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Two million Australians have felt isolated and at risk of harm

Thursday March 1, 2007

Ten per cent of Australians--or 2 million people--have felt isolated and at risk of harm at some time over the past five years, according to an Australian Red Cross survey.

Meanwhile, eight per cent--or 1.7 million people--said they had no-one to turn to in their local area for essential support if affected by a crisis or emergency.

The survey aimed to identify the scale of 'everyday emergencies' in the Australian community and determine who people would turn to in their local area in the event of a crisis. Results are being released for the launch of the Red Cross Calling Appeal on Thursday, 1 March.

Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner said the isolation and risk of harm felt by young people in particular, was alarming.

The survey showed that 15 per cent of 18-29-year-olds had felt isolated and at risk of harm over the past five years, compared with 10 per cent of those aged 30-49 and nine per cent of those aged over 50.

Experienced a crisis of some kind:
18-29: 50%, 30-49: 36%, Over 50: 42%

Drug or alcohol emergency:
18-29: 13%, 30-49: 6%, Over 50: 5%

Confined to home for an extended period:
18-29: 13%, 30-49: 15%, Over 50: 23%

Feeling isolated and at risk of harm:
18-29: 15%, 30-49: 10%, Over 50: 9%

Experience of a crisis involving a drug and alcohol emergency was also highest among the 18-29 year old age group, with 13 per cent of young Australians encountering this type of emergency at some time in the past five years--more than double the rates for other age groups.

'The myth that older people feel most at risk of harm is not substantiated in these findings,' Mr Tickner said. 'While 12 per cent of retirees feel this way, the feeling is highest among unemployed and younger Australians.'

The survey also revealed that, despite the commonly held belief that Australians were 'happy go lucky', a majority of Australians were pessimistic about their ability to make a difference to the level of hardship in the community.

Six in 10 Australians agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, 'There is so much hardship in the community that I sometimes feel I can't make a difference.'

Not surprisingly, people on higher incomes were more likely to feel they could make a difference than those on lower incomes.

Mr Tickner said the word 'emergency' conjured up for many the image of a large-scale disaster, for which the Red Cross was well known.

'But among us are those enduring their own personal emergencies, day in, day out,' he said.

'We must understand that their needs are as real and urgent as the often more visible victims of a large-scale disaster.

'For example, our research has shown that not only are lower paid Australians struggling to make financial ends meet, they are more likely to experience crises in their lives,' he said. 'And one in four of those on the lowest income levels say they would turn to a community organisation as a source of support in a time of crisis.'

Other key findings:

Someone to turn to:

  • One in three Australians would have no immediate family to turn to in their local area to provide essential support if they were affected by a crisis or emergency.
  • Close to half of all Australians would not have close friends to turn to locally, in the event of a crisis.

Personal Crises:

  • Over the past five years, almost 20 per cent of Australians have needed first aid assistance.
  • Over the past five years, close to 20 per cent of Australians have been confined to their home for extended periods due to serious illness or injury.
  • Over the past five years, 15 per cent of Australians have needed regular transport to attend medical appointments.

The survey results reflect the high levels of demand for a number of services provided by Red Cross, including:

  • save-a-mate: teaches young people how to recognise, prevent and respond to a drug or alcohol-related emergency
  • Telecross: volunteers make daily caring calls to people who are isolated and at risk, providing reassurance and personal contact
  • First Aid: a leading provider of first aid training to individuals and industry

Red Cross has a presence in almost every city and town across the country. It is part of the largest humanitarian organisation in the world, with more than 100 million volunteers in 185 countries.

Red Cross Calling is Australian Red Cross' major annual appeal for funds to support its work.

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