their neighbourhood as a place to bring up children. As shown in Table 5.4, across the three suburbs, there were mixed feelings as to whether they were places in which they would feel good about raising children:

It depends on where you live, who you know, who you associate with. (Female, single, 26-35 years, 4 children, not employed, Carole Park)

It depends on who you're knocking around with. (Male, single, 36-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

Table 5.4: Participants' views of their neighbourhood as a place to bring up children, by suburb, 2010
  Number of participants Very good/good Fair Poor/very poor Not stated
Broadmeadows 17 7 3 4 3
Mansfield Park 24 6 6 3 9
Carole Park 30 10 9 2 9
Total 71 23 18 9 21

Notes: The "not stated" category includes declined to answer, not asked because of language/conceptual difficulties, or the participant indicated they were unable to say whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Most participants across the three suburbs said that their neighbourhood was a "very good/good" or "fair" place to bring up children. Higher ratings tended to be from people who had lived in the suburb for a long time. This group often had adult children who had since moved away from the area. For this group, there was a sense that it had generally turned out well. Parents of younger children were more mixed in their responses. Those who provided ratings of "poor/very poor" were often new to the suburb and felt out of place. Many who provided less positive ratings reflected this in their choices around their children's education by sending their children to school outside of the suburb and restricting their children's involvement in their community. This is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 6.

5.7 Transport

Access to public transport was an issue for many participants. In Carole Park, this related to the quality of the bus service and the availability of the service after hours and on weekends. Most participants in Carole Park noted that many residents did not have cars and relied on buses to get to work, go shopping and access local services. Buses were often late or did not arrive and there was frustration among participants that this often made them late for appointments, job interviews and work. Buses also do not run on Sundays or in the evening on Saturdays, limiting participants' capacity to work or spend time out of the area of weekends.

For participants in all areas, access to transport also related to safety concerns, with almost all participants saying they were not comfortable with accessing transport and/or walking around the area after dark. As many participants did not have cars, this limited their ability to go out after dark, including their ability to engage in paid work outside of normal business hours.

5.8 Culture and multiculturalism

Many participants in Mansfield Park and Broadmeadows saw the cultural diversity of the area as a positive factor and enjoyed having neighbours of different backgrounds, with many noting they enjoyed the food that was brought to the area by migrant groups. In Carole Park, fewer participants spoke about cultural diversity. This may reflect the sample there, with few participants being from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background.

Participants from CALD backgrounds generally felt accepted by their community:

Our culture is supported in this area. There are Arabic women's groups. Arabic-speaking workshops and support. (Female, partnered, 36-45 years, 4 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

However, not all had had positive experiences. Responses from a small proportion of participants suggested that there were tensions related to the cultural diversity of the area. Some participants from Anglo-Australian backgrounds made comments, which suggested that they did not believe the diversity in the area as a positive. However, when pressed on the issue, they were often unable to articulate why.

5.9 Community changes over time

For participants who had lived in the areas for many years, one of the most frequently reported changes was in terms of the socio-economic circumstances and ethnicity of the people. Many participants who were now in their 50s or older spoke about all three of the areas in the early years as being populated by "working people". There was a strong narrative among this group of a more cohesive and unified community during the 1950s and 1960s, where people felt safe and looked out for each other:

You could leave your door open. You could leave your kids' toys out the front. People jumped in to help each other. (Male, partnered, over 75 years, adult children, retired, Broadmeadows)

People spoke of having very little at that time (both materially, and in terms of availability of services), but that this was something they and their neighbours worked together to improve. Others, though, saw that this community spirit has continued:

People are supportive of each other. There's a community spirit. (Female, single, 36-45 years, 4 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

Descriptions of the current area

Responses about the areas varied a great deal, with participants in all areas split about whether or not their community currently was a good place to live. In Mansfield Park and Broadmeadows, many spoke of the area improving or having "gotten better" in recent years. This was largely attributed to housing development projects and a greater proportion of residents being home owners:

There's been a lot of changes since the Westwood development. Lots of the Housing Trust houses have been knocked down and replaced. I guess that changes who you're living with as well: less people who aren't working and more who are and have a more stable kind of life. (Female, single, 18-25 years, no children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

A refugee from Somalia said:

Overall, the goodwill of the suburb has improved because of the new houses. The suburb looks nicer and there are fewer problems because the people making the problems have left. (Female, single, 66-75 years, adult children, retired, Mansfield Park)

When this woman first moved to the area, she experienced a lot of racism and harassment, including children throwing rocks at her that left her having to seek medical treatment. She says this behaviour has now stopped.

Others, however, were concerned about the impact of these new housing developments on the community. They were concerned about the increase of high-density housing and a lack of spaces for children to play and young people to gather. This was especially the case in Broadmeadows:

They're knocking down houses now and putting 3 to a block? But where's the play area? (Male, partnered, over 75 years, adult children, retired, Broadmeadows)

Families need play areas. The new houses have tiny courtyards but kids need places to play. (Female, partnered, 56-65 years, adult children, retired, Mansfield Park)

Aspirations for their community

Participants were asked about how they would like to see the area they lived in develop in five years' time. Their responses generally reflected their current concerns about their neighbourhood.

Many said they would like to see improvements in safety and for the drug problems in their areas to be fixed up. Another common area of desired change was for the parks in their area to be improved and for more green spaces to be set aside for the community. Others spoke about a wish for services such as public transport to be improved.

10. The Queensland Government's Department of Communities is undertaking an urban renewal process, which involves improving the quality of housing in communities that have a high proportion of public housing. This includes the refurbishment of existing public housing stocks within selected communities to allow for a more comfortable lifestyle for tenants and increased pride in their homes. Upgrades have included improvements to bathrooms, kitchens, outdoor living spaces, fencing and car accommodation. Tenants are able to have input into the types of improvements that are made to their homes. Carole Park is one of the communities currently involved in the urban renewal program (Queensland Government, 2010b).

6. Participants' involvement in their communities and use of local services

This chapter considers participants' accounts of their engagement with - and involvement in - their local communities, and their use of community resources and local services. It begins with a discussion of the extent to which participants reported being involved in the communities in which they live and the ways in which they were involved. This is followed by a discussion of the barriers to greater involvement and the ways in which participants would like to be involved in the future. The extent to which participants made use of community resources (such as parks) and local services and their satisfaction with these services is then discussed. Participants' accounts of making use of employment services are discussed in Chapter 8.

6.1 Levels and types of community involvement

The levels and types of involvement within each of the three communities varied greatly. At one end of the spectrum, this could mean that participants had no involvement in their communities at all, with most aspects of their lives being conducted outside of the suburb in which they lived, through to people who regularly volunteered in their community centres and were actively involved in local organisations and meetings about local issues.

"Living" elsewhere

A small number of participants in each of the suburbs described their lives as being lived almost entirely outside of their suburb. This group undertook all of their employment, education, social activities and shopping and service use outside of the suburb. For some, this was associated with a sense of there being a lack of resources within the area:

There's nothing here. You've got to be able to get out. (Female, partnered, 56-65 years, adult children, works part-time, Carole Park)

This was particularly the case for participants from Carole Park and Mansfield Park, both of which were seen by many residents to have very few services and community resources available. For these participants, it was necessary to leave the area to find what they needed - whether it be for employment, education, shopping or health care.

