Page 854 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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I want to mention my experiences with the local services network in west Belconnen. The idea behind a local services network is where place-based services are built around the needs and wishes of a local community. It is about starting with the complexity of individual lives and reaching out through local residents, services that are already operating in the area and businesses to create a strong network. One of the benefits of this work is that it also brings opportunities to highlight the strength of the community to build on the sense of pride and belonging that exists in so many Canberra suburbs.

There are things the government cannot do alone. With respect to comments made on this motion about me as the minister assisting the Chief Minister on social inclusion and support producing a progress statement on this, that is simple. But social inclusion and equality are not resolved just by making a statement; if only it were that simple. I am certain women who fought for equal rights in the 70s thought they had won. Sadly, that is not the case and gender equality continues to be an issue. I applaud the women who fought then and continue to fight now for gender equality. I am proud to fight with them. Mr Barr shared his story of how same-sex couples feel about whether they can hold their partner’s hand in public and whether they will ever have the chance to marry the person they love.

Yes, it is important to report back to the Assembly because the conversation on inclusion and equality is not over with an announcement. It needs a better understanding of action from all of us. We need to create a welcoming community, not just welcoming services. You need to know you are accepted for yourself and your skills, that you can contribute, whether it is at your school, your sports club or at work. These are the outcomes of a community culture where people feel they really belong somewhere—the knowledge that if they stop showing up at school or at work or down at the shops on a Sunday they would be missed.

This is not easy to create; it requires leadership from government but it also requires Canberrans to go the step beyond just tolerating others. It is the small efforts we see every day. It is community groups who book accessible meeting rooms, sports clubs that work hard to be accessible and welcoming to all players, and it is definitely parents who slow down at P&C meetings without being asked. It is people thinking beyond their own experience, and it sets new standards for our whole community.

Members, what we are talking about here are not new concepts. For the past 14 years the government has been developing policies and agendas that have been based around social justice or that build social capital. We are reframing how we want inclusion and equality to be evident in our capital. We are saying clearly that it is not enough just to provide a good service; we need to support people who need it to access government services and actively shape the kind of community that creates supports on its own.

Inclusion and equality are not abstract concepts. As all members in this place have acknowledged, they have concrete impacts in the lives of Canberrans, and I am pleased to continue the work of this government with a renewed focus on how we include every single member of our community in the fantastic life of this city.

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