Page 1009 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

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achievable goals. The talents of many Canberrans with a disability lie waiting to be discovered. In many cases, the price of unlocking that talent is simply a little flexibility and creativity in job design and a consciousness of the dividends that flow from workplace diversity.

Employment is a big issue for Canberrans with disabilities. Housing is another. Every Canberran is entitled to living arrangements that are comfortable, safe and dignified. Labor’s Centacare Linc project, launched last December, is helping Canberrans with disabilities live in group houses on their own terms. The aim is to maximise independence, without compromising on support. Five houses in Belconnen are already occupied, managed by a community living worker based nearby.

The investments I have mentioned so far are mostly about strengthening the capacity and resilience of individuals. But individuals are also members of communities and communities need to be kept strong and cohesive, too. Strong communities are ones that rejoice in their diversity, even as they celebrate their unity. Strong communities celebrate endeavour. Strong communities share stories.

Last weekend I presented Canberra Gold Awards to residents who have given 50 years or more of their lives to this city. More than a thousand Canberrans were nominated for the inaugural awards. That is 50,000 years of collective memories, 50,000 years of raising families, building the economy and shaping the city.

In the first year of the Canberra plan my government has created many new ways for Canberrans to work, socialise and learn together. Our community inclusion board has the pulse of the local community. It is giving the government a vivid picture of our community and clear advice about how we can strengthen it. For the coming year, for example, the board has identified personal and household debt as one of the big issues it wants tackled. A pilot household debt project has just kicked off, helping low-income families break free from the debilitating cycle of consumer debt.

Over the past year our community inclusion fund has helped community organisations run such innovative programs as an early morning drop-in centre where homeless Canberrans can check mail, get a meal and access health services. Our first focus when it comes to homelessness will always be to put roofs over heads. But this centre is a recognition that homelessness is a complex phenomenon, requiring lateral thinking and lateral action.

Through the Canberra community grants program, more than $200,000 has been distributed over the course of the past year to fantastic community building projects, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau information expo at the multicultural festival. The Citizens Advice Bureau knows that a strong community is an informed community, a community that knows what services exist and how to get hold of them. I believe that an informed community is also an engaged community. It is a community that has a say. Communicating with the community about important issues is a duty the government takes seriously and we are exploring ways of doing it more effectively.

Over the past few days every household in Canberra has received a copy of the first City Report, an update on some significant government activities. It contains stories on important Canberra plan initiatives, including the appointment of a Small Business

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