But for others, it was about wanting to choose something different for either themselves or their children. Most of the participants who described their lives in this way were employed and had the resources available in terms of transport and money. They tended to be either home owners who had lived in the area a long time and "felt stuck" because they could not afford to move elsewhere, or they were home owners who were new to the area and who continued to conduct their lives in the communities in which they had previously lived.

Sending children to school outside of their suburb, however, was common across all of the areas. For primary school children, this was usually because parents felt that schools outside of the area provided better quality education. For children at secondary school in Carole Park and Mansfield Park, neither of which had a high school, many parents still sent their children to schools other than the school closest to them, seeking out schools in "better suburbs":

Lots of people around here are unemployed. They're poor role models. (Female, single, 46-55 years, 2 children under 18 and 2 adult children, employed, Mansfield Park)

This practice was not restricted to those families with greater resources. A number of jobless families also sent their children to school away from the area in which they lived. This group shared the desire with other families who made this choice to find the best education they could for their children.

However, it is important to note that other parents living in the area believed their local schools to be very good and were happy with the education their children were receiving there.

Keeping an eye out for each other

Some participants' involvement with their community was very much localised and related to helping out neighbours and keeping an eye on each other's houses. For this group, they may have known one or two of their immediate neighbours, but apart from that they generally kept to themselves.

Others spoke of knowing their neighbours well and feeling a strong sense of identity with the street in which they lived. A consistent theme across the three suburbs was that there were pockets that were good to live in and pockets that were not so good. If you lived in a "good" street you could get involved:

We bought here about 6 months ago. I love the area. Actually I won't say I love the area. I love the street … Our neighbour across the road comes out and offers to help, lend us tools and stuff when we're out doing stuff. (Female, partnered, 18-25 years, 1 child, works part-time, Broadmeadows)

The perceptions of what constituted a "good" street depended on factors that came back to feelings of safety and whether neighbours were involved with drug use or selling or other illegal activities.

Joining in with community activities

In addition to more informal connections with their communities, such as looking out for their neighbours, about half of the participants across the sample reported having some sort of formal involvement with community activities. This included participating in courses and interest groups at local community centres or volunteering to run such groups, or other ways of assisting with the running of community organisations.

Participants' involvement often focused on community centres and neighbourhood houses. In Carole Park and Mansfield Park, the community centres were described as the hub of the community. They offer many services and programs to assist residents, as well as social connections and the opportunity to volunteer.

A number of people who were interviewed saw their participation as volunteers at the community centre as a way of building skills and confidence to assist them with entering the labour market in the future. For others, it was an opportunity to become involved and contribute to their community. Most of those with high levels of involvement in the community centres thought that this was an important avenue for improving their community overall.

A number were also involved in issues-based community groups that sought to improve the communities they lived in. For example, there was a group lobbying for a change to the name of the suburb of Carole Park, and there were groups in Broadmeadows that had lobbied for amendments to be made to developments in the area. However, these participants generally noted they were in the minority within their communities, and that many residents did not get involved:

It's hard to get people involved in "political activity" to improve housing or transport. (Female, single, 46-55 years, no children, works part-time, Broadmeadows)

About half of the participants agreed that they were well informed about local affairs (Table 6.1). In Carole Park, many noted that the community centre newsletter provided much of the local information they needed. For Mansfield Park and Broadmeadows, the local newspaper was the most frequently cited source of information about what was going on in the area.

Table 6.1: Participants' agreement about whether they were well informed about local affairs, by suburb, 2010
  Number of participants Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Not stated
Broadmeadows 17 7 2 4 4
Mansfield Park 24 10 0 7 7
Carole Park 30 16 1 10 3
Total 71 33 3 21 14

Notes: The "not stated" category includes declined to answer, not asked because of language/conceptual difficulties, or the participant indicated they were unable to say whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Barriers to greater community participation

About half of the participants described not being involved in community activities. As noted above, for some of these participants this was because they sought involvement elsewhere. However, for most, this reflected a lack of engagement with community activities and their neighbourhood more generally.

The reasons for this lack of engagement varied within communities. However, there were consistent themes across the three study areas. Interestingly, most of the jobless families with children fitted into this "not involved" group. The reasons for this varied. In many cases, participants stated that they were simply not interested or that they were too busy.

Many were not sure about the sorts of things with which they could get involved, or did not feel there was anything on offer that they would like to do. Others described themselves as people who do not "get involved":

I don't like people. (Female, partnered, 26-35 years, 4 children, not employed, Carole Park)

Sometimes you just feel like staying home and being a hermit here. (Female, partnered, 36-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Carole Park)

The idea of staying home and "being a hermit" was also observed by others who were actively involved in community activities:

Lots of people around here are isolated. They're couch potatoes. They hold back from getting involved. They lack the confidence and get into a rut. One month turns into 10 years. (Female, partnered, 46-55 years, adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

Others were restricted by health conditions or by having caring responsibilities for others:

We were involved in the community until illness stopped us. We were involved in neighbourhood watch and the community centre. (Male, partnered, 46-55 years, adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

In all three suburbs, a common issue raised by participants was the lack of activities for children and young adults:

There are lots of kids on the street. There's nothing for them to do. I like to keep my kids at home. The Xbox and PlayStation keeps them inside. (Female, single, 26-35 years, 4 children, not employed, Carole Park)

We need to get kids off the streets and give them something to do. (Female, single, 56-65 years, adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

Where people are employed, they noted that activities at local community centres tended to be during the day when they were at work, so they missed out. Others did not participate because they did not feel comfortable:

I like to feel comfortable amongst people. I don't like swearing. (Female, married, unknown age, adult children, retired, Carole Park)

Concerns about safety was also a barrier for people who did not have their own transport. For this group, involvement in activities at night was not possible.

Suggestions to get more people involved in their community

As noted above, one clear suggestion raised by participants was to have more activities for children and young people in their community. This was seen as a way of getting parents involved too. However, it was noted that this was best achieved by creating fun activities that families could join in with:

Parents around here don't like going to formal meetings, but they'll come out for a celebration. (Female, married, unknown age, adult children, employed, Carole Park)

Ideas mentioned by participants included having a community fete or market, starting a community garden and cultural festivals. Courses and groups for parents was also a popular suggestion. The key theme that emerged across these suggestions was that these be activities that are led by the community, where everyone could get involved:

They need to start up some community activities to get the community together instead of bluing and carrying on. Years ago we had a gardening competition. We need something like that to clean things up and get people to look after their places. (Female, single, 46-55 years, adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

6.2 Use of community resources and local services

Participants were asked to describe the types of services they used within their communities and their levels of satisfaction with these services. Responses generally referred to two broad service types:

  • community resources, such as transport, police, swimming pools, sports grounds, local libraries, roads and medical services; and
  • family- and welfare-related services, such as family support services, early childhood services, financial aid and advice.

This section considers participants' knowledge and use of services and their levels of satisfaction with the services available in their communities.

Overall, satisfaction with services and community resources varied between the communities. In Carole Park, most participants were negative about both the quality of community resources and the selection of services available in the area. Many spoke of this as being a result of its small size and relative isolation and often referred to Carole Park as "the forgotten suburb". The small local shop was seen as being well stocked but expensive, and the lack of local medical services or a pharmacy was noted by many.

Mansfield Park participants also tended to be negative about the quality of community resources, but were hopeful that, in time, the Westwood development would see an improvement in the quality of parks, road and other resources as more ratepayers moved into the area. Family- and welfare-related services were generally seen to be easily accessible, either through the Parks Community Centre (which houses a number of state-government-funded services), or in suburbs close by. Participants generally reported that the area was well serviced for shopping, medical facilities and pharmacies.

