By Angela Dorizas
The Federal Government has launched its national statement on social inclusion to overcome the challenges faced by Australia’s most disadvantaged.
The statement, A Stronger, Fairer Australia, was launched by Minister for Social Inclusion, Julia Gillard, at the inaugural Social Inclusion Conference in Melbourne.
In a speech to the conference, Ms Gillard said the provision of opportunities, resources, capabilities and responsibilities would ensure that no Australian is left behind.
She said the social inclusion statement set out a new approach to break down the barriers preventing disadvantaged Australians from getting a ‘fair go’.
“Helping people overcome these obstacles demands a concerted, coordinated effort from government, business, not for profits and community organisations – all working in partnership to give every Australian the opportunities and resources they need to develop their own skills and capacity recognising that people, families and communities are best placed to shape their own futures.”
Ms Gillard said the principle of social inclusion had underpinned a number of recent reforms, including early childhood education and schools, social housing, the pension system and Indigenous affairs.
The Government has also announced funding for independent financial institutions to provide individuals and organisations excluded from mainstream banks and services with access to loans.
“Financial inclusion goes hand in hand with social inclusion which is why financial independence is critical,” Ms Gillard said.
“Today I can announce that the Australian Government is providing an additional $7.5 million to pilot approaches for developing a Community Development Financial Institution sector in Australia.”
How Australia is faring
The Government’s statement follows the release of a report by the Australian Social Inclusion Board, Social inclusion in Australia: How Australia is faring.
Chair of the Board, Patricia Faulkner, presented findings of the report at the Social Inclusion Conference.
The report found that 5 per cent of Australians aged 15 years and over experience three or more types of disadvantage and social exclusion.
It also found that disadvantage in one area was often associated with disadvantage in other respects. Low income households, for example, often had poorer health and difficulty in accessing essential services.
Of people with low incomes, 35 per cent reported fair or poor health compared to 7 per cent of high income earners.
It also found that people living in areas of low socioeconomic status tended to be less involved in various aspects of community life.
The Social Inclusion Board said governments needed to address social exclusion because it was “the fair thing to do” and had the potential to improve the well-being of all through:
- eliminating the threats to security and harmony that arise from excluding groups in our society;
- improving economic performance by allowing everyone to make a contribution;
- and enhancing pride in being a society which not only values fair treatment and opportunity, but actually works hard to achieve it.
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