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Fault Lines Exposed: Advantage and Disadvantage Across Australia’s Settlement System



Scott Baum
Kevin O’Connor
Robert Stimson

This chapter introduces the main themes explored in the book. Beginning with an overview of past studies into national level advantage and disadvantage across several levels of spatial disaggregation the chapter notes the importance of the these types of studies and makes a case for a broad concern about the fault lines in socio-economic status that characterise the Australian settlement system. It notes that deprived areas, which have grown in number in recent years, limit the opportunities and prospects of people who live in them. Without a vision of their potential, a nation not only bears the costs but fails to realise the possibilities inherent in these places and their populations. In short the chapter makes the case for fault lines to be an important part of the policy agenda.

In 1999 a report released by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) grabbed headlines in newspapers around the country when it described how local communities across and within metropolitan areas and across non-metropolitan Australia, could be differentiated by the degree of opportunity and/or vulnerability (Baum et al. 1999). The day the report was released The Australian newspaper ran the following headline on page one: ‘Report shatters myths…Nation’s fault lines exposed’ and pointed to the way in which ‘globalisation and economic restructuring, together with new technologies and changing demographics, have created fault lines that are increasingly dividing people and communities into winners and losers’. The differences were illustrated using a number of case studies focusing on divergent communities, and in particular people who lived in these places. In the metropolitan areas the contrast was made between Mosman in Sydney and Elizabeth in Adelaide (Box 1.1) while for the regional areas, case studies included Dysart (Queensland) and Wellington (New South Wales) (Box 1.2).

Box 1.1 Metropolitan stories

Mosman takes prize as Sydney’s top suburb

For James and Nicki Barrett-Lennard, the picket-fence charm and security of Mosman make it the country’s most desirable suburb.

The AHURI report lists the harbour side suburb on Sydney’s lower north shore as the number one area of opportunity in Australia’s metropolitan city regions.

North Sydney, two suburbs away, ran a close second in the report.

“We lived in central London when we first met, but this suits us better now that we’ve started a family,” Nicki said yesterday.

The 35 year old has taken leave from her advertising job to have their second child. She is actively involved in the Mosman community and a member of the local Rotary Club. James, 38 commutes to the city each day, where he works as a banker.

Both agree that the appeal of the suburb is its proximity to the city – a 10-minute drive across the Harbour Bridge – while retaining a “village” atmosphere.

The report reveals that Mosman residents can expect to receive $1 in welfare for every $10 they pay in tax.

The Barrett-Lennards spent yesterday afternoon playing in a local park with their 19-month-old daughter, Hannah.

Five years ago, the couple bought their dream house, complete with large backyard, and intend to stay in the area to raise a family.

James said they had decided on Mosman for the space it offered and because the eastern suburbs were “too expensive”.


Source: McIlveen (1999)

Renaissance around the corner for Elizabethans

Jacqui Constable can’t tell you the figures but she knows it’s tough to find a job in Elizabeth – and increasingly harder to keep one – but she can’t think of a better place to raise her children.

Elizabeth was named in the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute study as the most vulnerable metropolitan community in the nation, given its fragile industrial base, unskilled workforce and heavy welfare dependence.

Mrs Constable, 41, an invalid pensioner and a mother of five, ranging from adult to three-year-old Corey, is among the many doing it tough in the satellite city that once promised so much.

“People call us the pension city, but I don’t agree with that. It can be hard, but it can be like that any-where,” she said.

Elizabeth was developed as a new city by the South Australian Housing Trust in the 1950s and attracted the so-called “£10 Poms” – assisted passage English immigrants who came by the boatload to take advantage of a strong local economy built on car, clothing and textile manufacturing.

The Holden factory remains a major employer, but clothing company Levi Strauss recently joined the string of manufacturers downsizing, if not closing. But community spirit remains resilient. “I was part of a chit-chat club started by the Anglican Mission, where we would all get together and talk about things; any worries we had”, Mrs Constable explained.

“You wouldn’t get something like that in the richer suburbs.”

Daughter Melissa, 18, who receives a carer’s pension to look after her mother, has no desire to move away from the area.

“There are so many parks here and places to take him (Corey),” she said. “There’s the sports centre – people say they never want to leave Elizabeth”.


