One in 10 stuck on the margins of society

About 10 per cent of Australians have been left ''profoundly marginalised'' from society by multiple disadvantages such as poverty, mental illness, isolation, lack of education and climate change, according to new research.

About 40 per cent of people identified with profound marginalisation in 2001 were in the same position a decade later, according to researchers at the University of Canberra's centre for research and action in public health.

Researcher Helen Berry said a range of interventions were needed to help people escape from isolation and poverty, including free access to family planning services and abortion.

Professor Berry, a psychiatric epidemiologist, will on Monday publicly outline findings from a study that used data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey.

It seemed that some people were being pushed to the margins of society with no way of finding a pathway back, Professor Berry said.

''A whole lot of factors conspire to make things really, really tough on some people,'' she said. ''The consequences of that are really profound for every aspect of their lives: their health, their wellbeing, their employment, their education and their children.''


Professor Berry said isolation made it extremely difficult for people to get their lives back on track.

''People get really isolated and when that happens they don't have the connections and contacts and pathways back,'' she said.

The research found that about 13 per cent of Australians were profoundly marginalised in 2001. But 10 years later the lives of 60 per cent of this group - people who tended be less marginalised than other people in the same category, older and male - had improved.

Gaining full-time work helped, as did gaining a university degree, but not a diploma or certificate.

Professor Berry said women who found a male partner were more likely to escape marginalisation but the lives of marginalised women who fell pregnant were unlikely to improve. ''Marginalised women who got pregnant during that decade had a massively elevated risk of staying marginalised,'' she said.

Professor Berry said long-term interventions, including welfare services and access to education, were needed.

''These are people you have to stick with for the really long term but they can and do get out, so that investment can be made,'' she said.

''Things like making family planning, including abortion, freely available is a really good thing.

''Not that you want to get into social engineering - I don't mean that. These women don't want to be pregnant, they don't want to have more kids, and if they do it was disastrous for their future.''

Professor Berry said people who were marginalised or lived in isolated areas were more likely to be traumatised by natural disasters, such as the Queensland floods and cyclone.

''What you find is that the same dose of exposure gives you about twice the rate of impact,'' she said.

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