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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 7 October 2021) . . Page.. 2930 ..

Over the last couple of years, we have seen that invisibleness weigh in for our cleaning workers. While their wages still remain low, the ACT government was able to provide some security of employment for them prior to COVID-19 affecting our community, by directly employing them in our ACT government schools. There were 300 workers in a generally insecure workforce, often having wages stolen from them. There are migrant workers and a lot of very old workers as well in that workforce that were provided secure employment as part of the initiatives of the ACT government and the Labor Party to directly employ those workers in our public service.

Obviously a joined-up government here—Labor and the Greens—working together to promote good, socially-progressive policies, but the Labor Party has been doing this in Australia for the longest time ever. Sometimes my Green friends like to call us the old party, like it is an insult, but it is actually a badge of honour for us because our experience is entwined in the history of Australia’s democratic labour movement that has held us fast for decades and decades. We have constantly and continuously worked and striven for a better, fairer, more equal community so that people who do not have the same chances and a fair crack at happiness get that.

That can be seen in this year’s budget announcements but also in the ACT government’s responses to last year’s COVID-19 pandemic and how we made sure that people were able to access housing and community services support. We made sure people had access to Chromebooks and wi-fi. We have continued that with our budget announcements now. We are making sure that are delivering on even more equity programs in our schools through the $51 million future of education equity measures. That is absolutely about targeting those families and people who have not had the same chances as the rest of us to get ahead, to have a good start and to have a good education. It is exactly what the housing strategy is all about. It is exactly what the future of education is all about, and it is exactly what the early childhood education strategy, Set-up for Success, is about. It is also what the women’s plan is about. Embedded in those strategies is a very real focus on equity.

Some could say this government has been putting forward a social recovery plan for a couple of years, but we have been interrupted by a second dose of COVID-19 with the Delta variant, which has plunged us into a darker time, if you like, where we have all had to gather around again and support each other. That has been one of the great things about Canberra—we are seeing fantastic people putting their hands in their own pockets and supporting their neighbours and friends, providing free meals, driving them to appointments and just generally checking in on people to make sure that they are safe.

We know now more than ever people will face inequality in how they have been impacted by COVID-19. We see that and hear those stories every day. We see it with our neighbours and our own families. Ms Lawder has described some of the impact that her own family has had from that. We can all share the distress Ms Lawder must be feeling for her family in Victoria. We all have some sort of lived experience of our own, but none are more impacted than the people we have described here who do not have the same chances as the rest of us.

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