Source: Altmann (1999)


Box 1.2 Non-metropolitan stories

Father mines family a future

John Stepan reckons he “didn’t have two bob to rub together” when he first came to the little central Queensland town of Dysart as a young mine worker in 1979.

“To be honest, I came here for the money,” he said, referring to the salaries then on offer at BHP’s Saraji and Norwich Park mines straddling the town set amid hard-scrabble grazing country 200km south-west of Mackay.

Mr Stepan, 48, got what he came for in spades and now has a flourishing family business in Broadsound Shire, one of six localities across the country that the report categorises as an “extractive industry opportunity cluster”. In other words, places where people have made lots of money digging stuff out of the ground.

Dysart is one of a string of mining towns that sprang up in Queensland’s Bowen Basin during the 1970s coal boom.

It has figured in the Australian Taxation Office’s annual top-10 list of places where residents pay the highest average amount of tax.

Mr Stepan, a mechanic, worked in the Saraji mine for nine years before setting up his own business.

He started by fixing up friend’s cars under his house and now has a sizable engineering workshop, a tyre centre, a windscreen outlet, mine machinery maintenance contracts and a BP service station.

Dysart loses much of its young people to the attractions and jobs of bigger places but Mr Stepan has managed to keep his family around him.

His wife, Colleen, runs the office, sons Brian, 19 and Stuart, 18, are apprentices in the workshop, and daughter Vicki, 22, manages the servo.


Source: Meade (1999)

Rural reliance reaps problems

When Tim Maxfield started working at Gerbach’s Garage in Wellington in 1971 it was one of eight car dealers in the town. Now there are only two.

“We would have been selling four times as many motor vehicles then as we are now,” he says.

Wellington, population 5500, was named as Australia’s second-most vulnerable community in the AHURI report.

The central-western NSW town is among those reliant on employment in agriculture and pastoralism. Such towns have high unemployment, low income and static populations, the study shows.

Mr Maxfield believes it is Wellington’s reliance on the rural sector that has caused the town’s decline.

“I just think it’s just that the man on the land is not making the money he used to make, and there’s less employment in the town,” he says. “The farmers aren’t getting the prices for their wheat and their wool that they used to”.

In the 1970s, Gerbach’s Garage would sell about 25 used and 16 new cars a month, compared with perhaps 10 used and six new cars now, Mr Maxfield says.

Across the road from Gerbach’s Garage is Bryant’s Butcher, which has a similar story to tell. Col Bryant says business has halved since he took the shop over from his father in 1969.

People buy more take away food now and he suspects farmers are killing their own meat to save money.

Gordon Tindall, executive officer of the Wellington/Orana Business Enterprise Centre, says many locals drive half an hour to Dubbo to shop, further depriving the town of income.


Source: Niesche (1999)


The articles in the Australian newspaper followed the basic premise of the AHURI report which was that the 1990s was characterised by a broad range of social and economic transitions that could be linked to varying levels of advantage and disadvantage– in the words of the AHURI report, opportunity and vulnerability– which at the level of Australia’s settlement system was manifest in divides and differences across places (Baum et al. 1999). Globalisation and the economic and social changes associated with it was considered a key process in the outcomes noted. Changes including reformation of technology and a shift to ‘new economy’ and niche economic activities, together with shifts in the ‘meaning of work’ and a decline in the ‘old economy’ sectors have divided society into winners and losers. The division is between individuals but also has a distinct spatial character. We have referred to this previously (O’Connor et al. 2001 p. 1) and have argued that ‘a nation’s economic geography is volatile, and the impacts of that volatility can be both profound and uneven as it differentially affects both people and places’. But there are other impacts as well as society has changed along social and demographic lines. In demographic terms society has been aging and over the next two decades there will be increasing numbers of older people relative to those of working age. And there has been a greater number of people living alone (partly an upshot of an aging society, partly a result of the younger cohort’s living arrangements), an increase in single parent families and a decline in ‘traditional’ family forms. These changes, which some are linking to a decline in social capital and effective social networks, may, given the right circumstances further impact on society’s winners and losers. Finally there has also been a change in policy, in particular a restructuring of welfare arrangements, which have also acted to exacerbate negative impacts across other areas. What the AHURI report did was it presented a whole of nation view on the issues of within and between city and between region advantage and disadvantage. It provided one of the first extensive insights into the socio-economic patterns that distinguish our nation at a spatial level, and it exposed our social and economic fault lines (Baum et al. 1999).

