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Strategy 2020: Goal 4

Improve the wellbeing of those experiencing extreme vulnerability.

Sarmed Yassin came to Australia as a refugee with his family when he was a child. He’s now a leader of the multicultural community in Shepparton, Victoria, and volunteers with Red Cross to help school students understand what it’s like to seek asylum. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Lara Cole


500,000 Australians are connected to and supported by the community to overcome their deep social exclusion

We will support and connect those at the extreme edge of need, those people and communities most at risk of deep social exclusion. We will be helping people who are experiencing such severe social exclusion and disengagement that it reduces their access, opportunity, choices, resources, social networks and life chances. These are people who are falling between the service cracks. The focus will be on early intervention and prevention, and we will leverage our volunteer network to help us.

The wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has improved by 20%

We will help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including young parents and children, who are currently over-represented in a range of health and wellbeing indicators of disadvantage. These include indicators such as contact with the criminal justice system, high suicide rates, health status and not completing schooling to Y12. Giving young people support through early intervention and prevention will bring long-term benefits, and together we can be part of positive generational change.

Migrants in transition have their humanitarian needs met and are participating in and included in Australian society

We will help people made vulnerable by migration. This includes recent arrivals who are seeking asylum; living below the poverty line; in immigration detention; separated from family overseas; on temporary protection visas; and those who have been trafficked or are at risk of exploitation. We will work with the sector, authorities and communities to address the humanitarian needs of those most at risk. This will be done through direct support services, partnerships and referrals, as well as advocacy and the development of long-term solutions that promote social connection and cohesion in Australia.

There has been a 50% improvement in community determined indicators in up to 20 of the most vulnerable communities in Australia

We will work in communities most impacted by complex intergenerational issues, such as child abuse, family and community violence, poverty, housing stress, alcohol and drug abuse, trauma and mental health issues. This is about long-term intensive, interagency action and collaboration to address postcode poverty in Australia. We will use a place-based community development approach – which focusses on a community’s strengths and capacity, rather than on issues faced by individuals. We are already doing this work in 10 communities, and will consider adding up to 10 more.

Australian governments are directing into justice reinvestment at least 50% of savings delivered by a 10% reduction in Australian prison numbers

We’re asking all Australian governments to adopt an approach called ‘justice reinvestment’ to help tackle the causes of crime. Crime rates are not growing but our prison numbers are, and our prisons are failing to deliver effective justice, social or economic outcomes. Over the next five years we want to see a 10% reduction of the number of people in prison, and at least half of the savings this would bring redirected into community based prevention and diversionary programs. Justice reinvestment will lead to lower crime and incarceration rates, reduced prison costs and stronger, safer communities.


When we talk about deep social exclusion we’re talking about our core work supporting people in critical need – those who are most excluded in our communities.

Our focus will be on working with people and communities experiencing deep disadvantage. You won’t see us competing in mainstream spaces, where there are multiple providers and crowded markets. Instead, we will work with people experiencing such severe social exclusion and disengagement that it reduces their access, opportunity, choices, resources, social networks and life chances. These are people who are falling between the service cracks.

In the coming months we will be focusing the energy and expertise of Red Cross people on working out how we can meet this goal.

The ways and means we use to support those in need is in constant flux. Across the not-for-profit sector we are seeing a move away from traditional models where one group designs and delivers programs, to a model where diverse groups partner up to co-design services, sharing their resources and skills for greater impact.

We won’t be able to achieve our targets without the help of our volunteers, supporters, other not-for-profit organisations and the wider community. We alone cannot, and should not, be the sole agent of change and humanitarian action. And more and more in the future we will be partnering with others to make a greater impact.

Here we are talking about people made vulnerable by migration – there are many groups of people we are talking about and there is no one term that describes them all. Migrants in transition are those who have been forced by circumstance from their own country and who are vulnerable. They include people such as those seeking asylum, refugees, and people who have been trafficked, or used as forced labour.

We know there’s a clear association between community health and wellbeing, and location; so to really change lives, it makes sense to target areas impacted by high levels of complex, multi-generational disadvantage.

We have already adopted a place-based approach in 10 Australian communities (Kalgoorlie, Katherine, Tiwi Islands, Daly River, Woorabinda, Kempsey, Wallaga Lake, Horsham, Bridgewater and Ceduna). We’re looking to expand this work in up to 10 more communities by 2020.

Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies around the world have a long history of working in prisons and in the area of criminal justice. Our fundamental principle of impartiality means we don’t discriminate based on people’s beliefs or actions; we focus on their need. In Australia, we seek to contribute to safer and more socially cohesive communities through getting better outcomes from more effective criminal justice systems.

With nearly 34,000 people held in Australian prisons, the impact on the lives of prisoners, their families, and communities is detrimental, inhumane and unacceptable. The continuing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and other people who experience social exclusion and disadvantage cannot continue unchallenged.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities are particularly impacted by our criminal justice system, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being incarcerated at rates 13 times greater than non-Indigenous people. There has been extraordinary recent growth in prisoner numbers among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with an 88% increase in incarceration since 2004.

With the prison population doubling in the last 20 years, and the occupancy rate of Australian prisons at 104.4%, something needs to change.

And we think it’s critical that a proportion of the savings made in the criminal justice system are re-invested into community-based programs addressing the causes of crime and keeping people out of prison in the first place.

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