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An eye on the community

Chris Morcom
Partner/Private Client Adviser
24 Oct 2017

As a Financial Adviser I attend a lot of conferences. But the conference I attended last week had little to do with dividends and investment portfolios and everything to do with a social conscience at a grass roots, community level. 

Last week I attended the National Community Foundation Forum*, a gathering of community foundations from around Australia.

Firstly, what is a community foundation? Community foundations are independent, localised community focussed philanthropic organisations. In a nutshell they are local people giving time, skills and money for the benefit of their own community.

There are nearly 40 community foundations in Australia and the National Community Foundations Forum is the one time in the year where all the foundations come together. Pooling their learning, gaining new insight and garnering inspiration is the objective.

The largest community foundation, by a long shot, is Melbourne’s Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation (LMCF). And last Monday they released the results from their Vital Signs 2017 research paper. 

The Vital Signs report gathers data about a city from reputable sources to provide a snapshot of its community.  It identifies the things to celebrate and things to improve.

For the not-for-profit sector, the information provided by Vital Signs gives a clear indication of where efforts are best expended to relieve areas of most need in the community.

What did the latest Vital Signs report reveal?

The good

  • Education is a strength in Victoria, with 95% of children attending preschool, giving children a better chance of engaging with their education over the longer term. 
    • And 82% of young people finish Year 12 (compared with 55% 50 years ago).
  • 87% of children are in good health.
  • An impressive 95% of residents participate in or attend arts and cultural events.
  • Water use has dropped 22% from 10 years ago (despite a growing population).

The bad

  • Homelessness and a lack of affordable housing remains a significant challenge for Melbourne. 
    • Property prices continue to rise (the median up by 19% over the past 5 years).
    • The rental market is not much better. A person living on income support can only afford 0.7% of private rental properties.
  • A hidden problem was revealed: the number of older women “couch surfing” has increased 83% since 2012. 
  • Of the people using homeless services, more than half are under 25 years of age.
  • Employment
    • Youth (ages 15-24) unemployment remains high at 13.5%.
    • Underemployment among young people remains a problem at 18%, the highest since records began.
    • Only one third of graduates found employment within four months.
  • A significant statistic revealed in the report is the increase in people reporting discrimination based on skin colour, ethnic origin or religion – now 20%, up from 15% in 2015.  This is particularly concerning given 34% of our population were born outside Australia and nearly 1.5 million people speak a language other than English at home.
  • Environmental issues:
    • Greenhouse gasses sit around four times the global average. But positively rooftop solar is rapidly increasing – Melbourne has a take up of 14% of residential sites but we’re far behind Queensland at 29%. 
    • 44% of our waste is recycled or recovered but there remains an urgent need to reduce our waste
    • Melbourne’s food bowl continues to be under stress from the continued urban sprawl. There’s capacity to produce up to 82% of our vegetable needs (which is great) but an unchecked urban sprawl could see capacity reduced to 18% by 2050 (not so good)!

Why are community foundations important?

Removed from election and annual general meeting cycles, philanthropic foundations can take a longer-term view. This allows foundations to provide support to initiatives and to test new services or programs before government can fund them.

The National Community Foundation Forum showed there are many people willing to make a difference and focus on making Australia a better place. With a focus on clearly identifying issues in their community, and evaluating their activity, community foundations are well placed to make a long term positive difference in their respective communities.

Hewison Private Wealth has been a sponsor of this conference for a number of years and we have built a solid understanding of the issues facing communities across Australia. We are proud to be part of helping make a difference.

At Hewison Private Wealth we have also established the Hewison Foundation.  In our partnership with Sacred Heart Mission, the focus of our philanthropy is on the homelessness issue highlighted by this latest Vital Signs report, as well as assisting women through the Sacred Heart engagement hub, Women’s House.

This week we have our annual Trivia Night, proceeds of which go to the Hewson Foundation to assist in future grants to the Sacred Heart Mission.  Limited space is still available! Click for details or call Clare Blizzard in our office a call on 03 8548 4800. 

If you are seeking more information about the Vital Signs 2017 report, it can be found here.


* The national conference is run by the peak body, Australian Community Philanthropy


Hewison Private Wealth is a Melbourne based independent financial planning firm. Our financial advisers are highly qualified wealth managers and specialise in self managed super funds (SMSF), financial planning, retirement planning advice and investment portfolio management. If you would like to speak to a financial adviser on how you can secure your financial future please contact us 03 8548 4800, email info@hewison.com.au or visit www.hewison.com.auPlease note: The advice provided above is general information only and individuals should seek specialised advice from a qualified financial advisor. The views in this blog are those of the individual and may not represent the general opinion of the firm. Please contact Hewison Private Wealth for more information.