YWCA CANBERRA

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YWCA CANBERRA

EVERY WOMAN, EVERY

CHILD, EVERY DAY

2016 ACT ELECTION PLATFORM


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@ywcacanberra

@ywcacanberra

Acknowledgement of Country

YWCA Canberra proudly recognizes the rights of Aboriginal

and Torres Strait Islander peoples to own and control their

cultures, and pays respect around these rights. YWCA Canberra

acknowledges the need to respect and encourage the diversity

of Indigenous cultures and aims to respect Indigenous worldviews,

lifestyles and customary laws.


Every woman,

every child,

every day

2016 ACT Election Platform


Contents

Foreword...............................................................................................................5

About YWCA Canberra.....................................................................................6

Priority One: Support children and young people.....................................7

Educate young people on respectful relationships......................8

Maintain quality early childhood education...................................12

Further develop early childhood education..................................14

Provide appropriate support for at-risk young people...............15

Priority Two: Reduce gender inequality & violence against women....20

Consider gender issues in all policy development........................21

Increase leadership opportunities for women..............................24

Support women fleeing from domestic violence.........................26

Ensure women have access to housing..........................................28

Priority Three: Make community inclusion a priority for the ACT.........30

Support reconciliation with Aboriginal & Torres Strait

Islander People.......................................................................................31

Prioritise community inclusion in urban planning........................32

Ensure services are accessible to people from culturally

and linguistically diverse backrounds...............................................33

References.............................................................................................................34

4


Foreword

YWCA Canberra has been providing services to the

Canberra community since 1929. In our 87 year history,

we have seen Canberra grow and evolve to become the

progressive, inclusive city that we are proud to contribute

to.

However, Canberra’s economic and social prosperity

mask significant inequities that affect vulnerable

members of our community, and prevent the benefits of

this great Territory from truly reaching all Canberrans.

Through our work across all of our portfolios –

delivering quality early childhood education, community

development initiatives, youth engagement programs,

housing support for the homeless, and advocating for

gender equality – YWCA Canberra has identified three

priority areas that must be addressed for Canberra to

truly become an inclusive and equitable city.

It is crucial that children and young people are given the

best possible chance of succeeding as educated, healthy,

contributing members of our community. This can only be

achieved through the provision of quality early childhood

education, support for at-risk and vulnerable young

people, and a focus on ensuring that young people today

are provided with pathways into the careers of tomorrow.

For Canberra to truly be a progressive community, we

must address the ongoing issue of gender inequality,

which prevents women from participating fully

economically, and is inextricably linked to the growing

issue of violence against women. Without adequate

support for women fleeing domestic violence, the

cycle of violence and abuse can never be truly broken.

This includes ensuring that there are affordable and

appropriate housing solutions for single women of all

ages, as well as gender-responsive crisis accommodation

for survivors of domestic violence.

Gender inequality must also be addressed in terms of

women in leadership, and the ACT Government has an

important role to play in embedding gender equality into

all policies, workplaces, and procurement processes.

Community inclusion is a critical issue in the ACT, where

geographic location can have a significant impact on

access to services, recreational activities, and more.

YWCA Canberra’s work in the Lanyon community has

alerted us to several gaps in provisions for families living

in this area, and we look to the ACT Government to

ensure that all Canberrans are able to enjoy this beautiful

city to the fullest, and are given the support they need to

thrive.

This election platform is a call to action – we want to see

a commitment from those who seek to lead this city, to

ensuring that equality, community inclusion, and support

for vulnerable members of our community are priorities

for the coming three years.

Frances Crimmins

Executive Director

5


About YWCA Canberra

YWCA Canberra is a feminist, not-for-profit

organisation that has provided community services

and represented women’s issues in Canberra since

1929. Through our national Member Association,

YWCA Australia, we are part of the World YWCA

Network, which connects 125 countries across the

globe.

Our rich history of supporting women and girls in

Canberra through the Great Depression, the Second

World War, and the rapid social and cultural changes

Canberra has experienced in recent years, continues

to inform and influence our work.

Today we provide quality, innovative services for

women, girls and families in the ACT and surrounding

regions. We work in the areas of children’s services,

community development, housing, youth services,

personal and professional training, women’s

leadership and advocacy.

We have a strong reputation in delivering highquality

Children’s Services programs, with three early

childhood services covering the north, south and

inner-city suburbs of Canberra, in addition to family

day care and 13 school age care programs.

Our diverse range of award-winning community

services continue to provide exemplary support to

some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

We work with young Canberrans through the Lanyon

Youth Centre, the YWCA Computer Clubhouse and

targeted case management. Additionally, we provide

housing support services, emergency food relief and a

strengths-based counselling service for young people

and their families.

