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A Profile of Western Australia

2. A Profile of Western Australia

Map of WA

This chapter provides a profile of Western Australia based on current statistical and other data, with a focus on issues of disadvantage and poverty.

In its “Back to the future” report of 2016, the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) found that:

The resources boom in Western Australia led to an unprecedented growth in employment, wages and economic growth for the state. Demand for skilled workers drew many to Western Australia to share in the state’s growth story...

But high and rising incomes posed risks too, of creating a society of have’s and havenot’s. Income inequality rose substantially in Western Australia over the course of the resources boom, and by more than for the rest of Australia. Costs of living, especially housing costs, tracked to the rising trend in incomes, not just in Perth but in the resource-rich regional areas of WA. All this meant that the poorest WA households, particularly those reliant on welfare pensions and payments, failed to keep pace even with those on ‘typical’ median incomes.

Now that WA has passed the height of the resources boom, is there evidence of a reversal in the rising inequality trend? The evidence in this report confirms a fall in overall inequality in Western Australia since 2009-10. Interestingly, most of the action is at the bottom end of the income distribution. The incomes of the poorest 10 per cent of households in Western Australia are now closer to those of the median household. Yet the spread of incomes at the top end of the distribution appears no less unequal than at the end of the boom…

In fact, wealth inequality has actually risen slightly in Western Australia in the last two years. The wealthiest 20 per cent of households now account for 65 per cent of all household net wealth, while the poorest 20 per cent hold less than 1 per cent. The gap may be closing at the lower end, but there are no strong signs that we are moving towards a more egalitarian society. FootnoteBankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Back to the future: Western Australia’s economic future after the boom (2016) 86 (accessed 25 July 2017).

Other studies have shown that social disadvantage in Western Australia is geographically concentrated, particularly in some regional locations, and tends to be entrenched across a number of indicators, such as prison admissions, low levels of education, and high levels of disability support and unemployment. FootnoteVinson T, Rawsthorne M, Beavis A & Ericson M, Dropping Off The Edge 2015: Persistent Communal Disadvantage in Australia (2015) (accessed 3 August 2017).

Social and economic disadvantage is often associated with membership of one or more of the various groups the subject of this Bench Book and often coincides with disadvantage in the legal system.

The Steering Committee overseeing the production of the second edition of this Bench Book gratefully acknowledges the submissions and contributions of the following which have assisted in the revision of this chapter:

  • Ruah Community Services (13 December 2016)

  • Professor Carol Bower, Head of Alcohol and Pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research, Telethon KIDS Institute (8 December 2016)

  • Street Law Centre WA Inc (December 2016).

Last updated: 1-Sep-2017

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