Celebrated as one of the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne is now emerging from the toughest COVID‑19 lockdowns to face social, economic and environmental challenges.
According to the newly released Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2020 report, the COVID‑19 pandemic has revealed the weakest points across our socio‑economic systems and exacerbated existing social issues such as homelessness and under‑employment.
With 12.6 per cent of Melburnians now living in poverty, there is a growing concern that this will only increase.
Launched by Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2020 is a report which gathers recognised data to measure and monitor the health and wellbeing of communities in greater Melbourne. It also captures community perspectives about issues that are the most concerning and tracks community wellbeing through a range of indicators.
The Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Catherine Brown OAM said, “This year we have endured a double crisis with the Black Summer bushfires and the COVID‑19 pandemic. The impact of each disaster on communities, the economy and environment has been severe and devastating, and has exacerbated existing social issues such as poverty, affordable housing and unemployment.
“COVID‑19 has also revealed our inherent ability to adapt rapidly whilst also providing opportunities for significant systemic change previously thought impossible.”
As part of the Vital Signs report, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation partnered with The University of Melbourne for the first time to conduct a pilot community perception survey to accurately capture and understand community attitudes and perceptions during Melbourne’s COVID‑19 lockdown.
The survey results show that the top three community concerns are homelessness and housing affordability, levels of household debt and poverty.
The top three community concerns relating to the COVID‑19 pandemic include the pandemic’s impact on the short‑term economy, long‑term economy and increasing level of poverty.
The Greater Melbourne Vital Signs report shows that in July the rate of female job loss was five times the rate of male job loss.
There is also increasing concern about the mental health and wellbeing of young and older people. There has been a 33 per cent increase in self‑harm by young Australians, and of the 592 deaths from COVID‑19, 97 per cent were older people over 60 years.
Eighty per cent of medical practitioners can see the impacts of climate change and the costs of accessing health services are high because of the bushfires.
“Greater Melbourne Vital Signs provides valuable insights into the issues and challenges we face as a community as we respond to and plan for a recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic. It also highlights opportunities to rebuild our communities better than before and showcases the work that is already underway by the charitable and not‑for‑profit sector.”
Dr Brown says that as a society Melbourne’s next steps will be to combat poverty through job creation and overcoming homelessness.
“There is huge potential in job creation linked to clean technology transition and renewable energy, supporting women in trades and investing in social enterprises.
“We have proved that homelessness can be solved. We need to continue to house people who are homeless and increase the supply of social and affordable housing; and we need to continue to build community resilience.”
Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation has provided almost $2.9 million in grants to charitable organisations and not‑for‑profits to support the resilience of the sector and to scale‑up existing services.
Dr Brown believes that Melburnians have got what it takes to get through the COVID‑19 pandemic with a strong ‘can‑do’ and caring attitude.
“Although we are now faced with some tough challenges, there is also an optimistic sense of hope that we can continue the momentum experienced in our response to COVID‑19 and apply it to the post‑COVID‑19 recovery to address these challenges.
“Melbourne has already shown that positive transformation is possible.”
Download the report