We have a broad reach throughout the ACT through

our strong and growing membership, the hundreds of

local families that utilise our Children’s Services and

our diverse client base. Further, we are proud to have

forged strong relationships with other community

organisations and the local corporate sector.

As a membership-based, non-religious organisation,

we encourage the participation of people of all

cultures, beliefs and ages. In all of our work, we apply

a human rights-based approach by realising women’s

rights and the rights of vulnerable people in the

Canberra community.

Our history of leading the delivery of innovative and

quality services in Canberra for over 80 years means

that we are in-tune and responsive to the evolving

needs of our community.

For more information:

visit www.ywca-canberra.org.au.

6


PRIORITY ONE:

SUPPORT CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

To ensure a stable, prosperous, and equitable ACT, creating equal opportunities for

children and young people must be a policy priority. The ACT Government has a vital

role to play in ensuring all our children and young people – particularly those who are

most vulnerable or at risk – have the safety, support and sense of belonging

they need to learn, work, engage and have a voice in our community.

7


a) Educate children and young people on

respectful relationships

Ensure that school-based primary prevention initiatives to end violence

against women are fully-funded, best-practice and include gender equality

and diversity principles.

THE PROBLEM

Violence against women is not inevitable, and it can

be prevented through primary prevention initiatives,

that focus on building gender equitable attitudes

in children and young people. There is a wealth of

evidence demonstrating that gender inequality is at

the root of violence against women 1,2 . This inequality

is reflected in unequal economic and social power

relationships between men and women, as well as

rigid gender roles, stereotypes, and cultural attitudes.

Primary prevention is about changing the social

conditions, such as gender inequality, that excuse,

justify or even promote violence against women. It

aims to tackle violence before it occurs by working

with children and young people prior to negative

attitudes becoming entrenched.

Current evidence shows that young Australians

hold alarming attitudes towards gender equality

and violence in relationships, and schools are an

ideal setting to challenge such beliefs. The recent

inclusion of Respectful Relationships Education in the

Australian Curriculum represents an unprecedented

opportunity to shift underlying attitudes and norms,

and prevent gender-based violence in the long term.

However, if ACT schools are to benefit from this

opportunity, it is critical that Respectful Relationships

Education is grounded in evidence and best-practice,

and backed up with the appropriate support for

teachers, schools and their community partners.

International research shows that the positive impacts

of school-based programs – if implemented correctly

– can be profound 3 . However, many programs in

Australia have been one-off, ad hoc and lacking the

gendered perspective and quality curriculum needed 4 .

Given the need for best-practice school-based

primary prevention, YWCA Canberra welcomed the

ACT Government’s 2015 announcement of $615,000

to support social and emotional learning programs

in ACT schools, including the implementation of

Respectful Relationships Education.

However, we remain concerned that this one-off

funding is spread thinly over two years and across a

range of prevention, early intervention and tertiary

activities.

Early intervention and tertiary responses must have

an ongoing and secure funding base, but should not

be delivered at the expense of primary prevention

activities. Transforming the underlying factors that

lead to violence requires a significant increase in longterm

funding that is commensurate to the scale and

seriousness of the problem.

THE SOLUTION

It is critical that the ACT government supports schoolbased

primary prevention programs to prevent

violence against women.

These programs should be evidence-based and

incorporate gender equality and diversity principles,

and be implemented in collaboration with community

service providers and other experts to maximise their

effectiveness.

In addition, systems and structures must be

established to evaluate programs systematically,

monitor progress and ensure continuous

improvement.

In order to produce sustained and meaningful change,

long-term funding and political commitment is vital,

and needs to be backed up with quality curriculum

materials, training and professional development for

teachers, and a whole-school approach that embeds

gender equality and respect.

8


9


Ensure all ACT schools provide best-practice sexuality education that

incorporates respectful relationships and sexual diversity.

THE PROBLEM

There is a demonstrated need for comprehensive and

inclusive sexuality education in ACT schools. Results

of a 2013 national survey of high school students in

Australia found that almost one-quarter of Year 10,

a third of Year 11 and half of Year 12 students have

had sexual intercourse. While most sexually active

students report positive feelings after having sex,

almost one in four report an experience of unwanted

sex 5 .

In addition, most young people who are sexually active

are engaging in unsafe sex, with only 43 per cent

always using a condom. While many young people

have good knowledge of HIV/AIDS, knowledge about

chlamydia and other STIs is generally low 6,7,8 .

