Bordering New South Wales to the north and the Victorian Alps in the south and east, the Ovens Murray Area spans seven local government areas:
- Alpine Shire Council
- Benalla Rural City Council
- Indigo Shire Council
- Mansfield Shire Council
- Towong Shire Council
- Wangaratta Rural City Council
- Wodonga City Council.
It has a thriving economy and features high quality food and wine production, heritage towns, regional tourism assets and iconic tracks and trails. Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla are also strong manufacturing centres. But there are also pockets of socioeconomic disadvantage throughout the area.
The Ovens Murray Area is home to about 120,000 people with an average household size of 2.4 people (2011). The annual population increase in the Ovens Murray Area from 2004-2014 was 0.5%, well below the state average of 1.7%. The projected annual population growth for 2014-2024 is 0.9% with a projected population for 2024 of 131,148.
Almost one third (30.9%) of people in the area are aged between 0-24 years and about one in five (19.0%) people are aged 0-14 years. The area has over 17,500 families with 67% of families including children aged 15 years and younger. About 9.5% of families with children have a low income compared to the state average of 8.7%.
The percentage of people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin is among the highest in Victoria, with 1.5 % of the total population being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, compared to the state average of 0.9%. The Aboriginal child population of about 800 makes up approximately 2.7 % of the total Ovens Murray child population.
Volunteering rates in Ovens Murray are high with 27.8% of people giving up their spare time to help out others.
The vast majority of children in Ovens Murray Area are healthy and well (98.1%).[i] A child’s health in their early years has a positive influence on how they develop, grow and learn. In Ovens Murray Area 72.3% of children attend their 3.5 year old maternal and child health check, compared to the state average of 66.1% - participation is highest in Towong LGA (91.8%) and lowest in Mansfield LGA (59.9%). Nine out of ten children (90.5%) are fully immunised by 27 months of age.
The Ovens Murray Area provides a safe environment for most children with 97.6% of parents with children aged under 13 years of age saying their neighbourhood is safe.1 However, family violence is a serious problem in the Ovens Murray Area. It has one of the highest rates of family violence in the state (in 2013/2014 the rate was 15.9 incidents per 1000 population). Family violence rates are significantly above the state average in Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga. In 2013, parents in the Ovens-Murray reported 5.5% of children had witnessed violence.
Access to early learning plays a crucial role in getting kids ready for primary school. In Ovens Murray Area about three out of four children have an adult in their life who reads to them every day. In 2015, 93.3% of eligible children in the area participated in kindergarten below the state average of 97.9%.
Children’s developmental vulnerability when they start school is a challenge in the Ovens Murray Area, with 10.5% of children developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains at school entry and about one in 20 children start school with emotional or behavioural problems.
In 2014, 80.8% of people 19 years or older had completed Year 12 in the Ovens Murray Area, well below the state average of 88.2%. Most students in grade 5 and 6 (82.3%) report feeling connected to their school and 57.7% students in year 7 to 9 say they feel connected to school – this is higher than the state average of 62.3%.
Data sources include:
1Victorian Child Health and Wellbeing Survey: Number of children aged 0 to 13 years of age who are reported to have ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ health.