Page 3057 - Week 08 - Thursday, 7 August 2008
effectively in the global market; protect, promote and enhance the rights of Canberrans; and build stronger relations between the ACT government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and multicultural community groups.
This report card has been developed in collaboration with ACT government agencies, particularly the ACT Human Rights Commission. This second report card in the fourth year of the implementation of the strategic plan meets the commitment to report on the implementation of the actions and the strategy. I would like to highlight some of the strategies undertaken by ACT government departments.
The Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services is the first department to develop a reconciliation statement of commitment and will develop a reconciliation action plan by May 2009. This commits staff of DHCS to deliver services and programs in a culturally sensitive way, assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients to overcome the legacy of past injustices faced by ATSI people and the continued disadvantaged circumstances of ATSI people.
The policy “countering racism in ACT public schools” is designed to minimise the effects of racism and at the same time provide the parameters to directly deal with any issues of racism that may arise. Schools have in place policies and programs to protect their students, including reporting structures and identified staff to address issues. Schools also pay particular attention to providing culturally sensitive environments—which includes the food provided for sale in the canteens and that the cultural and religious needs of all students are considered and met whilst on excursions. Staff are offered ongoing targeted professional development and there is ongoing appropriate consultative support for any curriculum renewal process.
The report card also highlights the breadth of assistance for refugees. The ACT government is committed to policies and programs that assist with the settlement of refugees. These are aimed at promoting unity, respect and inclusiveness between the Canberra community and refugees who have come here seeking sanctuary from war-torn and impoverished countries. These programs provide meaningful and practical measures of settling.
The ACT government is acutely aware of and recognises that suitable housing is essential for people’s sustainable wellbeing and for successful settlement. I recently launched the refugee transitional housing program, which was developed by the ACT government and is administered by housing and community services in conjunction with Companion House and Centacare.
This program was designed to provide short-term on-arrival accommodation for refugees with a view to eventual independent living. Housing ACT has committed a pool of six to eight properties that are available short-term to Centacare on a rotational basis for the program. This program will provide much-needed support for refugees in housing in the ACT. Centacare provides tenancy management and ensures that exit plans are in place for the refugees to enter public and private accommodation. Companion House provides counselling and health care services to the refugees. Having a roof over your head is a fundamental need that must be met if people are to have any chance of participating comfortably in our community, including being free of racist or discriminatory behaviours.