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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Plea for new government to prioritise social justice

Despite the unknown final makeup of the tenth ACT Legislative Assembly, not for profit ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has urged Labor and the Greens to prioritise social justice policies in any upcoming parliamentary agreement negotiations.

Prior to the election, ACTOSS published 12 major policy areas for candidates to respond to; their biggest priorities were social housing, community services, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander self-determination, and alleviating poverty and reducing inequality through targeted support for low-income households.

ACTOSS chief executive officer Dr Emma Campbell said they hoped the “policy reset” called for by Greens leader Shane Rattenbury would engage ACTOSS’s key priorities and form part of a comprehensive plan for a “just and fair Canberra”.

“So far, the party that appears to have made the greatest relative gains is the ACT Greens,” Dr Campbell said.

“We are pleased to see that the ACT Greens have reflected many of ACTCOSS’s priorities in their policy platform in areas including housing, community services, planning, justice and transport.  

“The next parliamentary agreement must address the urgent need for investment in social housing.

“There is currently a shortfall of over 3,000 social housing dwellings in the ACT as people on low-incomes and receiving income support are effectively locked out of the private housing market.”

ACTCOSS is a member of the advisory committee overseeing a two-year Housing First program introduced last year by the ACT Government, CatholicCare and St Vincent de Paul.

“ACTCOSS is supportive of the Housing First model which allows a multidisciplinary team of support workers to address the complex needs of tenants through services like drug and alcohol counselling or mental health treatment,” Dr Campbell said.

Another key policy area for ACTCOSS is investment in the community services workforce, which is  80% comprised of female workers.

“This is a critical component of a gender-led recovery alongside broader action to support more women in education and employment.

“For example, research by the Australia Institute shows that investment in childcare pays for itself by allowing more women to work and by creating jobs in the childcare sector. This leads to economic growth and increased contributions via taxation.”

Dr Campbell said Aboriginal community-controlled organisations needed specific support and investment from the new term of government.

“The next ACT Government needs to consult with the Ngunnawal people and all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT on policies that impact on their lives. This includes investment in celebrating and protecting Ngunnawal land and culture.

“The next ACT Government must work with the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community to address the systemic failures for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children involved with child protection in the ACT.

“These are some of the key areas in which action will be needed to properly address poverty, inequality, and the cost of living for low-income households or who face disadvantage in the ACT,” she said.

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