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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 13 Hansard (31 October) . . Page.. 4146..


UnitingCare Kippax anti-poverty forum

MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (4.31): Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the UnitingCare Kippax anti-poverty week forum. At the forum many issues were raised. Attendees spoke about daily challenges, including family breakdown, school bullying and precarious work. Underlying them all was the question about how we ensure that people who live at the edges of our city, whether that is geographically, economically, educationally or socially, are fully included in our community.

The case for ensuring inclusion could not be clearer. The past month has seen the publication of countless reports which clearly demonstrate the impact of economic and social inclusion on people's lives and our community. Poverty creates self-perpetuating factors for social disadvantage. It is linked to lower educational attainment, lower workforce participation, higher rates of mental illness and a wide array of other factors which themselves contribute to deepening social exclusion.

There is an important role for governments to improve our outcomes for inclusion. Speaking to my neighbours at the forum I was proud to be part of a government that is always trying new things. As we have heard multiple times, just in this sitting session, this government believes everyone should have a fair go. Whether it is families struggling to access services, workers in precarious jobs accessing their leave, LGBTI Canberrans or people with disabilities, this government knows we play a role in ensuring that they are able to fully participate in the life of our city.

Whilst I believe there is a very important role for government programs to play in ensuring the inclusion of our community's vulnerable members, what was obvious at UnitingCare was that that inclusion also comes from giving all community members a way to meaningfully participate in the decisions that affect them. Whether participants at the forum were talking about schoolyard bullying, family breakdown or income support, the thing that made people feel least included was the inability to participate in shaping the policies that affected their lives.

As the strengthening families pilot Minister Burch spoke about this morning has shown, people's experiences are not just statistics that can be addressed by a one size fits all policy. Social inclusion comes from sharing one another's stories and working together to think about shaping communities that meet all of our needs.

The forum itself was a great example of how this can be achieved. Whilst there were plenty of well-known community leaders who spoke on the day, what was clear when we broke into small groups was that everyone had as many answers as they had problems. The level of participation, community support and interest shown on the night is a testament to the success UnitingCare Kippax is having in bringing together and empowering communities in west Belconnen.

This forum was a great opportunity to come together with my neighbours, and it has given me plenty to think about in terms of how to better engage my whole community in projects and policy that will make our city more inclusive for Canberrans who are living on the edge.


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