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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 2 Hansard (12 February) . . Page.. 780..


MS BRESNAN (continuing):

In the ACT, the community sector also currently faces enormous challenges in relation to the Indigenous workforce and has great difficulty recruiting and retaining Indigenous workers. Their role is critical, both to ensure the cultural appropriateness of delivery for Indigenous service users and to make the workplace a culturally safe place for other Indigenous workers. I repeat that this information was released before the impact of the global economic crisis had been felt. In the harsher economic climate we are now experiencing, the pressure is even greater on those with limited resources delivering services to an increasing number of people who are affected by job losses, rent increases, rising food prices and homelessness.

Low-income households make up to 13 per cent of the ACT's population, a figure which is often not recognised given this city's reputation for affluence. These are the people who suffer the most in terms of insecure housing, financial stress, poor access to health services, transport and crisis support. It is this group that is generally first affected when there are job losses and, hence, the demand for assistance in this area will most definitely rise. There is the additional concern that increased job losses will cause more families to slip into the low-income category, therefore increasing the demand on community service delivery.

The ageing population is also being confronted with the additional challenges associated with diminishing superannuation returns and the need to manage on reduced income: return to the workforce to supplement income or rely on community support.

Research undertaken by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling for the ACT Council of Social Service in 2008, released last week, shows that low-income ACT households devote more of their expenditure, almost 70 per cent, to necessities such as housing, electricity, food and transport. That is more than for average ACT households. A reduction in or loss of income for this group will place additional pressure on community organisations to provide assistance.

It is essential to now ensure that, in these difficult times, the community service sector is provided with the qualified staffing resources and funding to meet the challenge of assisting the disadvantaged. Community sector organisations have difficulty attracting and retaining staff and this impacts on the ability of the organisations to deliver programs and services. Low wages and poor working conditions need to be addressed to ensure the community sector employees receive wages and have conditions that are commensurate with public sector employees who have similar responsibilities. We need to ensure that close attention is paid to the needs of this group and the work they perform, when dealing with any possible reduction in funding allocations as a result of the downturn in the economy.

As the elected representatives of the ACT, we need to listen to those delivering community services as they are the ones at the coalface helping people in great need; they are the ones who work long hours in poor conditions for low pay. We need to ensure they are resourced and have the proper level of support to assist the most disadvantaged among us in the community.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (3.23): I


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