Page 775 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 5 April 2022

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MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (4.26): It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Ms Orr’s motion. I know from being on committees with Ms Orr, and in hearings, that she has a genuine interest in the work of our libraries here in the ACT. Libraries are a lovely place, a special place and they have an important role in our community. As it has with many things, I am sure the pandemic will change the role of libraries in our society as well.

Even prior to the pandemic, the continuous growth of technology meant that libraries were looking to become more innovative and accessible to meet their customers’ needs. Just yesterday, there was an article in the Canberra Times with representatives from local Canberra libraries calling for help to innovate their spaces. It is the opportunity for Canberrans to talk about the future of libraries and what they would like to see.

Ms Orr’s motion today calls on the ACT government to improve digital access and inclusion through the Imagine 2030 libraries co-design process. I would like to say from the outset that the Canberra Liberals are fully supportive of this idea. We believe that improving digital access in our public libraries for all Canberrans is a positive and just step forward. Ms Orr’s motion touches on the role of libraries in improving social inclusion. So there is an opportunity to help more vulnerable groups and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds that may not have had the same access as others to technology before.

I would like to spend a bit of time specifically talking about older people. I know that the ACT government already outsources COTA to run seniors’ technology lessons in several ACT libraries, which is a great start to improving digital literacy in our older Canberrans. Thank you, COTA, for the work that you do.

Older Australians and older Canberrans started being exposed to and using the internet in the 1990s. It is never as easy to learn something when you are a bit older, whether it is a language or using a computer. There are a whole range of things that are more challenging for older people, as opposed to small children, who we see running around with their iPads. They are digital natives. Some people, depending on the stage of life in which technology became more readily available, may be better or worse. Of course, that is a mass generalisation. It does not apply across the board to everyone, but for older Australians, older Canberrans, it can be more of a challenge.

In 2021 the Australian digital inclusion index, or ADII, ranked Australians in the over 75 age group a 47.4 score, which is 23.7 points below the national average score of 71.1. Similarly, people who did not complete secondary school were also ranked poorly on the ADII, at 52.7. According to the ADII, 11 per cent of Australians are highly excluded.

What that tells us is that more can, and should, be done to improve access for First Nations Canberrans, people from multicultural backgrounds, people from low socio-economic backgrounds, people living with a disability, those who may have been incarcerated, and older Canberrans. So improving digital literacy using our Canberra libraries is important, as is putting steps in place to ensure that no-one in our community gets left behind, especially due to affordability.

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