Broadmeadows residents were the most positive about the resources available to them. As a major satellite suburb of Melbourne, it was seen as being well serviced for shopping, transport, leisure activities and family and community services. As one participant said:

If they don't have it in Broadmeadows, they have it nearby. (Female, partnered, 36-45 years, 4 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

As discussed in the previous chapter, participants across all areas believed that public spaces such as parks were often poorly maintained or subject to vandalism. In Carole Park, the lack of regular and reliable public transport was seen as a significant problem and, in all areas, safety concerns prevented some participants from accessing public transport, especially at night.

Finding out about services

Participants were also asked about whether they knew where to find information about local services that they may need (Table 6.2). Across the three sites, at least half of the participants agreed with this statement, with Carole Park participants indicating the highest level of agreement (77%), followed by Broadmeadows participants (65%). Only around half of the Mansfield Park participants agreed that they knew where to find information about services.

Table 6.2 Participants' agreement with statement "If you need information about local services, you know where to find that information", by suburb, 2010
  Number of participants Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Not stated
Broadmeadows 17 11 0 4 2
Mansfield Park 24 13 1 3 7
Carole Park 30 23 1 3 3
Total 71 47 2 10 12

Notes: The "not stated" category includes declined to answer, not asked because of language/conceptual difficulties, or the participant indicated they were unable to say whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

These differences in responses across the three areas can be explained using the qualitative interviews. Most Carole Park and Broadmeadows participants had lived in the area for a long period of time, whereas a greater proportion of Mansfield Park residents were new to the area. Again, newsletters from local community centres and the local newspaper were cited as sources of information. Others also mentioned that they used the Internet and Centrelink for information about local services.

Use and accessibility of services for families

Few participants reported making use of services for families at the time of the interview; however, many had made use of these types of services in the past.

In Carole Park, most services are provided outside of the suburb, with residents having to go to Inala, Forest Lakes, Redbank Plains and Ipswich to access services, shopping, banks and sporting and social activities (very few participants mentioned Goodna as a source of services). This was problematic for many, given the issues relating to transport in the area (described above). In Mansfield Park and Broadmeadows, it appears that most services can be accessed locally. This was reflected in a greater level of satisfaction with access to services among participants in these areas.

However, participants from Carole Park saw the local community centre (Elorac Place) as a key resource for local community members. In fact, most participants saw Elorac Place as the only service in the area and hence it emerged as a more central point for the community than any other service mentioned in the other two study sites. The centre was described by many as having an informal, welcoming atmosphere and is run by both paid staff and volunteers. Participants talked about being able to drop in and ask advice at any time. They are also able to access computers and the Internet. In addition, almost all participants mentioned the community centre's monthly newsletter as a key resource for finding out about what was happening in the area. Many attended programs such as playgroups, craft and other hobby groups and celebratory events, as well as utilising services such as emergency relief and the Food Shed, which provides low cost food bought in bulk by a cooperative of community members.

Participants from Carole Park who made use of Elorac Place said that the scope of services offered was limited by funding and were also concerned that the child care centre attached to it had recently closed down. This meant that there was no child care centre in the area and parents who needed to access care for their children while they worked had to go elsewhere - usually in Forest Lakes or Redbank Plains.

Similarly, participants living in Mansfield Park saw the Parks Community Centre as a central point for assisting families. Participants had made use of school holiday care and activities, child care, support groups for parents and legal services. However, most saw it as a leisure space rather than a vehicle for family services.

In contrast, Broadmeadows participants did not consistently nominate a particular service or organisation, which most likely refects the larger size of the suburb and the larger numbers of services available. Participants reported using services such as kindergartens and playgroups, legal services, emergency relief and other welfare services, and the local Centrelink office.

Participants from jobless families were generally more likely to report having contact with services (in addition to employment services). This was due to many of these families having family members with health issues and/or disabilities (both adults and children), as well as a need for assistance with financial and legal issues and housing. A number of jobless families were also receiving assistance as new arrivals to Australia under the Humanitarian Resettlement Program.

Satisfaction with local services

Most participants were satisfied with the quality of the services available in their area. Where dissatisfaction was expressed, this was usually related to employment services. This issue is covered in detail in Chapter 8.

Participants from CALD and Indigenous backgrounds were generally satisfied with the cultural appropriateness of the services they had received.

However, a number of participants noted that there were additional services that they would like to see introduced in their area, as well as changes to services currently being offered.

Youth services were seen as lacking across all three suburbs. Many participants were concerned that there was not much for young people to do and that this led to young people getting themselves into trouble through drinking and drug-taking, violence and engaging in "petty crimes". Many parents of teenagers and adult children noted that this was an ongoing concern as children got older and that a number of their children had "gotten into trouble" as they were growing up. It was noted that services for young people were sometimes "a bit daggy" and that they were not things that young people would like to do.

The gendered nature of service delivery was also apparent in some interviews. Male participants were more likely than female participants to respond that they did not know where to find out information about services if they needed to. However, a few participants also noted that services did not cater well to men. For example, one single father said:

Even things like, for a single Dad, it was nerve wrecking taking him to child care. (Male, single, 36-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

He also said it was hard to find a parenting group where he could make friends and find support from other parents. He said that he'd like:

Somewhere where parents could get together and meet and the kids can run amok. (Male, single, 36-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

Another participant who had adult sons talked about an absence of services that met the needs of young men. She believed that this was a significant gap in services in her area:

We have a lot of young women's programs but not for males. The girls get the funding but our young boys get nothing. (Female, partnered, 46-55 years, adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

Parenting services were something mentioned by a number of participants. Some, like the father quoted above, wanted groups where parents could get together and support each other. However, others were interested in more formal courses that involved information and advice:

They need educational programs for parents, to learn how to discipline their kids and be positive role models. (Female, partnered, 46-55 years, 1 child under 18 plus adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

Participants who were new to Australia under the Humanitarian Resettlement Program also mentioned that the housing support that they received ended 6 months after their arrival and that this was creating a great deal of stress for many households who were still adjusting to life in Australia, trying to learn English and trying to find work.

7. The labour force status of participating families and the characteristics of jobless households

This chapter provides an overview of the extent to which participants in the Life Around Here study were jobless, living in a jobless household or had previously lived in a jobless household. The characteristics of jobless households are described using data from the quantitative survey of participants. The material provided in this chapter sets the scene for Chapter 8, which considers the factors that influence participation in the labour market, participants' experiences of employment and other related services.

As discussed in Chapter 2, the quantitative data in this chapter is from a relatively small and non-representative sample and therefore indicative only. The data provides an important context for subsequent discussions about the factors that influence labour market participation and how services may assist families.

7.1 Participation in employment

Participants in the Life Around Here study who were in paid employment or were retired at the time of the study were able to provide useful information about joblessness and family joblessness from several different perspectives. These are:

  • many of those who were employed had experienced unemployment in the past and were able to reflect on the reasons for their joblessness and what assisted them to find employment;
  • retired respondents who had been jobless in the past were able to reflect on why they were jobless and the barriers they faced in finding paid employment; and
  • participants were able to reflect upon the extent to which joblessness was a major issue for their communities and the people that lived there.