Fast forward a few years. The country has begun its journey into the new millennium and we have a new opportunity to consider the socio-economic divides characterising the country’s settlement system. This is what the bulk of this book focuses on. The basic question posed is: What are the patterns of advantage and disadvantage across areas? More specifically there is a focus on the pattern of socio-economic difference between localities within Australia’s metropolitan regions, across the large mainly urban regions, the smaller urban regions and the regions that make up non-urban Australia. Dividing the settlement system in this way is somewhat arbitrary, but the divisions do provide a good split of neighbourhoods, cities, towns and regions. This division, as we will see, results in different outcomes and patterns and raises a range of different lessons and questions to ponder.

There is of course no shortage of material which deals with the question of socio-economic advantage and disadvantage across Australia’s cities and between regions. The AHURI report mentioned above is one of them, but there has also been work by geographers and sociologists including the authors, but also including geographers such as Andrew Beer from Flinders University and Ruth Fincher (University of Melbourne) and other social scientists including economists Bill Mitchell from the University of Newcastle, Frank Stilwell from the University of Sydney and Ann Harding from the University of Canberra and sociologists such as Geoff Lawrence (University of Queensland), Riaz Hassan (Flinders University) and Maryann Wulff (Monash). Much of this type of research has concentrated on the same concerns as we do in this book. The focus of these studies has ranged from questions of segregation, spatial inequality, disadvantage or social polarisation, to the now fashionably-labelled concept of social exclusion. While the semantics may differ, such studies have been concerned with pretty much the same general issues, including locating the impact of social and economic transitions within a given spatial and socioeconomic context. Some of these studies are referred to and drawn upon throughout this book.

Income is certainly a fundamental determinant of living standards because it enables people to implement their preferences. As Peter Saunders, Director of the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales says, ‘in a society in which the great majority of transactions are monetised, money income is a crucial determinant of economic status’ (Saunders 1994 p.20).

Geographer, Ruth Fincher from the University of Melbourne conducted an interesting analysis of spatial variation in the incidence of groups of low-income households in Australia using 1991 census data (Australian Urban and Regional Development Review 1995). The analysis showed that for low income couples with children, there was not much variation between the large cities and the large provincial centres, except for Canberra and Darwin where there was a lower incidence, and places like Ballarat where the incidence was high. The mining towns had a low incidence. Across regional Australia’s medium and smaller towns, there was a considerable degree of variation with places like Horsham and some of the Riverland towns having a high incidence. Many coastal cities and towns also had a high incidence, such as Ballina and Port Macquarie, but in others like Cairns the incidence was low. Within the big cities, there was a marked spatial differentiation in the incidence of low-income couples with children. For example, in Sydney and Melbourne, the poor families were predominantly in the outer municipalities, and in areas with high concentrations of public housing.

The work by economists Gregory and Hunter (1995) raised significant interest when it was published as it illustrated the broad spatial differences in socio-economic outcomes that existed across Australian space. Using data across a range of spatial levels they found that between 1976 and 1991 there was a significant shift towards much more inequality between high- and low-income localities. Summarising the results, Bob Gregory and Peter Sheehan have this to say:


The picture emerging from this analysis from 1976 is quite clear. In that year Australia shared much the same commitment and access to employment across neighbourhoods. The average employment/population ratio in the lowest decile of SES neighbourhoods was approximately the same as that in the highest decile of SES neighbourhoods. By 1991, circumstances had changed dramatically. In the lowest decile the employment/population ratio fell 28 percent over fifteen years. For the lowest 1 percent of SES neighbourhoods the employment/population ratio fell about 50 percent. In areas of high SES the employment/population ratio increased marginally. Therefore, for men and women combined, the proportion of the working age population actually fell sharply between 1976 and 1991 for the bottom three neighbourhood deciles, but was effectively unchanged for the top three deciles, indicating that Australian cities have become more unequal in terms of job allocation (Gregory and Sheehan 1998 p.123).

