New Report Shines Spotlight On Financial Wellbeing Of Women In Regional Victoria
The qualitative study used Seymour as a case study to understand, challenge and reframe narratives about people, place and policy, particularly as they relate to the financial wellbeing of women living in regional areas.
As a small regional town in Victoria, Seymour is often characterised as a ‘forgotten’ town with a clear division between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. The town has persistent pockets of disadvantage yet, like other regional towns, the specific challenges faced by women are often overlooked by gender-neutral approaches to planning and investment.
Drawing on interviews with women and community workers in Seymour, the report examines women’s experiences of living in the region, perceptions of what helps or hinders women’s economic security, and opportunities for change. Importantly, the report outlines an approach to flip the focus from disadvantage to opportunity.
“We know that poverty has a female face. In Australia, women have lower workforce participation rates than men, are more likely to work part time, and have low paying jobs. Regional women face added challenges caused by underinvestment in social infrastructure, like transport, childcare and public housing in those areas.
“They often also face ‘old school’ gender attitudes, reflected in the high rates of violence against women and their children,” said BSL’s Senior Researcher Dr Margaret Kabare, co-author of the report.
Dr Dina Bowman, Principal Research Fellow at BSL and co-author of the report, said the study shows the importance of adopting a gender lens.
“In order to improve women’s economic security, a multidimensional and intersectional approach is needed. Flipping the narrative about women’s economic security means shifting the focus from the individual to the structural drivers of persistent disadvantage that reinforce poverty and economic insecurity for women.”
“It’s critical that we shift from a focus on disadvantage to a focus on real opportunities, so that women can live lives they have reason to value,” said Dr Bowman.
Minster for Women, Natalie Hutchins MP praised the importance of the research.
“We must all work together to identify and reform the structures that hold women back – it’s challenging work but it’s critical and this is why we’re proud to lead and champion a strong gender equality lens across the Andrews Labor Government.
“I have no doubt this report will be a vital resource in understanding some of the unique challenges and experiences of women in regional Victoria for years to come.”
The Flip It report is part of a wider project led by BSL, called SEED, a co-designed community initiative in Seymour, to advance women’s economic security and financial wellbeing.