Of the 59 households who participated in the Life Around Here study, eight of them comprised adult household members who were all aged 65 years or older. These were classified as being "retired" households, leaving 51 households with at least one adult of working age (15-64 years). Of the 51 working-age households, 28 had no adult employed at the time of the interview (55%) and were therefore jobless. Participants who were retired at the time of the interview are excluded from the analysis in the remainder of this chapter.

7.2 Characteristics of jobless households

This section provides an overview of the characteristics of jobless households. The characteristics examined are: family type, educational attainment, receipt of government benefits, and income.

The majority (20 of 28; 71%) of jobless households participating in the Life Around Here study were families with children aged under 18 years (Table 7.1). This included 7 couple families, 11 single-parent families and 2 families with grandparents of working age who were the primary carers for their grandchildren (and in receipt of Newstart allowance). Table 7.1 also shows the breakdown of family types for participating jobless households in each suburb. There were jobless couple and single-parent families with dependent children in each suburb.

Table 7.1: Family type of jobless households, by suburb, 2010
  Number of households Broad-meadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
With children
Couple with children < 18 at home 7 2 3 2
Single parent with children < 18 at home 11 3 3 5
Grandparents with a primary care role for children < 18 2 0 2 0
Without children
Couple with no children < 18 at home 4 1 -1 2
Single person with no child < 18 at home 4 1 1 2
Total 28 8 10 11

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Participants in the Life Around Here study who lived in a jobless family had a lower level of educational attainment than those who lived in a non-jobless or retired household (Table 7.2). For example, 2 out of 28 (7%) participants who lived in a jobless family had a bachelor degree, compared to 6 out of 31 (19%) of those who lived in a household with an employed adult or a retired household. Jobless households were more likely to have adults whose highest level of education was lower secondary or less (14 out of 28; 50%) compared to other households (4 out of 31; 13%).

Table 7.2 Educational attainment, by household employment status, 2010
  Jobless households (N) Jobless households (%) Other households (N) Other households (%)
Postgraduate 0 - 0 -
Bachelor degree 2 13.6 6 19.4
Diploma/trade certificate 4 23.7 10 32.3
Upper secondary 3 11.9 4 12.9
Lower secondary 11 23.7 3 9.7
Primary 3 6.8 1 3.2
Not answered 5 20.3 7 22.6
Total 28 100.0 31 100.1

Notes: "Other households" includes working age households in which at least one adult is in paid employment and retired households. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Table 7.3 provides information on receipt of government benefits. It is based on the respondent self-report and therefore may not be entirely accurate. While Family Tax Benefit is not shown in the table, all of the jobless families with dependent children would have been eligible to receive this payment.

Table 7.3: Receipt of government benefits, by jobless households, by suburb, 2010
  Number of households Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
Newstart 5 1 4 0
Youth Allowance 1 1 0 0
Parenting Payment Partnered 4 1 2 1
Parenting Payment Single 10 3 2 5
Disability Support Pension 11 3 3 5
Not stated 3 0 1 2
Total 34 9 12 13

Notes: The number of government payments received is greater than the number of jobless households because some households received more than one benefit. The "not stated" category includes participants who preferred not to answer, could not say, or did not know the answer. Family Tax Benefit Part A and B is not included in this table. Excludes "retired" households.

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

Just over a third of the 28 jobless families had a family member in receipt of a Disability Support Pension. At least half of these participants were keen to return to work and a number of them had enrolled with employment support services. Their experiences are described in greater detail in the next chapter. Half of the households reported receiving a Parenting Payment (either partnered or single).

Table 7.4 provides information on the characteristics of jobless households with children under 18 years. Of the 20 jobless households with children, 11 were single-parent families, 7 were couple families and 2 were families with grandparents (of working age) who had primary care responsibilities for their grandchildren.

Table 7.4: Profile of jobless households with children under 18 years, by suburb, 2010
  Number of households Broadmeadows Mansfield Park Carole Park
Average age of youngest child 4.5 years 2.9 years 7.6 years 4.2 years
Person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background living in household 1 0 0 1
Speaks a language other than English at home 8 2 5 1
Number of children
1 5 1 3 1
2 5 1 1 3
3 3 1 1 1
4 or more 7 2 3 2
Jobless are currently studying 5 1 3 1
Looking for work 4 1 2 1
Not looking for work 16 4 6 6
Number of households 20 5 8 7

Source: Life Around Here study 2010

The average age of the youngest child across the sample was 4.5 years, with children's ages ranging from 3 weeks old to 17 years. Two of the participants in the sample were currently pregnant. Half of the sample had 1 or 2 children, while the other half had 3 or more. This suggests that jobless families in our sample had larger families compared to families with children where one adult is employed. These families tended to be (but were not all) from CALD backgrounds.

Almost half of the jobless households with children under 18 years were from a CALD background - six households were from African backgrounds and had arrived in Australia under the Humanitarian Resettlement Program and had lived in Australia for between 6 months and 10 years. The remaining two households were Arabic-speaking and had lived in Australia for at least 10 years.

Five of these participants were studying at the time of interview. Four of the participants were from migrant backgrounds and were undertaking study to improve their English. The fifth participant had recently commenced a welfare studies course at TAFE.

Few of the adults in the jobless households were looking for work at the time of the interview. About a quarter were currently studying, about half had a child aged under 6 years old and were not required to work yet and a further 30% were dealing with health issues and were on a Disability Support Pension. However, the qualitative interviews revealed that a number of those participants not actively looking for work were keen to do so.

8. Factors influencing whether or not a person is in paid employment

This chapter considers participants' accounts of the factors that influence whether they are in paid employment. It begins with an overview of participants' beliefs about employment and its role in the lives of individuals, families and communities. It then considers some of the barriers and supports to employment reported by participants, including their experiences of employment services and family and neighbourhood factors.

8.1 Beliefs about employment

Participants who were currently employed were asked about their experiences of work and what it meant to them. Many emphasised the importance of work in their lives:

It is [important], it was the first bit of getting my control back. I can't [not work]. I need structure. I need self-control. (Male, single, 18-25 years, no children, employed, Mansfield Park)

Some parents who were not "required" to work due to caring responsibilities also noted the importance of working for their own wellbeing and future independence. Some single mothers, for example, had returned to work before their youngest child was aged 6. One participant, describing her daughter-in-law, summed up these reasons:

It would be so easy to sit on her bum all day and get the pension, but she would stagnate and she doesn't want to do that because she has a brain! And it works well because it's during school hours. Later, she'll study to get a professional qualification - but that's when the kids are older. (Female, partnered, 46-55 years, adult children, employed, Carole Park)

A small proportion of single mothers, in particular, spoke about not looking for work until they were required to:

I don't have to work until my youngest is 8 - or 6 or something like that. Anyway. I don't have to. (Female, single, 26-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

Some said this was because they preferred to care for their children themselves. However, for others, barriers such as difficulties in finding child care or juggling the needs of children had prevented them from making this transition (discussed in greater detail below).

Some participants spoke about a culture of unemployment in their areas, and that people could get into a situation where it was the norm to not be working. Other older participants, many of them mothers themselves, also noted the importance of returning to work for the longer term wellbeing of mothers and their children:

It's a vicious cycle - the parents don't have the education to get a job, they have lots of little kids, the kids see their parents drinking and not working while they're growing up. (Female, single, 26-45 years, no children, employed, Carole Park)

Of particular concern to participants were the relatively high proportions of families with children living in their communities where no adult worked, and the potential impact this had on children in both the short and long term. In Carole Park, there was a strong concern about the numbers of single mothers with children living in the area, who, as one participant put noted, "are dumped here with their kids and there's nothing for them".

