The surveys were conducted under the direction of Ms. Deborah
Munns, Associate of The People for Places and Spaces, an NGO
providing assistance to the ageing poor in Sydney. The Anglican Outreach
Services assisted in locating the disadvantaged elderly for interviews, which
were conducted in eight different communities in the Sydney metropolitan area.
These were outlying communities ranging from 36 to 50 km from the city centre.
As of 1996, 12 per cent of the Australian population was aged 65 and over.
Almost one third of these were between 65 and 69, and a quarter were over 80, of
whom two thirds were women. Many of the elderly live alone: 27% of those between
65-79, and 45% of those over 80. Older Australians have very high rates of home
ownership-over three fourths of people over 60 are homeowners. However, property
taxes and home maintenance costs exceed 25% of the family income of the poorest
older persons dependent on government pensions.
As Sydney is within the State of New South Wales, it is governed
by National, State and local government levels, and older people receive
different services from each level. The National government issues aged and
disability pensions; the State provides public transport subsidies; and the
State and local governments provide older health services and other social
17 interviews in 7 different communities were completed. Each of
these communities has a high rate of air and water pollution, particularly dust,
as the climate is dry. Although most suburbs are serviced by trains, most poor
older people can only reach hospitals and other public services by public
The population interviewed was mostly female (9 women and 4
men), and mostly between the ages of 70-79, with 3 over 80. None worked and all
receive government pensions. Only 5 owned their dwelling, whereas 8 rented. Only
one lived in a congregate home. 6 lived alone and another 6 with their spouses.
5 had families in addition to spouses. 6 persons claimed that their housing
costs exceeded 30% of their incomes; 4 of these said they paid over 50%. Most
have no extra income, living only on their savings and government pensions.
All of those interviewed have indoor piped water and none
complained about lack of sanitary facilities. 10 had indoor private toilets and
baths; 4 had only outdoor bath/showers. All noted public waste disposal, street
cleaning and lighting, and police/fire protection.
Complaints received generally related to the community
environment, lack of safety, poor public transport and living costs. Half had
difficulty in walking, and over a third in their sight or hearing ability. Seven
used crutches or wheelchairs.
Most complaints were that their dwellings had inadequate living
space, even though one-third of their homes had over 5 rooms. Other complaints
related to lack of health services, poor access to dwellings, inadequate
transport and poor