Additionally, Australian research has shown that many

young men believe that online porn provides real

templates for sexual activity. This can set unrealistic

and problematic expectations for young women to

fulfil 9,10,11 .

There is evidence that schools are not consistently

delivering evidence-based and comprehensive

sexuality education 12 . Although sexuality education

is included in the Australian Curriculum, it is not

compulsory and schools have considerable flexibility

in its implementation.

A recent study of ACT schools concluded that those

that are teaching sexuality education tend to focus

narrowly on anatomical and biological aspects,

neglecting key issues such as relationships, gender,

consent and communication, decision-making, and

intimacy and desire. Critically, sexuality education in

the ACT often neglects sexual and gender diversity,

overlooking the needs of same-sex attracted and

gender diverse youth, as well as issues such as such as

homophobic and transphobic bullying 13 .

THE SOLUTION

Comprehensive sexuality education should be

provided in all ACT schools to equip young people with

the knowledge, skills and values to have safe, fulfilling

and respectful relationships and to make choices that

protect their own health and wellbeing and that of

others.

Sexuality education delivered in schools must be

inclusive of sexual and gender diversity.

Importantly, if more relevant and effective sexuality

education is to be delivered in ACT schools, young

people should be consulted during program design.

Adequate resourcing and coordination of professional

development for teachers and dissemination

of curriculum resources by the ACT Education

Directorate will be vital, as well as strengthening of

accountability mechanisms to support all schools

in delivering best-practice and inclusive sexuality

education.

10


CASE STUDY:

YWCA CANBERRA’S

RESPECT ED RESOURCES

YWCA Canberra is committed to ending violence

against women, and believes that primary prevention

is key to achieving this goal. We deliver two bestpractice

primary prevention programs aimed at

different age groups:

Respect, Communicate, Choose:

Respect, Communicate, Choose (RCC) is an awardwinning,

evidence-based respectful relationships

program for young people aged 9-12 that is aligned

with best practice for primary prevention programs

and has been designed to align with the Australian

Curriculum. The program covers topics including

respect, communication, diversity, gender equality

and how to be an active bystander. RCC has been

delivered to 900 students in Canberra and Adelaide,

and has been externally evaluated by the University

of Queensland.

Relationship Things:

Relationship Things builds on RCC, and is a respectful

relationships program aimed at young people aged

14-18. Also aligned with best practice for primary

prevention, Relationship Things is delivered over

eight weeks, with one session per week, and

covers topics including respect, relationships,

communication, diversity, gender equality, respect in

an online environment, safe sex and consent.

We have also developed a two-day teacher training

program, Teaching Respect Ed, to upskill teachers

to deliver our best-practice programs in schools for

consistency and continuity of delivery.

11


) Maintain quality early childhood education

Maintain peppercorn and concessional lease arrangements for not-for-profit

childcare providers, and undertake a holistic cost-benefit analysis of the cost of

concessions versus the community impacts.

THE PROBLEM

Not-for-profit (NFP) providers play a key role in

ensuring quality early childhood education and care

(ECEC) is affordable and accessible, particularly for

families on low incomes.

The viability of such services depends on concessional

arrangements and subsidies, such as peppercorn

lease arrangements. Even with such arrangements

in place, NFP services often cross-subsidise their

programs, making it possible to provide ECEC services

in areas that would be deemed ‘non-viable’ on a forprofit

basis 14 . This ensures services are available in

areas of disadvantage, often in areas where families

have unstable employment arrangements and the

need for occasional care is high. If these services were

to become unviable, the burden of providing services

would fall on the government, or result in families

missing out on critical ECEC services.

The ACT Government has increasingly sought to

move community organisations and NFP services off

peppercorn or concessional lease arrangements. This

has had the effect of making it difficult for services

to modify properties or the terms of their lease. The

inability to upgrade properties without losing leasing

concessions has made it difficult for NFP providers

to meet building standards and physical environment

requirements under the National Quality Framework

for Early Childhood Education.

YWCA Canberra believes the imposition of commercial

rental rates on such services is a false economy,

which threatens the sustainability of community

organisations and reduces the accessibility of

essential services to some of the most vulnerable

and disadvantaged families in the ACT community.

For many services, increased rental costs will divert

funds away from frontline service delivery, leading to

increased service-user costs, an erosion of quality, or

the closure of services.

The barriers to affordable services are already acute

in the ACT, which has the highest average costs for

early childhood education in Australia. Families in the

ACT pay the most for ECEC as a proportion of their

income, and those with one or two children in long

day care have the highest out-of-pocket costs as a

proportion of weekly disposable income 15 .