More recently, the work coming from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) has illustrated that the gap between rich and poor postcodes does appear to have increased, at least during the period considered in the report (Harding et al. 2002). During the period 1994-95 and 1998-99 the NATSEM report found that nominal taxable income growth in the bottom 10 per cent of postcodes grew by 16 per cent, while for those at the top, income grew by 24.2 per cent. The bottom 10 per cent saw their incomes rise by about $3 700, while the top 10 per cent saw their incomes rise by almost $10 400. The conclusion that might be drawn is that we as a nation are splintering spatially, and indeed the gains from the long boom of economic prosperity are not being felt by everyone.

But it is not simply a case of splintering in terms of income. Fincher and Wulff (1998) claim a ‘new geography of poverty’ has been emerging in Australia with heightened socio-economic disparities in the large cities, an emergence of coastal welfare regions, and increased poverty in declining country towns. They cite the causes being due on the one hand to manufacturing restructuring with massive job losses in the cities, and also in regional centres which previously had enjoyed stable employment in manufacturing, and on the other hand, being due to internal migration with many lower-income households having relocated outside the capital cities, and away from job growth centres to reduce living costs. A similar story is told by Reynolds and Wulff (2005) for Melbourne where socio-spatial polarisation is linked to changes in house prices.

One driver of these inequalities can be seen to be a lack of attachment to paid employment, an outcome which the work by Bill Mitchell, and his colleagues from the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle, argues is a key issue in the types of patterns we discuss in this book. In a number of publications Mitchell (Mitchell and Carlson 2003; Mitchell and Bill 2004) points to the disparities that occur in the performance of local labour markets and the ways that these impact on the spatial economy. The up-shot, according to Mitchell is that ‘these disparities are intrinsically linked to the persistence of unemployment rate differentials across the same spatial units and accompanying social disadvantage’ (Mitchell and Carlson 2003 p.1). The evidence for these outcomes is a range of analyses that has consistently shown that some localities and regions are employment ‘hot spots’ and others are employment ‘cold spots’ calling into question the spatial equity of recent periods of employment growth (Mitchell and Carlson 2003; Mitchell and Bill 2004).

The impact of employment and non-employment on wider regional inequalities is also addressed in the research by NATSEM (Harding et al. 2004 p. 3) who point to the difference in labour force profiles of the top 10 per cent and bottom 10 per cent of Australia’s postcodes and find that:


In Top 10 percent postcodes, only 30 percent of all those aged 15 years and over were out of the labour force and only 3 percent were unemployed. In Bottom 10 percent postcodes, a striking 48 percent were out of the labour force and 6 percent were unemployed. On average, therefore, in Bottom 10 percent postcodes more than half of all adults did not have a job – compared with only one-third of all adults in Top 10 percent postcodes.

This research, which is focused at the national level clearly shows the splintering of our nation, and brings into question the concept of a fair-go and the egalitarian nature of our society. But the question is, should we care?


The answer to the ‘should we care’ question, to a large extent, depends on the philosophical bent of the person answering it. One viewpoint might see divisions, inequality and difference between communities and regions as simply an outcome of the way things are. We live in a society that has, like it or not, always shown signs of inequality and so it is just the way it is. This might be called the division is natural viewpoint, that is advantage and disadvantage is just a natural outcome of the way the market, with varying levels of state intervention, operate. If we take this viewpoint perhaps we don’t need to worry. We can just get on with our lives content that life will go on and that in the natural order of things there will be winners and there will be losers.

Another viewpoint might say the divisions are, relative to other countries, not as bad, and therefore perhaps we should not be too concerned. This lucky county viewpoint acknowledges that social disadvantages are present, but Australia is not doing too badly. This viewpoint clearly does not consider issues such as the unrest in Macquarie Fields in Sydney to be a problem. For instance, we are aware of the problems that have occurred in the ghettos of the United States and how those concentrations of disadvantage have resulted in other social pathologies, or the ways in which those in inner-city disadvantaged neighbourhoods are disenfranchised from the world of work, and we consider our problems are not that bad. The lucky country viewpoint is common, not the least among those who have recently returned from an overseas trip; may it be ever so humble, there is no place like home. Another opinion closely aligned with the lucky country viewpoint sees improvements in material well-being (take income as a prime example) as benefiting everyone. Therefore this view proposes that economic growth and prosperity will impact across all sections of society and everyone will be better off and no one will be worse off. The old saying that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ comes into play here.

