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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2565

Ms CAMPBELL (9:40 AM) —This government has made no secret of the fact that we consider social inclusion to be part of the core business of this government. Social inclusion is a commitment we made and one which we are acting upon. Last week in my electorate of Bass I had the pleasure of hosting a social inclusion forum. It was attended by more than 50 service providers from across Tasmania, each of whom was keen to hear firsthand from a panel made up of Senator Ursula Stephens, Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion; Dr Ron Edwards, who is an esteemed member of the Australian Social Inclusion Board; and Professor David Adams, Tasmania’s Social Inclusion Commissioner. It was an interesting and at times lively discussion. One thing came through loud and clear from across a range of sectors—that is, there is much more that needs to be done. Those who gave up their valuable time to take part in the forum heard from Senator Stephens about the commitment which the Rudd government has made to social inclusion. It is a commitment backed up by funding: $200 million in the Get Communities Working fund, $300 million in the community fund and $50 million to boost emergency relief.

As I said, there is much which remains to be done. I will go through just a few of the issues which were raised. The accessing of funds was a recurring theme. It is all well and good to make money available for the advancement of social inclusion and for the betterment of our communities; however, it does need to be accessible. I am pleased to report to the House that it is an issue of which Senator Stephens is acutely aware. I want to see created sustainable solutions which will build inclusive fair communities, and approaches developed which emphasise the importance of partnerships in the social inclusion approach to addressing deep disadvantage.

Also raised during the forum was the significance of homelessness in Launceston; issues surrounding transport, particularly in rural and regional centres like those which go to make up the electorate of Bass; the importance of access to information for regional planning of services; the role which local government has to play in social inclusion; and the need for long-term policy. The last point is of particular significance. We are aiming to build socially inclusive communities, not just over the electoral cycle but well into the future. Forums like that which I held in Launceston go to inform the formation of long-term policy, which I hope will create better communities and a more sustainable and secure provision of services within those communities.

I would like to thank Senator Stephens, Dr Edwards and Professor Adams for their time and expertise. It is only through dialogue such as this that we can engage with those on the coalface of service provision in our communities. I would encourage further forums such as this and I look forward to continuing to play my part in the development of a socially inclusive policy.