Participants in Carole Park, in particular (but also in other areas), agreed that very few single mothers worked. When asked, single mothers mostly said that they did not have any friends who were employed mothers.

Another participant who had raised her now adult children on her own reflected on the need to find ways of getting mothers engaged in their community and thinking about their future options well before their children reached school age. She noted that many of the single mothers in the area were frustrated and lost a sense of their potential to become employed:

If they don't have anything to look forward to other than the next man and the next baby, things won't improve. (Female, single, 56-65 years, adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

It was also noted that some families need family support and encouragement to become involved in the labour market:

They need a supportive family to say there are better ways to do things and to encourage them to work. (Female, partnered, adult children, employed, Carole Park)

Another participant spoke about the difficulties of breaking out of the cycle of joblessness when friends and family were unsupportive of employment:

My ex kept saying to me, why don't you go down to Centrelink and get the dole. I'm trying to do my best and she's sponging off society and doesn't care if someone with cerebral palsy misses out. (Male, single, 18-25 years, no children, employed, Mansfield Park)

This same participant spoke about his housemates wanting him to give them money for drugs, expecting him to support their lifestyle because he had more money. His solution was to move, but he emphasised the stress and pressure he had been under. As noted in Chapter 6, many of the activities within the community took place during the day, preventing employed people who worked during the day from taking part

8.2 Barriers and supports to employment

Beyond participants' beliefs about the importance of work, a number of other factors influencing participants' employment emerged from the interviews. These included the timing of access to assistance from employment services and the types of assistance available, family factors, neighbourhood factors and issues facing migrant families. Many participants were not clear about what sort of assistance they were entitled to receive and when, or expressed expectations that were at odds with what they were offered by the services they had approached.

While these insights provide some understanding of the types of barriers people may experience in accessing employment and employment services, it should be noted that the analysis in this report is based upon the participants' perceptions of these experiences and that, in some cases, participants may have been reflecting on interactions with services that had taken place some years prior to the interview. This means that it was not always clear whether participants' reflections were about Job Services Australia (the current employment services model in Australia) or the previous Job Network. Therefore, some of their comments may be about services that have since been replaced by a different service model.

Furthermore, as interviews were not conducted with employment service staff as part of the Life Around Here study, it is not possible to ascertain the quality or appropriateness of the assistance provided in the interactions about which the participants were reflecting. Therefore, these views cannot be taken as an assessment of the services themselves.

Timing of provision of employment services: Assisting mothers to return to work

A strong theme emerging from families that are currently or have recently experienced joblessness is that they needed assistance in finding work to be provided earlier than when their youngest child turns six. Many mothers who were not working expressed an interest in returning to employment before they were required to and mothers who had done so and were now working noted the value of this in being able to maintain skills and confidence within the labour market.

Assistance for single mothers

For single mothers who were not working, most participants reported that long-term absences from the labour market for the purposes of childrearing meant that they had lost their work-related skills and confidence. For example, one woman, who had not worked since her eldest child was born 13 years ago but whose youngest child was only 3, said:

I would like to go back to work, or at least do a couple of courses and get your head back into work mode, after being in Mum mode. (Female, partnered, 36-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Carole Park)

She didn't want to wait until her youngest child was 6, but was unclear about how much assistance - if any - she would receive if she tried to get involved in training or employment earlier.

Other women had similar experiences and many single mothers with young children clearly wanted to return to work before their youngest child had turned 6. However many also clearly needed a good deal of assistance to be able to do so. Many were unclear about the extent of the assistance they were eligible to receive from both Centrelink and Job Network employment services prior to their youngest child turning 6. Most expressed a wish to return to study but were unsure about whether they were eligible for assistance with the costs of study and child care at this stage and were also unsure of what they should study or where. For many of these mothers, there was a sense of "not knowing where to start". Others had clear ideas about what they would like to do but were having trouble starting the process themselves.

Others who had actively tried to re-enter the labour market, had experienced barriers to getting the assistance they needed from employment services. Mothers viewed these problems as being related to them not being seen as a high priority client for employment services. For example, one mother, who had only just lost her job and was keen to get back to work straight away (even though her youngest child was only 3), described her situation:

I'm really grumpy about that. Because I'm [classed as] a level one for employment … I'd find fantastic jobs and I'd ask for them to put me forward but they won't put your name forward because they won't make any money. (Female, single, 36-45 years, 2 children, not employed, Carole Park)

These women were both frustrated and worried that an extended absence from employment would disadvantage them in the longer term, both in their ability to get a job and in the types of jobs they could access if their skills became out-of-date. They had become disempowered by these experiences and were unsure of what sorts of assistance they could expect to receive in order to move forward in their job search.

Assistance for partnered mothers

Partnered mothers were also identified as a group who felt they needed more assistance. For example, one participant, who was now single, talked about being unable to get help to find a job while she was still in a relationship. While her partner at the time was employed, she felt she had little capacity to find employment on her own and was not eligible for assistance. She felt this delay in being able to find work had negatively affected her ability to engage with the labour market when she became single again.

Timing of provision of employment services: Intensive interventions before "long-term joblessness"

Other participants who had experienced unemployment were frustrated that some of the help they believed would have assisted them in returning to work was not available until they had been unemployed for a year. This included assistance with gaining qualifications that were standard in their industries, and more regular interactions with employment services. For example, one participant said:

You sign a contract with them and you never hear from them again. They just take the money. (Male, partnered, 36-45 years, 2 children, employed but recently jobless for over 12 months, Carole Park)

There was a sense among these participants that if this help had been received earlier, their ability to return to work would have been enhanced. In some cases, participants felt that their own knowledge of their industry or capacities and needs were not acknowledged by service providers assisting them, and that this delayed their return to work. Others spoke about a lack of follow-up from service providers to their enquiries and requests, and they felt that little assistance was provided "between appointments". This had caused frustration among some participants, who wanted to "get on with" finding a job but felt they were waiting on their case manager for information and support.

Expectations of employment services

Most participants who had engaged with employment services reported that their expectations had not been met. This may be due to a number of factors, including the quality of service delivery by some providers, the level of understanding among the participants about what employment services can and cannot provide, and also the level of complexity of the needs of the families using these services (discussed in greater detail below).

Many participants reported being frustrated by their experience of frequently being delayed by processes that they didn't really understand, a lack of follow-up from assigned workers, and a sense of not being listened to. Many felt they were offered help they didn't need while not receiving help that they believed would make a difference. For example, recently unemployed people with plenty of work experience were frustrated by being sent to courses about how to behave at work and how to dress appropriately:

The service they offer isn't all that good. They don't seem to do all that much to help because I've been going there for a year now and I haven't got a job … They don't understand my health condition, they know I have an issue, but they've never asked about it and so I haven't told them. (Female, single, 18-25 years, no children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

Interestingly, no one in the sample talked about finding jobs through their social networks, friends or family. There seemed to be a heavy reliance on employment services to assist them in this and a lack of confidence to undergo a job search via other means. For example, the woman quoted above had not tried to find work outside the job network. This was common to most participants.

Other participants felt that they (or their family members) were asked to do things that they were unable to achieve. For example, the mother of an unemployed teenager with learning difficulties reported that her son had been enrolled in a program that was not accessible by public transport, making it difficult for him to get there and meet the requirements of the program.

