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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3834 ..

Community sector organisations-funding

MS TUCKER (3.51): I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) notes:

(a) the importance of the work of non-government organisations in:

(i) the provision and delivery of community services;

(ii) the advocacy and representation of members of our community those who are economically or socially disadvantaged or excluded;

(iii) contributing to the territory-wide understanding of social and environmental concerns;

(b) the generally poor standard of accommodation and equipment in the community sector;

(c) the relatively low level of wages accorded workers in that sector; and

(2) calls on the government to support the community sector in future budgets by:

(a) investing in a marked improvement in the quality of their accommodation and equipment;

(b) ensuring that staffing levels are adequate to meet the demands placed upon them; and

(c) ensuring that the wages and conditions of community sector employees are brought appreciably closer to levels in the ACT public service.

I am moving this motion today because we are at a vital moment in this government's program. The second of three budgets is in development. In broad terms, this time around, it will be addressing the measure of its achievements. This next budget could be a historically significant vote of trust in the non-government organisations which make up Canberra's community sector-not because it would stop them from complaining, but because it is the most constructive, far-sighted and best thought-through response to our situation.

A few years ago, we had a lot of fun with the notion of social capital, as espoused by the Carnell government. Social capital was a concept put forward by several people, but Eva Cox was one of the people who offered a useful way of understanding how we should invest in social relations and activity-and the extraordinary value of that investment. By the time it came to the Carnell budget, however, it was the rationale for a grab-bag of small-scale social programs which only nominally addressed the challenges.

The government ransacked the ideas of the sector and adopted the language, but failed to generally work with the sector to achieve the outcomes that we all apparently want. Unfortunately, subsequent budgets have done nothing but continue that process. The poverty task force was a good initiative of the last government. The process was fine, and the recommendations were good, but they have never been fully implemented.

ACTCOSS has warned us that the community sector-which is basically a loose, wide-ranging, hard-working collection of non-government organisations responsible for delivering care, advocacy, guidance, support and protection throughout our society-is no longer viable. Whilst in different ways we all contribute to the health and wellbeing of our society, government cannot escape its key responsibility to provide fundamental financial support for this sector. We cannot afford to underestimate the importance of the community sector.

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