A third viewpoint, one that is at opposite ends of the scale from the first two, is that the divisions matter. They matter when they are played out at the individual level and they matter when they are played out at the community, city, town or regional level. We should be concerned about unequal outcomes that result in the types of social unrest witnessed in Sydney’s Macquarie Fields. At the general level inequality matters because, as economist Frank Stilwell (2002 p. 1) argues, ‘inequality has significant consequences for economic efficiency, social justice and environmental sustainability. Its sources are properly a central concern for political economic analysis. Its reduction is properly a concern for public policy’. In short, inequality matters. Gaps between places which are advantaged, and places which are disadvantaged, matter because they generally result in more negative outcomes for the disadvantaged places and the people that live there. Politician Wayne Swan refers to these outcomes when he argues that a consequence of growing spatial inequality in Australian society is a greater separation of rich and poor. In particular he points out that problems are likely to emerge when:


income, employment and economic growth vary by postcodes. As the wealthy take over real estate close to the good jobs, the best schools and hospitals they lift the cost of entry to those areas. On the other hand, as the splintering middle and poorer people move further away they are paying more to get to work, school and see the doctor. If they lose their job, distance compounds their disadvantage (Swan 2005 p.172).

This is in part the problem of concentrated multiple disadvantages, the impact of neighbourhood effects and the impact of poor access to services and good stable employment. Research has shown that living in a disadvantaged community does impact on life chances through weaker social networks, poor role models and a lack of opportunity relative to other places (Heath 1999, Jensen and Seltzer 2000, Andrews et al. 2002). This might be referred to as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer viewpoint. Returning to the nautical analogy we see that the rising tide does not raise all boats and indeed for some, their boat is sinking and taking in water!

It is this concern that drives the major focus of this book, a concern that is succinctly summed up by a finding by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which argues that:


Deprived areas, which have grown in number in recent years, limit the opportunities and prospects of people who live in them. Without a vision of their potential, a nation [not] only bears the costs but fails to realise the possibilities inherent in these places and their populations (OECD 1998 p.11).

This applies to localities in metropolitan areas and to cities, towns and regions in non-metropolitan locations. Unequal outcomes, no matter what level they exist at, are an important issue, and as Australian society continues to change and evolve, these unequal outcomes will remain a pressing problem.


Following this introduction the remainder of this book focuses on discussing Australia’s fault lines. Chapter two continues the introductory theme by establishing what we think, and how we think, about issues relating to inequality and division and the ways that these impact on the socio-economic characteristics of places. The chapter outlines what is the big picture. What have been the changes that have been occurring across Australian society and economy which impact on the socio-economic outcomes of people, and hence at the aggregate level of place, and what do we understand by these changes in terms of broader policy and other outcomes?

Having understood what are some of the big picture issues, and how these might reflect the mixed spatial outcomes that are likely to occur, Chapter three then goes on to present the outcomes of our research. As home to the large majority of the Australian population, the extended metropolitan regions (Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth), are the focus of this third chapter (Table 1.1ad). We consider which places within the metropolitan areas have come out as winners and which places have been losers. Some of the metropolitan winners and losers will be familiar to us; other perhaps will be a surprise.

Table 1.1a Metropolitan localities

Table 1.1b Metropolitan localities (continued)

Table 1.1c Metropolitan localities (continued)

Table 1.1d Metropolitan localities (continued)

The metropolitan areas are only part of the story and to this end we devote three chapters to understanding the patterns of advantage and disadvantage across non-metropolitan regions, cities and towns. Chapter four specifically deals with the large non-metropolitan urban regions and towns. This group of localities contain large towns, together with larger regions which encompass several smaller towns. The key differentiating point is that these places each have a population greater than 10 000 and where over 50 per cent of this population is classified as urban (Table 1.2a, b). Chapter five moves further down the settlement hierarchy ladder and consider those regions with populations less than 10 000. Again these places have over 50 per cent of the population classified as urban (Table 1.3a, b). The final chapter which focuses on outcomes (chapter 6) considers the remaining places across the settlement hierarchy. These places have populations of varying sizes, with the main discriminating factor being an urban population of less than 50 per cent. These are essentially rural regions (Table 1.4ac).