A small number of participants did report satisfaction with the assistance they had received. These tended to be people who had accessed programs that provided them with a high level of assistance and where the workers involved had actively engaged with them to understand and meet their needs:

Sometimes they tell me about things I don't know about and they show me how to look for a job. Its good. (Male, partnered, 25-35 years, 4 children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

Some participants felt that the service providers had poor attitudes towards them and in some cases they felt they were disrespected. They also felt that the service providers had not listened to them and had assumed that they were trying to do the wrong thing. Those participants who were unhappy with the way in which they were treated tended to focus on their unhappiness with a particular employment service staff member:

[The worker] said I lied about turning up to a job interview and it turned out I hadn't lied. But she didn't apologise. She kept blaming me. I felt she was judgemental. That it was easier to blame the jobseeker than to look at her own faults. (Female, single, 36-45 years, 3 children, not employed, Broadmeadows)

It hasn't been satisfactory because my worker is not terribly interested. She told me she's looking for another job herself! One week, I was 10 minutes late and I got a different girl and it was a completely different situation. (Female, 46-55 years, adult children, not employed, Carole Park)

Issues for jobless families

Many participants spoke of the complex needs of families experiencing long-term joblessness. These included drug and alcohol issues, family violence, parenting difficulties and ongoing health issues or disability within families. For these families, current programs were generally not adequate in assisting them to find employment and there was a sense that there were more pressing issues that needed to be dealt with first. This was particularly the case with families where one or more members experienced ill health or disability. Ill health experienced by these participants included back problems, diabetes and mental health issues. Many reported that they were on long waiting lists or were unable to access the help they needed to resolve or manage their health issues. Some said that they had been told that they would never work again (despite having to undertake regular reviews) and were frustrated at the lack of support they received to try and re-enter employment.

Other participants spoke of family issues making it difficult for them to sustain paid employment This can be when a family member has long-term health issues or is suffering a crisis. For example, one man spoke about leaving his job after his partner experienced a miscarriage, in order to be able to support her and deal with the grieving process. Employed families being provided with assistance in negotiating solutions and finding support with dealing with family problems (rather than having to leave work) was seen as desirable by a small number of participants who had been in this situation.

Families from a CALD background

About one-third of families participating in the study were from a CALD background. Of these, about half were refugees who had come to Australia under the Humanitarian Resettlement Program. For this group, there was a sense that, despite having relatively high skill levels and education prior to coming to Australia, it was very difficult to get jobs and in particular to find work that reflected their qualifications and experience. They believed this limited their capacity to provide for and educate their families. They were concerned about becoming stuck in a cycle of poverty, as it was difficult to access jobs that were well paid. Many had participated in study once they had arrived in Australia in order to improve their language skills, and many hoped to one day be able to upgrade their qualifications.

It was also hard for some participants to understand the differences in expectations about employment and how to find work:

I think the job network agencies are not helping people to find work. The government gives them money but we don't get any work. It would be better if employers looked for themselves. This job network just gets money from the government but doesn't do much … I am willing to work, but in other countries when you look for a job, you walk out of your house each day and ask around and work for your daily bread. But in Australia, you have to go to a job agent and it's a long process and they never call you back! If you go to the job network they want to give you training, not work! (Male, 46-55 years, married, 4 children, not employed, Mansfield Park)

One woman - a single parent of 3 children - who moved to Australia within the 12 months required under the resettlement program was feeling stressed about having to find work soon. She said she and her children were still very unsettled after years in a refugee camp:

In Australia, with Centrelink, if you're a single mother, and your youngest child is 6 you have to look for a job. The job network agents have called me twice and said that when I finish my English course I will have to look for a job. (Female, single, 3 children, not employed but studying, Mansfield Park)

Local community issues

Many participants linked the issues described Chapters 5 and 6 about life in the communities and levels of community participation to their own experience of being unemployed and/or to the relatively high proportion of jobless families within their own communities. For example, many women were constrained by the availability of transport to get to and from work. This seems to have been a particular issue for single mothers in Carole Park and for couple mothers whose partners use the family car to get to and from work.

Concerns about safety, the level of drug and alcohol use within each of the suburbs and a lack of activities for children and young people also acted as a constraint for mothers becoming involved in employment. Many mothers felt strongly that they needed to be available to supervise their children and teenagers before and after school and on weekends to make sure they did not become involved in drugs and other antisocial activities, including gangs. This restricted the times they were available to work to school hours only. For these mothers, leaving their teenage children unsupervised was, in their view, putting their children at risk.

Many of the participants said that there was stigma associated with living in their suburb. These participants said that other people were sometimes horrified when they heard where they lived and some participants said that they would even lie about it to avoid the judgement of others. One Broadmeadows woman who had recently moved into the area felt that when she was doing a trial period for a possible job, her colleagues did not talk to her because she was from Broadmeadows, and she felt that this led to them making negative comments to and about her.

"Small things" make a difference

The theme that came out in many of the interviews is that "small things" can make a big difference as to whether a participant felt that they could find and sustain employment. This could have been in terms of both positive and negative differences. For example, one participant, whose granddaughter had been enrolled in an employment program for young people with disabilities, spoke about one of the workers providing detailed instructions and maps for her granddaughter about how to get to the program via public transport. The worker then accompanied the granddaughter to the program on the first day. This gave her the confidence to attend regularly and independently. Another example is a mother who had put her youngest child's name on a waiting list to attend child care this year, but the centre closed and she then had to start the waiting list process again at another centre, delaying her return to work.

The interviews undertaken to date suggest that working with families to anticipate and overcome the "small things" would assist many parents in being able to re-enter and maintain their involvement in the labour market.

9. Discussion

The findings from the Life Around Here study suggest that the factors influencing the participation of families in their communities and employment are related to both local and neighbourhood factors, such as safety, services and transport, as well as factors related to individual and family-based capacities and needs.

Research was undertaken with 59 households across Broadmeadows in Victoria, Mansfield Park in South Australia and Carole Park near Goodna in Queensland. These suburbs, along with Goodna in Queensland and Angle Park in South Australia, have been selected to be the test sites for the Family Centred Employment Project, as they have been identified as being socially and economically disadvantaged and have high rates of family joblessness.11

The three study suburbs, while sharing some characteristics, were also quite different in terms of their sizes, proximity to services, histories and characteristics of their residents.

9.1 Backgrounds of study suburbs and Life Around Here study participants

Broadmeadows is a large suburb, about 17 kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD. During the 1950s, a large number of dwellings were built as public housing. This high proportion of public housing continues today, with the proportion of rental houses being rented from the Housing Commission being three times the national average. However, a large number of housing developments have also been built immediately around Broadmeadows, with the suburb becoming a hub for services and facilities. This is reflected in the interviews with Life Around Here study participants, who consistently noted that the area was well serviced. Broadmeadows itself covers a wide area and is much larger than both Mansfield Park and Carole Park in terms of its population and geographic size.

Mansfield Park and Angle Park are both relatively small suburbs in terms of both geography and population. However, in contrast to Carole Park, they are relatively close to the CBD (10 kilometres) and to shops and services within the wider Enfield Area. Both Mansfield Park and Angle Park are in the process of significant change in terms of its housing and population profiles as a result of the Westwood Urban Renewal Project, with much of the public housing stock of these areas being demolished and replaced by new housing that is largely being sold as house and land packages. This is seeing significant shifts in the rates of housing ownership and of various socio-economic indicators within these populations. Many of the interview participants in the Life Around Here study noted this shift and believed that this would continue as the project was finalised.

