COVID-19 has deepened existing inequalities, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest. It has put a spotlight on economic inequalities and fragile social safety nets that leave vulnerable communities to bear the brunt of the crisis.
– United Nations

In everything we do, from our teaching to our outreach projects, we strive towards equality and inclusion for our diverse, treasured community.

Several VU programs work directly with local government to improve access to education and employment, and provide support where it is most needed.

Research activity extends the reach of this approach, addressing global inequalities through economic and social investigation.

Goal 10: reduced inequalities

Research, engagement & education 2020-21

Research with impact

Victoria University addresses inequality in the work of the Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS) that examines economic growth for low-income and middle-income countries, and the work of the Mitchell Institute that examines social inequalities in educational opportunity and outcomes.

Florian Schiffmann from the Centre of Policy Studies joined Harsha Paranavithana from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Australian researchers to examine the International Monetary Fund policy to convert central banks to inflation targeting (IT). The researchers concluded that the spread of IT internationally tends to raise the volatility of welfare in established open economies. In particular, economic welfare is rendered more volatile in the largest, most open economy as larger developing regions transition from exchange rate targeting to IT. This suggests a potential downside from universal IT, which, while it stabilises consumer prices, tends to increase the volatility of producer prices and therefore of real output, employment and welfare.

Mark Horridge and Elizabeth Roos from CoPS looked at Indonesian efforts to use more natural gas locally, rather exporting it. Domestic users are offered natural gas at a price below the export (world) price, to encourage local usage for the purpose of 'value-adding' on the natural resource, thereby raising local GDP. It might, however, make better economic sense to export the commodity and use the additional revenue to subsidise local industry directly, rather than through cheaper inputs, and invest in key factors for prosperity such as skills, infrastructure and governance. The researchers used INDORANI – CoPS’ computable general equilibrium (CGE) model of Indonesia – to model the effect of removing the subsidy on gas. The results indicate that removing the subsidy would increase GDP. However, the gas subsidies are small compared to other distortions in the Indonesian economy. So the benefits of removing the gas subsidy is also small, unless the model assumes the subsidies lead to inefficiencies. Factoring in efficiency gains clearly results in a rise in GDP of nearly half of the value of the subsidies in the longer term. There would be more immediate benefit to the Indonesian economy by focusing on removing the larger distortions, such as the subsidies for fertiliser, electricity and gasoline use, and taxes on some imports.

CoPS researchers, Peter Dixon and Maureen Rimmer worked with Scott Farrow from the University of Maryland to estimate the cost to the U.S. economy of increased drop-out rates from high school, because of difficulty staying in school due to Covid impacts on family employment and welfare. The cost estimate was produced for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The model accounts for labor productivity, crime costs and high-school savings. Using an estimate of a 25 per cent increase in drop-out rates occurring in the two years starting September 2019, with a gradual return to pre-Covid rates in 2025, the results show a loss of 597,000 high-school graduations from cohorts entering high-school in 2016-2024. The present-value cost of this decrease in year 12 attainment is between $42 and $137 billion, depending on discount rates.

Globally, insufficient physical activity (PA) is one of the main risk factors for premature mortality. People with socio-economic disadvantage participate in lower levels of PA than those who are more affluent, and this contributes to widening health inequities. Bojana Klepac Pogrmilovic and Melinda Craike from VU, joined Sarah Linke from the University of California, San Diego, to advance a new approach to addressing levels of PA. Proportionate universalism suggests that health interventions and policies should be universal, rather than targeted, but with intensity and scale proportionate to the level of social need and/or disadvantage. The researchers use this model to propose interrelated and multi-level evidence-based policies and strategies to support PA promotion in primary healthcare, while addressing health inequities. This approach has the potential to transform the delivery of health care to a prevention-focused health service model, to reduce the prevalence and burden of chronic disease and health care costs in high-income countries.

People with disabilities have poorer physical and mental health and die sooner than their non-disabled peers. Health inequities are avoidable and violate human rights. Jerome Rachele from VU joined a team of researchers from around Australia to contribute a chapter on Social and Environmental Determinants of the Health of People with Disabilities in the Handbook on Ageing with Disability. The research in this area shows that that the inequality in health status between people with and without disability results, in part, from the increased risk of people with disabilities being exposed to some well-established social and environmental determinants of poor health. The chapter also outlines some key areas for further research.

Melissa Tham from the Centre for International Research on Education Systems looks at whether public selective intake schools, that admit students on the basis of academic merit, serve to provide fair educational opportunity for all students. The evidence is that fully selective schools actually enrol the highest proportions of socioeconomically advantaged students. Conversely, non-selective government schools have the lowest share of advantaged students and are the lowest performing. As such selective schooling does not address relative disadvantage across the regions educational system.

Jillian Marsh from Moondani Balluk, joined researchers from Australia and Sweden to evaluates Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) from Indigenous methodologies and standpoints, to determine the usefulness of S-LCA in Indigenous contexts. Life Cycle Assessment is used to measure environmental impacts connected with all stages of the life cycle of a commercial product, process, or service. S-LCA is a methodology designed to include the social aspects of sustainability in the LCA methodology. S-LCA emphasizes stakeholder involvement and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) S-LCA guidelines (2020) lists Indigenous communities as possible stakeholders. The researchers focussed on Indigenous communities in the Arctic region and comparative aspects from Australia to reflect upon the potential of S-LCA to opposing worldviews. The researchers conclude that S-LCA with some further developments can be a valuable methodology for Indigenous contexts.

