Place-based approaches to disadvantage

Using people-centered evidence to shape policy strategy and implementation: new approaches to data analysis and stakeholder co-design from the Department of Social Services
Friday 27 July, 1155 – 1215


Phil Brown
Department of Social Services


Research has shown us that place is important in shaping people’s lives. The Department of Social Services’ Place-based Approach to Disadvantage approach is a guide for policy development and program design, to improve how the Department supports communities in overcoming locational disadvantage.

Complex community disadvantage results from an interplay between the characteristics of people living in a community and the effect of social and environmental factors within the community. This presents challenges for policy makers who may be unable to identify the multi-dimensional dynamics operating within disadvantaged communities, and therefore may not understand the approaches required to achieve real and long-lasting change.

Increasingly, place-based approaches are considered an appropriate (and often preferred) way to address concentrated geographical disadvantage.

Key findings from research that underpin the Department’s approach are:
• within Australia, disadvantage is clustered in certain geographical locations;
• disadvantage can take many different forms;
• place-based approaches are most effective where there are multi-faceted and complex forms of disadvantage that require a systemic response; and
• that close and sustained collaboration with communities is essential to understand the nature, extent and drivers of disadvantage.

The policy approach sets out the guiding principles and decision-making steps to identify and design local, workable solutions; to engage stakeholders; and improve the community’s capacity to respond based on current evidence about locational disadvantage.