Carole Park sits between Brisbane and Ipswich (about 19 kilometres from each). It is split into a residential area and an industrial park. While these areas share the same postcode, the residential area is part of the Brisbane City Council and the industrial park falls under the auspices of Ipswich Council. Carole Park is small and is surrounded by major roads (two are motorways). It has few footpaths and bike paths and limited public transport. In some ways, it has the look and feel of a rural area, and participants in the interviews often referred to the area as being cut off. Many residents referred to it as the "forgotten suburb", where there has been little maintenance of community resources such as roads and shopping strips and where few services are established. Carole Park is situated near Goodna, but participants in the research tended to access services elsewhere.

All three suburbs included in the Life Around Here study had higher proportions of single-parent families and residents born overseas, and higher unemployment rates than the national average. Educational levels, employment rates and average incomes for all three suburbs were also lower than the national average.

The study was designed to cover a broad cross-section of people living in each of the areas rather than a statistically representative sample, in order to gauge the range of issues facing families and to capture change where this was occurring. The 71 participants in the Life Around Here study came from a variety of backgrounds and ages, including young families and retirees, working and non-working parents and families from a variety of cultural backgrounds. These participants provided diverse accounts of their lives within Broadmeadows, Mansfield Park and Carole Park. However, many of their experiences were shared both across and between the study sites.

Most participants in the study were women (70%) and around 90% were of working age (that is 65 years or less). Just over a third of the sample indicated that they spoke a language other than English at home. More than half of the households taking part in the research were families with children under 18. This included single-parent families, couple families and grandparent families. More than half of these families (20) were jobless; that is, had no adult of working age employed. Hence, around one-third of the participating households were jobless families with children. In addition, many of the other households taking part in the study had family members who had experienced unemployment in recent times and were able to speak to issues of joblessness and factors that affect labour force participation through their own direct experiences.

About half (47%) of the participating study households owned or were buying their homes, 19% were renting privately and 34% were public housing tenants. In Carole Park and Mansfield Park, a significant proportion of owner/buyer households had purchased their homes through the local public housing authorities.

Just over a third of jobless households in receipt of income support payments were receiving a Disability Support Pension. While about one-third of this group were suffering from physical disabilities or illnesses (such as back injuries), most were suffering from mental health issues such as depression, post-traumatic stress (relating to violence) and anxiety disorders.

Education and income levels among the study sample were lower than the national average across all three suburbs, reflecting the population trends within these areas. Jobless households in the sample also had much lower levels of educational qualifications compared to other households involved in the study.

Overall, many of the participants were experiencing multiple indicators of disadvantage in terms of their employment status, income, housing, education levels and health.

9.2 Participants' experiences of life in their communities

The length of time participants had lived in their community varied from a number of months to over 50 years. People who had lived in the area for longer periods tended to own their own homes; however, a number of public housing tenants had also lived in their homes for many years.

Many participants noted that the cost of housing had increased in recent years - both in terms of renting and buying. This increase in rental costs was not just noted by private renters, but also public housing tenants. However, it was also noted that the quality of housing stock across the three areas had improved, with an observed increase in home ownership in Broadmeadows, new housing developments in Mansfield and a process of renovating public houses in Carole Park.

Many participants felt that while the cost of housing had increased in their communities, it had also done so elsewhere. For participants who were not happy living in the area this could lead to a feeling of being stuck, which was particularly the case for Carole Park participants.

Many of the people who felt stuck and who had sufficient resources to allow them to do so, conducted most of their lives outside of the community where they lived. These participants worked, socialised and educated their children outside of the area. Many of the parents who chose this option spoke of trying to remove their children from what they saw as the negative influences of the area.

An important factor in study participants' perceptions of their communities was their relationship with their neighbours. Some reported positive, cooperative relationships, as they kept an eye out for each other and enjoyed a sense of community with them. However, others spoke of violent and fearful relationships. Most said that they "kept to themselves" and didn't get overly involved with their neighbours or other residents in the area. Neighbourhood relationships were reported to be less positive among Mansfield Park participants, which perhaps reflects significant changes to the socio-economic characteristics of those living in Mansfield Park.

Participants in Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park did report a general sense of the area and the people who lived there "improving" as a result of new housing developments and increases in home ownership. However, responses in Carole Park did not reflect this.

The physical "look" of the community was also important to many participants. The "barren-ness" of Mansfield Park, with its many vacant lots and building sites was frequently mentioned by participants. However, the need for more green spaces that were safe for children to play in was also mentioned across the three study sites.

Feelings of safety were a significant theme in the interviews across all suburbs and affected the extent to which many participants became involved in their communities. While many felt that levels of safety were improving, few people in Broadmeadows, Mansfield Park or Carole Park said they felt safe going out in the area at night. Drug and alcohol misuse was seen as a problem in all areas and was often referred to as being the issue behind violence and other crimes, such as theft and property crimes. A number of participants said that the lack of activities for young people also led to higher levels of drug and alcohol misuse and other antisocial behaviours among this group. A small number of participants from CALD backgrounds also noted that they had felt fearful at times, but that the acceptance of diverse communities seemed to have improved.

The lack of reliable public transport in Carole Park and the reluctance of many participants in Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park to use public transport after dark (due to safety concerns) also contributed to a feeling among some participants of being stuck. In addition to transport, participants across the three suburbs observed that other community resources, such as parks and other public spaces, were poorly maintained and often left unusable due to vandalism or the presence of syringes and beer bottles.

Carole Park participants noted that there was a lack of shops for purchasing reasonably priced food, no pharmacy and no medical services and that the lack of public transport made these resources hard to access outside the area if you did not have a car. This was not an issue for Broadmeadows and Mansfield Park participants, who reported major shopping centres and medical clinics being nearby.

About half of the participants were involved in community activities such as volunteering at the community centre and getting involved in local issues-based groups. Others reported attending courses run by local services. Participants who were not involved in their communities mentioned reasons such as not being interested or having health problems or caring responsibilities that limited their capacity. Some of the older participants observed that people sometimes got "stuck in a rut" and became "couch potatoes". These people were hard to engage in community activities and were also observed to be less likely to be employed or involved in education or other activities.

Generally participants were aware of the services available in the areas they lived in and were positive about the quality of services available to assist families. Carole Park participants again noted that to access most services, they needed to travel outside the area. Participants across all of the suburbs reported gaps in services for young people and in parenting support and education services.

9.3 Participants' experiences of the labour market

Of the 59 households participating in the Life Around Here study, 36 did not have any adults employed at the time of the interview. Of this group, 8 were households with adults of working age and no children under 18 years, 20 were families with working-age adults and children under 18 years, and 8 households were retirees. In many of the households where the adults were retired or where there was currently an employed adult, they had experienced periods of unemployment and were able to reflect on this experience and what factors had both led to their period of unemployment and to their return to work.

Overall, jobless households participating in the study tended to have lower levels of educational attainment than other households. Over one-third of the jobless households included an adult in receipt of a Disability Support Pension. Almost half of the jobless families with children were from a CALD background. Their levels of English proficiency and lack of recognition of qualifications achieved overseas were reported by these parents as being barriers to gaining employment.

Almost all participants, regardless of their current employment status saw work as being an important part of life and as an important contributor to their own wellbeing and that of their families. Many mothers from single-parent households were keen to return to work, and to ensure that their skills did not get too out-of-date. However, among this group, absences of significant length had also led to a loss of confidence and a desire to undertake some training before returning to work. There was some confusion about what support was available to mothers prior to their youngest child turning 6. Some who had sought out support before activity requirements came into effect were frustrated at not being seen as a priority by employment services. Partnered mothers also spoke about this as an issue.

