Northern Rivers Social Development Council chief executive Tony Davies.
Northern Rivers Social Development Council chief executive Tony Davies.

Regional people disadvantaged by lack of access to services

THE wealth divide between city and country has been highlighted in a new report that shows Australians living in rural and regional areas are severely disadvantaged in their access to basic services.

The report was commissioned by the National Rural Health Alliance and ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service) and found access to work, education, health services and other infrastructure was poorer for those outside metropolitan areas.

CEO of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council Tony Davies said the findings in the ACOSS report echo what they found in the Northern Rivers Social Profile report earlier this year.

He pointed to the high cost of housing in the Northern Rivers as a primary cause for social disadvantage.

"Housing costs on the Far North Coast are very high by comparison (to other regional areas) and are in fact approaching that of many capital cities. Rental costs on the coast are comparable to Brisbane, which pushes up housing costs inland as well," he said.

Mr Davies said 38% of people in the Northern Rivers experience rental stress, compared with the state average of 26%.

"Incomes are lower here, so the cost of living is a real issue because of housing and the lack of public transport.

"Government social policy needs to address the needs of regional areas where there is a far higher proportion of people living in poverty and where there are health, education and unemployment consequences far higher than for people living in metropolitan areas."

Mr Davies said there was a worrying trend for governments to move funding for social programs towards fewer, larger providers."



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