Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 11 December 2008) . . Page.. 344 ..
assistance in remaining connected to our networks of friends, families and community groups.
A socially inclusive society is one where all people feel valued, can easily participate in community life, have their differences respected and have their needs met so that they can live fully and with dignity. The UK Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion defines social inclusion as the process by which efforts are made to ensure that everyone, regardless of their experiences and circumstances, can achieve their potential in life. I spoke about this in this place yesterday. We know that, at the individual level, social inclusion represents the degree by which we feel connected to our communities. At a broader level, it is about the strength within communities and organisations to sustain a positive and healthy community.
In contrast, social exclusion is the process of being shut out from the social, economic, political and cultural systems which contribute to the integration of a person into the community. This can be caused by many factors. Again, I mentioned a few of these yesterday. In a society where people are excluded, social cohesion and diversity are obviously weakened.
Social isolation impacts on people in a number of ways, such as their ability to contribute to their community, their mental and physical health and their emotional wellbeing. This can lead to reduced social and economic participation and to other consequences, such as reduced health for individuals, leading to increased reliance on health care and other formal services.
Australian research indicates it is likely that at least 10 per cent of all people aged 65 and over are socially isolated, with a further 12 per cent at risk. Again, research indicates that older people are at risk of social isolation due to factors such as the death of their life partners, their retirement from the workforce and having to manage on a reduced income. We can also experience social and physical barriers such as age discrimination, fear of crime, reduced mobility and reduced access to health and social services.
The ACT government recognises that the issue of social isolation amongst older people, and conversely social inclusion, is one that is becoming increasingly important as the population ages. As I mentioned yesterday, this matter is of great concern not only to the government of the ACT but also to all the other state governments and our fellow territory government and to the commonwealth government.
As I said, we have a rapidly ageing population. The 2006 census showed that 14 per cent of the ACT population was aged 60 and over. By 2031, the 60 or older age group is expected to represent 27 per cent of the population, and, as I mentioned earlier, people are living longer. Nationally, in the decade to 2005, life expectancy rose by 3.5 years for males and by 2.5 years for females.
The ACT government recognises that this demographic shift involves the need for an increased focus around how older people can stay connected with, and continue to participate in, their communities. This is important not only for individuals but for the wellbeing of our community. For example, older Canberrans make a significant