ACOSS and Members Welcome Social Inclusion Commitment

Leaders in the community sector at the ACOSS National Conference in Melbourne welcomed today’s speech by Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard which committed to a Social Inclusion Agenda with targets to address poverty and disadvantage in Australia.

A national survey on social inclusion showed that the general public also strongly supported policies to increase social inclusion in Australia.

88% of respondents agreed that the Federal Government should set targets to improve the living standards of low income and disadvantaged Australians (8% didn’t agree and 4% didn’t know).

The survey also asked respondents to identify the most important areas in which the Government should set targets. The highest responses were: Health/Hospitals/Dental, Educations/Standards/Schools, Housing/Rental availability, Welfare/Financial assistance for people in poverty/Raise Pensions, Employment Assistance, Cost of Living, Income/Minimum Wage and Interest rates/economy.

The vast majority of respondents said they support Government plans and intentions for a more inclusive society, with 71% agreeing (10% disagreed, 19% did not know).

ACOSS President Lin Hatfield Dodds said:

“ACOSS warmly welcomes the commitment to a Social Inclusion Agenda with targets to address poverty and disadvantage in Australia. This approach has been adopted in 22 out of 30 OECD countries.”

ACOSS Executive Director Andrew Johnson said:

“ACOSS and Australia Fair have, for many years, been calling for a national plan with targets to address poverty and disadvantage. These calls are supported by the Australian public, with 88% supporting targets to improve the living standards for low income and disadvantaged people and 71% supporting Government plans and intentions for a more inclusive society.”

St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Dr John Falzon said:

“Australia has experienced 16 years of sustained economic growth and yet more than 1 in 10 people have been left out or pushed out of this prosperity. We look forward to the building of a truly inclusive Australia where the doors of opportunity are no longer slammed shut in the faces of people doing it tough.”

National Welfare Rights Network President Michael Raper said:

“The face of social exclusion in Australia is primarily one of people struggling daily to survive on social security as their only income. We welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to work with us to tackle the disadvantage and social isolation of these people.”

Catholic Social Services Australia Executive Director Frank Quinlan said:

“Social Inclusion is really just about a fair go. The money that the Rudd Government invests in people today is money that future governments won’t have to spend on jails, hospitals, and social programs in a decade’s time. The Federal Government has set ambitious goals, but it’s a job worth doing.”

Community Housing Federation of Australia Executive Director Carol Croce said:

“Secure and affordable housing is fundamental to social inclusion and personal stability. It promotes a sense of security and permanency that allows people to take risks in their lives, to become more involved in their community and other aspects of well-being. Social inclusion is about building homes, not just houses.”

National Shelter Chairperson Adrian Pisarski said:

“Housing and homelessness are central concerns within social inclusion. Without housing and appropriate supports it is impossible to access education, employment, health and other essential services.The Federal Government should be applauded for recognising the importance of this agenda.”

National Association of Community Legal Centres National Convenor Liz O’Brien said:

“The expertise in the community sector is a major asset to any effective social policy development. All citizens must be seen as rights holders. When people know and can exercise their rights, then they will be able to be involved in their social community responsibilities.”

The National Roundtable of Nonprofit Organisations Chair David Thompson said:

“The National Roundtable of Nonprofit Organisations welcomes the Acting Prime Minister’s announcements and comments today on the social inclusion agenda. The Federal Government recognises that Non-profit organisations have a central and significant role to play in many different ways in a wider spectum of activities which make our communities and our nation fairer and more inclusive. The Roundtable and its members relish the new opportunities presented by the social inclusion agenda to work with governments, businesses and communities to reduce the inequality gap”.

Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers said:

“Anglicare Australia is delighted that the Rudd Government is recognizing that the issue of social inclusion is a moral as well as an economic one. To hear the Acting Prime Minister describe homelessness as the “greatest moral challenge” gives us hope that we will tackle it as it deserves – by recognizing that the Australian community has a human obligation to create a socially inclusive society. We look forward to working with the Federal Government on this agenda.”

The Salvation Army’s Communications Director, Major Brad Halse, said:
“The Salvation Army welcomes strongly the commitments made today by the Rudd Government. Coming as it does in a week of sustained public comment and debate about the shame of youth homelessness in this country, this commitment is timely in the extreme. A national Social Inclusion Agenda, with accountable targets, is vital to an increased sense of social justice in this country.”

Australian Federation of Disability Organisations CEO Jeremy Muir said:
“People with disability are extremely happy about the Federal Government’s commitment to address social exclusion on a population basis, as well as a geographic basis. Social inclusion for people with disability is about having the chance to take part in the full range of life’s experiences. People with disability look forward to contributing at each stage to the success of this historic initiative.”

Homeslessness Australia Executive Officer Simon Smith said:

“We welcome the commitment to addressing homelessness as part of the Social Inclusion Agenda. Let’s hope that in years to come this opportunity is realised, and no one experiences the exclusion that comes with homelessness.”