Table 1.2a Large non-metropolitan urban cities, towns and regions

Table 1.2b Large non-metropolitan urban cities, towns and regions (continued)

Table 1.3a Small non-metropolitan urban cities, towns and regions

Table 1.3b Small non-metropolitan urban cities, towns and regions (continued)

Table 1.4a Non-metropolitan rural towns and regions

Table 1.4b Non-metropolitan rural towns and regions (continued)

Table 1.4c Non-metropolitan rural towns and regions (continued)

One of the goals of any piece of published research, regardless of whether it is academic or policy driven, is to contribute to a debate. The bulk of the chapters contribute to a descriptive understanding of the ways the places in which people live (local communities) have performed in socio-economic terms. Chapter seven sums up the broad findings from the book, and more importantly makes an excursion into policy. The chapter does not provide the definitive answers, nor can it be expected to. However, it does raise some of the important issues which seem to be coming out of the empirical analysis and in this way contributes to contemporary policy debate.


In undertaking to write this book, it was evident that the bulk of the methodological issues would be of little interest to all but a relatively small proportion of the potential audience. As such the main chapters are free of methodological discussion, except where it seemed necessary to provide clarity. This section sets out some of the basic issues regarding the approach used. This can be skipped by those readers merely interested in the broad patterns and outcomes. Further details of the methodology can be found in research articles by Fraley and Raftery (2002), Masson and Loftus (2003) and by Baum et al. (in press).1

The basic task of the analysis presented in this book is to develop typologies of places (local communities, cities, towns and regions) by grouping places, based on similar social and economic characteristics, in a meaningful way and then determining differences between the groups of places. This gives us for each level of analysis (metropolitan regions, large non-metropolitan cities and towns, small non-metropolitan cities and towns and rural regions) a set of indicators with which to compare and contrast. Technically, the method groups places together using a clustering technique (m-clust) (Fraley and Raftery 2002) and then uses graphs of the 95 per cent confidence intervals on the means to determine the differences between clusters (Masson and Loftus 2003).

The analyses undertaken in this study have been conducted across four distinct levels of geographic aggregation:


  • the metropolitan city regions
  • large non-metropolitan urban towns, cities and regions
  • small non-metropolitan urban towns, cities and regions
  • rural towns and regions

In determining the appropriate unit of analysis to account for the localities we are interested in we were confronted by a choice of aggregation levels. Australian Bureau of Statistics data are available at levels of aggregation from collectors districts (CDs) to state – and national – level data. However, as we have also used data from other sources, a level of aggregation that allowed a common unit was needed. Given this, Statistical Local Areas (SLA) were our chosen unit of analysis.2

A range of variables are included in the analysis (Table 1.5). Much of the data came from the Australian Census conducted in 2001, although some others were sourced from other areas, such as the Australian Taxation Office or data from the Department of Family and Community Services. The majority of the data applies to the latest census year, 2001, however other data has been used that relates to census data in 1991. In the case of supporting data contained with each chapter more recent material (since 2001) has been sourced.

Table 1.5 Variables used in analysis

The major focus of the analysis is what has happened in terms of socio-economic outcomes taken at one point in time. However, we also wanted to include some consideration of change and for this we have used two indicators. The first indicator accounts for economic change and measures changes in the presence of employed persons in an area, and the second accounts for aspects of population change. For the metropolitan regions a measure accounting for residential mobility has been included, while for non-metropolitan regions a measure of the change in population numbers has been included.

Economic outcomes are considered in the first instance to be among the most important drivers of difference noted in this book. We use indicators of occupation, education level or human capital, industry of employment, the level of workforce engagement and income and wealth. Our indicators of occupation cover the extremes of occupational classes and might be considered to reflect important changes in the occupational characteristics of the Australian workforce. The two measures are:


  • Educated professionals made up of persons employed as professionals, managers and paraprofessionals with post-secondary school qualifications in sciences, social sciences or business.
  • Vulnerable occupations comprising labourers, tradespersons and elementary clerical workers without any post-school qualification.