Victoria University contributes to Reduced Inequalities through the Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS), the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities (ISILC) and the Victorian Institute of Strategic Economic Studies (VISES) research into investments for sustainable and inclusive development.

VISES, in conjunction with the Global Initiative on Health and the Economy, an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released a joint report on Increasing Social and Economic Benefits Globally: Rates of Return on Health Investments. The report establishes the economic return on government investment around the world in the prevention of chronic or non-communicable diseases. This is a study of health effects on productivity globally. It entails investigating health investments focused on disease conditions that are especially important for work force participation. This includes the diseases which have a high impact on absenteeism and presenteeism such as mental disorders (depression) and high burden diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases.

The Centre of Policy Studies examined The Effects on the Indian Economy of an Expansion in Financial Capital Supply to understand the impact on the Indian economy of a hypothetical rise in foreign-supplied capital to local Indian financial institution investees, and the engagement activities that might be associated with it, that might potentially improve the allocation of capital within India.


Collaborations and partnerships addressing this goal begin with local councils and universities, and extend as far as Timor-Leste.

Care-leavers have experienced removal from their parental home during childhood. There are approximately 45,000 children in care in Australia and child protection orders are growing. Care-leavers are less likely to attain educational qualifications, less likely to have good health, and are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice and mental health systems. Their participation rates in higher education are low, with care-experienced school leavers are three-times less likely to enrol in university. A joint Victoria University–Charles Sturt University project identifies the systemic barriers to higher education for young people who have been raised in out-of-home care. Co-authored by Dr Elizabeth Knight from VU’s Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES) and Dr Emma Colvin at Charles Sturt University, the report also provides options to better support these young people in equal access to higher education. The report Supporting care-experienced young people into higher education was funded by the Collier Charitable Foundation. The new research addresses equitability of access to information ─ and provides suggestions for universities, career advisers and others about how to best support care-leavers about transitions to higher education. The research includes a publicly available infographic (PDF, 4 MB), which maps barriers to opportunity for young people with care experience.

Pathways in Place: Co-Creating Community Capabilities is an innovative program of research and action to improve opportunities for children and young people in areas of disadvantage. This Program is jointly delivered by Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute and Griffith University with funding generously provided by the Paul Ramsay Foundation. The Program teams are each leading one of two complementary streams:

  1. Early learning and development pathways (children and youth 0-15 y.o.), led by Griffith University in Logan (Queensland, Australia).
  2. Pathways through education to employment (youth 15-24 y.o.), led by Victoria University in Brimbank.

The VU research team completed the area mapping of Brimbank:

  • community assets
  • stakeholders – the stakeholder register must be a “live”
  • database and continually updated as the program progresses to implementation and the program will work to strengthen and extend the multi-sector network of organisations active in the region through co-creation activities
  • a review of evidence about place based approaches. The review showed that whilst evaluations about the effectiveness of programs was patchy, there was general agreement about the keys to success – community engagement, collaboration, capacity building and evidence based practice; and, the challenges to be overcome – organisational changes, conflicting priorities and approaches of stakeholders, lack of capacity and a focus on service provision rather than community norms.  

Victoria University has a long-standing engagement with Timor-Leste and partnership with the National University of Timor-Leste, the Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’e and the Dili Institute of Technology. The Timor-Leste Strategy 2018-2020 commits Victoria University to provide educational exchange and projects to support the young nation to build its skills and capabilities.

In 2020, VU continued this engagement with a joint event 'Covid-19: Threat And Opportunity In Timor-Leste?' with an impressive list of speakers and panellists from Timor Leste and Australia, including Dr José Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate, who provided a broad overview of the contemporary political and economic situation in the nation.

VU also published the first edition of Voz Timor in 2020 to reflect on the 20th anniversary of the vote for independence, as well as the part young people are playing in working towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.


In addition to courses in social work, youth work and community development, we offer Indigenous learning in a range of degree programs.

The Bachelor of Social Work is directed to help improve people’s quality of life by equipping graduates to help others resolve social problems, and address issues of human rights, social justice and social development. The social work course provides an in-depth understanding of:

  • interpersonal and group work
  • community development
  • policy analysis
  • social research
  • social action.

The specialisation in Aboriginal Yulendj (Knowledge) and Community is a ground-breaking program managed and taught by the Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit. The specialisation to incorporate Indigenous perspectives is offered across a range of degrees.

In 2020, VU continued work with the Timor-Leste community with a joint event 'Covid-19: Threat And Opportunity In Timor-Leste?' with speakers including Dr José Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate.

Sustainability on campus

VU’s commitment reflects UNESCO's Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which states that: “cultural rights are an integral part of human rights”. VU has an intercultural approach to learning and teaching and to ensure that education is both inclusive and accessible to all students.

Research groups addressing Goal 10

Programs addressing Goal 10