The Southern Melbourne Area Partnership covers an area of approximately 1,820 square kilometers and covers the local government areas of:
- Cardinia Shire Council
- Casey City Council
- Greater Dandenong City Council.
The area has a diverse and growing population. Many of the area’s population were born overseas and more people from overseas – including through the Australian Government’s refugee resettlement program – settle in Southern Melbourne than the state average.
The Southern Melbourne Area is a vibrant community and economy with a mix of residential areas, large activity centres, extensive industrial precincts and green wedge land. But there are also pockets of socioeconomic disadvantage.
The Southern Melbourne Area is home to about 520,000 people with an average household size of 2.6 people (2011).
The area’s actual and projected population growth is one of the highest in the state. The annual population increase in the Southern Melbourne Area from 2004-2014 was 3%, well above the state average of 1.7%. The projected annual population growth for 2014-2024 is 2.7% with a projected population for 2024 of 678,430, with most of this growth in the 25-44 and 45-64 age groups.
A bit over one third of people in the Southern Melbourne Area are aged between 0-24 years and about one in five people are aged 0-14 years. The area has about 85,000 families and about 65% of these families have children aged under 15. About 11% of families with children have a low incomes compared to the state average of 8.7%.
People of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin comprise 0.6% of the total area population, which is close to the state average of 0.9%.
The vast majority of children in the Southern Melbourne Area have good health (97.5%)1. Good health in the early years has a positive influence on how children develop, grow and learn. Nine out of ten children (89.8%) are fully immunised by 27 months of age. However, the number of children attending their 3.5 year old maternal and child health checks is below state average with 60.2% attending, compared to the state average of 66.1%.
The Southern Melbourne Area is a safe environment for most children with 93.7% of parents with children age under 13 years of age saying their neighbourhood is safe. However, family violence is a real problem in the Southern Melbourne Area. In 2013/2014, the rate was 14 incidents per 1000 population. Children were present in one in three of these incidents.
Also, a large number of children who live in the Southern Melbourne Area are clients of the child protection system - many of these children have been placed in out-of-home care because of an unacceptable risk of harm in their family home.
Access to early learning plays a crucial role in getting children ready for primary school. In Southern Melbourne, 60.2% of children are read to by an adult every day. Kindergarten participation is high in the area with 99.2% of children attending kinder, above the state average of 98.1%.
Children’s developmental vulnerability when they start school is a real challenge in the Greater Dandenong local government area with 14.2% of children developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains at school entry (ranging from 11.8% to 17.8%) – this is significantly above the state average (9.9%).
90.3 % of people 19 years old have completed year 12 in the area. Most students in grade 5 and 6 report (about 78%) report feeling connected to their school, but this is below the state average of 84.8%. Fewer students in years 7 and 9 say they feel connected to school (61.9%).
The vast majority of young people in Southern Melbourne keep out of trouble. But some very vulnerable young people in the area are engaging in high risk behaviour and criminal offending above the state average. While the overall number of violent offences committed by these young people remains small, this offending has understandably generated significant public concern.
Data sources include:
1 Victorian Child Health and Wellbeing Survey: Number of children aged 0 to 13 years of age who are reported to have ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ health.