Our measure of human capital is a simple one. We measure low levels of formal human capital by taking the proportion of people with a low level of education (year ten or less).

To distinguish between major industry classifications the indicators included in this analysis followed an earlier classification by O’Connor and Healy (2001). Several broad industry categories are included:


  • new economy (property services, business services, finance and insurance, communications, printing, publishing and recording media)
  • old economy (food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing, textile clothing footwear and leather manufacturing, wood and paper product manufacturing, petroleum, coal, chemical and associated product manufacturing, non-metallic mineral product manufacturing, metal product manufacturing, machinery and equipment manufacturing)
  • mass goods and services (gas, water and electricity services, food retailing, personal and household goods retailing, motor vehicle retailing and services, government administration, defence, education, health, community services)
  • mass recreation (accommodation, cafes, and restaurants, motion pictures, radio, and television services, libraries, museums and the arts, sport and recreation).
  • distribution and transport (basic material wholesaling, machinery and motor vehicle wholesaling, personal and household goods wholesaling, road transport, rail transport, water transport, air and space transport, other transport, services to transport and storage)
  • construction (general construction and construction and trade services)
  • agriculture
  • mining.

Apart from occupation and industry, we also consider the level of workforce engagement. The extent to which people are participating in the labour force is included (labour-force participation) as are indicators of those disconnected from work (unemployment and youth unemployment). We also include an indicator of part-time employment.

An obvious measure to include in an analysis of advantage and disadvantage is income. Here income is measured using the ratio of high-income households to low-income households and the average level of wages. Over and above these measures, two additional indicators, which might provide an indication of wealth, are also included. The two measures are the level of imputation credits earned and the amount of bank interest received. Two measures are included that account for income support – the percentage of persons who receive rental assistance and the percentage of people receiving aged pensions.

Several measures accounting for household, family and demographic characteristics that may be implicated in advantage and disadvantage were also included. One measure, non-earner families, accounts for the presence of households with children where no parent is employed. A measure accounting for single-parent families is also included, as is a measure of age dependency (older persons compared to the working age population). Two measures accounting for ethnicity are included. These are the percentage of people who arrived in Australia between 1996 and 2001 (recent arrivals) and the percentage of people who have poor English skills. In addition, the analysis of non-metropolitan regions also included a variable accounting for the presence of Indigenous persons.

The final variables included in the analysis were associated with housing. Four measures were included, two accounting for tenure - home owners and public renters - and two accounting for households suffering from financial stress associated with housing. Households are considered to be in housing financial stress if they are low-income and are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs (rent or mortgage repayments).


1     Baum, S; Haynes, M; van Gellecum, Y; Han, J. H. ‘Advantage and disadvantage across Australia’s extended metropolitan regions: A typology of socio-economic outcomes’. Urban Studies (in press).

2     While SLAs were used in most cases, we have also combined SLAs to make them more suitable for the analysis undertaken. This happened most often when a metropolitan city region or regional city had a large number of SLAs all with small population counts or when the combination of SLAs gave a more meaningful geographic unit. This resulted in a number of aggregated metropolitan localities for Brisbane, Canberra and Darwin and aggregated non-metropolitan towns and regions for the Gold Coast, Maroochy, Toowoomba, Noosa, Townsville, Thuringowa, Cairns, Newcastle, Shoalhaven, Coffs Harbour, Hastings, Inverell, Ballarat, Swan Hill, Greater Bendigo, Launceston and Alice Springs. For Brisbane and Darwin SLAs were combined to represent Local Council Electoral Wards, while for Canberra Statistical Sub Divisions are used.


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Cite this chapter as: Baum, Scott; O’Connor, Kevin; Stimson, Robert. ‘Introduction’. Fault Lines Exposed. Melbourne: Monash University ePress; 2005. pp. 01.1–01.22.


Fault Lines Exposed: Advantage and Disadvantage Across Australia’s Settlement System

   by Scott Baum, Kevin O’Connor & Robert Stimson