This sense of not being a "priority case" for employment services and a lack of satisfaction with employment services was a common theme across the three suburbs and among those who were currently jobless and those who had used the services and since found employment. There was a consistent message from jobseekers that they did not believe they were getting the help they needed to find a job. This may reflect a lack of understanding of the role of such services, but may also reflect that these services were not able to assist families with complex needs that were outside the range of the normal jobseeker.

The difficulties of assisting families with complex needs and the fact that many of these families experience joblessness was a theme that emerged consistently in the research. As outlined above, families living in the three suburbs were often observed to be grappling with issues such as drug and alcohol misuse, physical and mental health issues and ongoing violence and/or fearfulness. Refugee families also experienced multiple barriers on top of recognition of qualifications and English language skills, such as adjusting to living in a new country with different norms, values and expectations around employment, isolation, housing instability and recovering from traumatic events experienced prior to their arrival in Australia.

Positive accounts about the assistance received by participants seeking employment often focused on what could be regarded as relatively "simple" or "small things". There was a sense that sometimes people with multiple and complex needs did not need complex solutions, but rather that they needed assistance in anticipating and overcoming "small things" in order to be able to re-enter and maintain their involvement in the labour market.

The research has highlighted the multiple barriers faced by many people living in jobless families that need to be overcome in order for them to be able to successfully find employment and to participate more actively in the life of their communities. Drug and alcohol issues in families were commonly reported and this was seen by some as being strongly related to high unemployment.

Not feeling safe and having poor access to public transport limited the capacity of some participants to engage in paid work, especially outside of normal hours. A number of the jobless parents who were interviewed expressed concerns about the supervision of children, especially in relation to drugs, violence and other forms of antisocial behaviour. A number of the jobless parents felt that being in paid employment was problematic because it would mean that their children would be unsupervised after school and they were worried that their children would become involved in drugs, violence and other forms of antisocial behaviour, which they saw as being a significant problem in their area.

An important finding from the research is that none of the participants spoke about using friends and family to find paid employment, and yet it has been found that this is an important way in which, nationally, people find and secure jobs (e.g., Stone et al., 2003).

Another theme emerging from the research is that the high levels of unemployment and joblessness in the local areas means that there are few positive role models for local people who would like to find employment. Unemployment can become the norm and, while this was particularly an issue highlighted by many Carole Park participants, it was seen as a concern in all of the study suburbs.

For many participants, the barriers they saw for themselves finding employment were things that may appear rather mundane and relatively easily to overcome (e.g., having an unreliable car), but for the participants could seem almost insurmountable. This was in part because these participants faced a number of such barriers which, when combined, could seem quite formidable. Other participants faced very major barriers (e.g., addictions, mental and physical health problems).

There was a strong sense from participants (both jobless and employed) that education is the answer. Many of the participants talked about wanting to do a course, as they believed that this would increase their chances of finding and employment and, for those who were employed, that it would improve the quality of job they could find.

11. Carole Park shares a postcode with Goodna and will be part of the catchment for the Goodna FCEP.

Key messages

Multiple barriers to employment

Many of the people of working age in jobless families who participated in the Life Around Here study faced multiple barriers to finding and sustaining paid employment or participating in education. For families experiencing multiple barriers to participation in their community and employment, interventions may need to be intensive and multi-faceted.

Another barrier to finding employment identified by study participants who were receiving a Disability Support Pension was that they were unable to access the health care required to improve or resolve their health issues. This was particularly the case for study participants who identified as having mental health issues or had work-related injuries. Assisting potential job seekers to address these health issues was a clearly identified need for this group.

The other barriers to employment that participants described suggest that often it is rather mundane things that upset people's capacity to find a job or to maintain their attachment to the labour market once the "bigger issues" have been resolved. Participants spoke of losing jobs when their car broke down or when their child was sick and they needed to take time off work. Families who have experienced long-term financial disadvantage or participants who are new to employment may need some guidance and support in resolving these issues and dealing with employers. This support could be delivered in a way that provides participants with the ability to resolve these issues on their own in the future.

Some study participants mentioned that the high levels of unemployment in their local area meant that there were few positive role models around to assist with people moving into and maintaining employment. This meant that when issues arose at work, there was little advice around about how to find solutions. Another important issue identified by parents was their concerns about the lack of supervision of their children while they were at work, especially in relation to drugs and violence. A number of study participants said that poor access to and concerns about safety on public transport limited their capacity to engage in paid work, especially outside of normal business hours.

Challenges to service engagement

Participants' views about their communities and their accounts of their engagement with locally provided services, such as employment services, highlighted the challenges that service providers face in successfully engaging these participants. The challenges include: a preference among some residents to utilise services outside of their communities; concerns about safety when travelling to and from services; and the complexity and overlapping nature of many of the issues that many jobless people living in socially and economically disadvantaged communities face.

A number of the jobless participants who had experience with employment services expressed frustration and dissatisfaction with the nature of their interactions with employment services. These poor outcomes may reflect a lack of understanding of the role of these agencies in assisting job seekers and having unreasonably high expectations of job network services to meet all of their needs. However, these accounts also suggest some gaps in the services that are offered to job seekers, including being able to address the complexities of families with multiple needs, and working with job seekers who do not currently have an activity requirement but who are keen to return to the workforce and need a substantial amount of support to do so. These participants seemed to be aware of their limited skills and experience and were trying to start this process as early as possible to maximise their chances of finding stable and meaningful employments in the longer term.

Care responsibilities

Most of the jobless participants who had young children or other significant caring responsibilities said that they would like to have a job - either in the immediate term or in the longer term. A number of the participants who felt that their current circumstances would not allow them to be in paid employment said that they were interested in undertaking education or training in order to increase their chance of finding employment at a later date.

Conclusion

Findings from the Life Around Here study offer important insights into the experiences of families living in Broadmeadows, Mansfield Park and Carole Park, and have the potential to help inform the development and delivery of programs and services aimed at increasing participation in education and employment in these communities. The insights may also assist policy-makers and practitioners in working with families experiencing social and economic disadvantage in other similar communities across Australia.

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Acknowledgements

Kelly Hand is a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Professor Matthew Gray is Professor, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University. Dr Daryl Higgins was Deputy Director (Research) and Shaun Lohoar and Julie Deblaquiere were Senior Research Officers at the Australian Institute of Family Studies at the time of writing.


The research that this report is based upon was commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. The authors are grateful to Dr Alison Morehead, Alice Van Senden, Jennifer Clynk and Professor Alan Hayes for comments on this report.

The research team would also like to thank staff at the Parks Centre in South Australia and Elorac Place Community Centre in Carole Park, Queensland for their support of the study and their assistance in drawing the research to the attention of local residents. Both centres also provided the research team with a very welcoming home base while conducting fieldwork in the area.

Most importantly, this research would not have been possible without the contributions of the many people who took part. We thank you for sharing your experiences and stories with us.

Publication details

Research Report
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, February 2012
54 pp.
ISBN:
978-1-921414-81-7
Suggested citation:

Hand, K., Gray, M., Higgins, D., Lohoar, S., & Deblaquiere, J. (2011). Life around here: Community, work and family life in three Australian communities (Research Report No. 19). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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