The Loddon Area Partnership in central Victoria covers an area over 19,000 square kilometres and spans six local government areas:
- Central Goldfields
- Greater Bendigo
- Loddon Shire
- Mount Alexander
- Macedon Ranges.
The area has a diverse and growing population, and a buoyant economy based on agriculture, retail, health, property and manufacturing. But there are also pockets of socioeconomic disadvantage.
Bendigo, one of Victoria’s largest and fastest growing regional cities, lies in the heart of the area and is a prosperous and vibrant hub of cultural and economic activity.
The Loddon Area is home to 226,640 people with an average household size of 2.5 people (2011). The area’s population is growing and expected to increase by 30,000 people by 2024, with most of this growth in the 25-44 age groups and 65-84.
Almost one third (31.4%) of people in the Loddon Area are aged between 0-24 years and about one in five people are aged 0-14 years. The area has over 33,000 families and about two thirds (66%) of these families have children aged under 15. About 10.6% of families with children have a low income compared to the state average of 8.7%. The Loddon Area has a higher proportion of children living in families of income less than $650 per week (22%) than the State average (18%).
The area has a relatively large Aboriginal population, with 1.6% of the total population being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin (compared to the state average of 0.9%).
Volunteering rates in Loddon are high with one in four people giving up their spare time to help out others.
The vast majority of children in Loddon Area are healthy and well (97.9%)1. A child’s health in their early years can have a positive influence on how they develop, grow and learn. The Loddon Area has the highest percentage of children attending the 3.5 year old maternal and child health check in Victoria, with 78.6% of all children attending this visit, compared to the state average of 66.1%. Nine out of ten children (89%) are fully immunised by 27 months of age.
The Loddon Area offers a safe environment for most children. 98% of parents with children aged under 13 years of age say their neighbourhood is safe – this is more than 2% above the state average.
Access to early learning plays a crucial role in getting kids ready for primary school. In Loddon Area more than two thirds of children (68.7%) have an adult in their life who reads to them every day. In 2015, 96.4% of eligible children in the area participated in kindergarten.
Children’s developmental vulnerability when they start school is a real challenge in the Loddon Area, with four of the six local government areas having a higher proportion of children developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains at school entry (range from 11.8% to 17.8%) than the state average (9.9%). The area also has a high number of children with emotional or behavioral problems at school entry (6.7% compared with state average 4.6%).
The area has a moderate Year 12 completion with 80.4% of people 19 years or older having completed Year 12, below the state average of 88.2%. Most students in grade 5 and 6 (84.8%) report feeling connected to their school (this is the same as the state average) but only 59.1% of students in year 7 to 9 say they feel connected to school – this is lower than the state average of 62.3%.
Data sources include:
1 Victorian 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.