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Speech at the opening of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Canberra.



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Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Prime Minister for Social Inclusion 23 June, 2008

Speech

The Opening Of The Australian Demographic And Social Research Institute

The Opening Of The Australian Demographic And Social Research Institute, The Theatre, Parliament House,

Canberra, 19 June 2008 - Midday

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet this afternoon,

the Ngunnawal people.

I wish to also acknowledge:

z Professor Peter McDonald, Director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute;

z Members of the Institute’s external advisory board;

z Professor Ian Chubb, Vice Chancellor of Australian National University;

z Dr Ken Henry, Secretary of the Treasury, and;

z My Parliamentary colleagues.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have been invited to ‘do the honours’ today on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister in

launching the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute.

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Julia passes on her best wishes, and is sorry she couldn’t be here for the opening of an institute truly dedicated

to research and training in demographic and social policy.

The Australian National University boasts a world-wide reputation as a leading academic training and

research institution. I have no doubt the opening of this institute will further enhance this well-deserved

global recognition.

WORKING TOGETHER TO BRING ABOUT SOCIAL INCLUSION

Since coming to power last year, the Rudd Government has proven its strong commitment to social policy with

the establishment of our ambitious new policy framework; Social Inclusion.

The founding of your institute is thus very timely, as the Government explores how it can best work in

partnership with the business and not-for-profit sectors on our social inclusion journey.

I welcome the enormous contribution I’m sure the institute will make to inform social inclusion policy

development through its research into 21st Century population and social dynamics in Australia and the

region.

It’s an interesting and challenging time.

Like many countries all over the world, Australia has experienced radical changes borne of technological

advances, globalisation and changing demographics.

Globalisation has brought new international dimensions to the labour market, making skilled labour and

technological competency essential survival elements in a competitive global marketplace.

There is also the challenge of having fewer working age people in the labour force in the future, due to our

ageing population.

We believe Australia needs to adapt to these changes in:

z the way that the labour market operates and the way people need to work;

z family structures, and;

z the population structure.

We need - and the Government is committed to - long-term vision to meet these changes.

Today too many Australians are struggling. We are talking about the 100,000 Australians who are without a

home every night, and we are talking about the one-in-four job-seekers who’ve been unemployed for five or more years. We’re also talking about the 1.7% of postcodes that Tony Vinson found account for more than

seven times their share of the major factors that cause poverty and disadvantage.

Communities that are prisoners of inter-generational poverty, joblessness, mental illness, low education

levels, drug and alcohol abuse, and disability.

Social Inclusion will require a significant change in the way we deliver policy and services to those Australians

and communities that need them most. This means putting people back at the centre of policy development;

no easy task.

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And it will mean that national economic and social policies will no longer be working at cross purposes.

The Government will need to coordinate policies across national, state and local governments - in partnership

with business and the non-profit sector - to ensure that no Australian is left out of the economic and social life

of our nation.

Australia’s long-term prosperity depends on securing the full social and economic participation of all

Australians. If not, we will pay a high price for peoples’ ongoing marginalisation in the decades ahead.

So what are the answers? How do we create better social equity?

The solutions lie in social innovation - we have to be innovators when it comes to social policy. And this is

why your work in the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute will be an important

consideration in the way the Government will prioritise and implement its social inclusion initiatives.

The causes of social exclusion are complex, and together, we must work to understand and address the array

of different barriers stopping a person from participating.

Holistic, evidence-based solutions are essential - formed with advice from sound, well-resourced social policy

think tanks. Centres of research where the theory and practice of social inclusion are pulled together from

many angles; to develop theoretical analysis and concrete, real-world solutions.

The onus will be on you to help us determine what programs and initiatives are working, and which ones are

not.

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING ABOUT SOCIAL INCLUSION

The Government’s Social Inclusion Agenda recognises the importance of giving all Australians the opportunity

to:

z secure a job;

z access services;

z connect with family, friends, work and their local community;

z deal with crises, and;

z have their voices heard.

It’s important to note this is not a reiteration of the previous Government’s welfare-to-work reform process.

Through this policy framework, we are changing the direction of social policy and focusing on fairness and

equality.

In doing so, we understand the connection between economics and social policy, and how they can work to the

benefit of both. Failure to adapt and modernise social policy increases the risk of unemployment, poverty and

social exclusion. Sound economic policies cannot be sustained if inequality is left unaddressed.

The Government’s Social Inclusion agenda is designed to provide Australians with the opportunity to improve

their living standards in both social and economic terms; it goes beyond poverty or ensuring minimum income

standards.

We must ask why exclusion exists, what the barriers are, and who is doing the excluding. One-size-fits-all

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policies are not good enough. What works in one place may not work in another, so a flexible approach will be

the key.

We have already made our initial down-payments, with significant commitments in the areas of early

childhood education; school retention; homelessness; literacy and numeracy; and Indigenous health,

education and employment.

We are also working on a National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy, and a White Paper to

guide our approach to beating homelessness over the coming decade.

The Government is building a framework to provide meaningful support for disadvantaged job-seekers,

helping the most vulnerable Australians into sustainable work through a simpler, more effective and better

targeted employment services system.

The new Social Inclusion Board recently held its first meeting - bringing together eminent leading minds in

the welfare and business sectors. The Board is consulting widely and is supported by the Social Inclusion Unit,

inside the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Board members have made it clear they will work hard to help develop evidence-based, innovative

solutions and whole-of-government strategies.

There is also a Social Inclusion Committee of Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, to drive coordination.

Social Inclusion demands that we embrace partnerships with the business and non-profit sectors, and all

levels of government, to develop opportunities for all Australians.

CONCLUSION

I say again, to realise our social inclusion goals, we will need robust data and evidence-based policies that

reflect a range of perspectives. Government does not have all the answers, and I believe the research and

training provided through the Australian Demographic and Social Policy Research Institute will make a

significant contribution.

The opening of the Institute today is testament to the commitment of the ANU to add value to social policy

research both here in Australia and overseas.

I congratulate everyone involved for your commitment to the Institute’s development and the valuable

research you will undertake. You have a lot to be proud of today.

To all the staff and the students involved in making this happen, I wish you every success in your future

endeavours.

And so, it is now my great pleasure to declare the Australian Demographic and Social Policy Research

Institute open.

Media Contact:

Simon Robson 0434 736 519

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