THE SOLUTION

To ensure the quality, affordability and sustainability

of the NFP early childhood sector in the ACT, the

incoming government must:

• continue concessional and peppercorn leasing

arrangements for NFP early childhood education

providers;

• allow community organisations and NFP services

to upgrade properties without being moved onto

commercial lease arrangements; and,

• undertake a holistic cost-benefit analysis of the

cost of concessions versus the impact on the

community by NFPs.

12


Ensure that the ACT Government continues to implement the National Quality

Framework.

THE PROBLEM

A child’s formative experiences are critical in shaping

her or his physical, social, emotional and cognitive

development. Research consistently shows that early

learning programs enable children to establish the

foundation skills that assist them to successfully

navigate education, work and life 16 .

Crucially, the quality of early childhood education

is key to delivering gains for children: high quality

education has developmental and learning benefits,

poor quality care can be detrimental and increase

developmental vulnerabilities 17 . For example,

Australian research shows an association between

participation in high-quality preschool programs

and higher Year 3 NAPLAN scores in literacy and

numeracy; while children whose preschool teacher

had a certificate qualification or no relevant early

childhood qualification showed no significant benefit

from attendance at preschool. High quality programs

are fundamental to supporting the development

of all children and closing achievement differences

that emerge by school entry for children from

disadvantaged backgrounds 18 .

To drive improvements in the quality of early

childhood education, all Australian governments

have committed to implementing the National

Quality Framework (NQF), which provides a clear

national focus on the importance of quality education

and care for children. Under the NQF, services are

assessed and rated against a set of National Quality

Standards, which cover educational program and

practice, staff/child ratios, features of the physical

setting, and relationships with children 19 .

While the NQF has helped to drive improvements in

quality, it has also highlighted inconsistencies and

areas of concern within the ACT. Although a number

of providers have been rated as excellent against

national standards, the ACT is overall one of the

poorest performing jurisdictions, with less than half

(48 per cent) of all services meeting or exceeding

national standards, compared to the national average

of 67 per cent 20 . The proportion of qualified staff is

also lower than any other jurisdiction and well below

the national average of 74.1 per cent 21 .

Despite the need to lift standards across the ACT,

the NQF has been instrumental in supporting

improvements in the quality of early childhood

education. It is vital that these gains are built upon

and that governments do not roll back or compromise

any of the regulatory standards established under the

NQF.

THE SOLUTION

It is essential that the ACT Government demonstrates

leadership and a firm commitment to the longterm

benefits of the NQF, by supporting robust and

comprehensive standards. Ongoing assessment

and rating of services by the ACT Government is

consistent and supported by relevant guidance,

training and professional development, as well

as strategies to support a highly qualified and

appropriately remunerated workforce.

13


c) Further develop early childhood education

Extend universal access to early childhood education to 20 hours per week and

lower the age of access to children aged 3-5 years.

THE PROBLEM

Despite increased investment in early childhood

education and care, too many children in the ACT

continue to miss out on the quality education that is

critical to their learning and development, and the

positive long-term impact on subsequent life experiences.

Under the National Partnership Agreement on Universal

Access to Early Childhood Education, state and territory

governments are funded to provide early childhood

education to all children in the year preceding full-time

schooling, with funding for 15 hours of preschool learning

per week per child for 40 weeks.

For the benefits of early childhood education and care

(ECEC) to be fully realised, YWCA Canberra believes that

all children should have access to 20 hours of preschool

per week from the age of three. In addition, it’s essential

to remove barriers to participation for children from

vulnerable backgrounds, who are highly represented

amongst those missing out on early childhood

education 22,23,24 .

The rationale for expanding access to early childhood

education is clear and compelling. A number of studies

have found a strong link between early learning

participation and improved school performance later in

life. For example, a longitudinal study from the United

Kingdom tracked 3,000 children from the age of three

through to sixteen years, assessing the impact of

early childhood education on participants’ longer term

outcomes. The researchers concluded that two or more

years in a high quality preschool environment had the

biggest statistical impact on intellectual development and

early literacy skills 25,26 . These findings are confirmed in

international testing benchmarks.

In addition to lowering the age of universal access

to preschool to three, extending the hours of

weekly attendance has also been shown to improve

developmental outcomes, with the cognitive and social

benefits most pronounced among children from socially

disadvantaged backgrounds 27,28 .

In the ACT, the prohibitive costs of ECEC are a barrier to

access for low- and middle-income families. While the ACT

Government funds free preschool placements for children

aged four, the out-of-pocket expenses for ECEC in the

ACT are the highest in Australia. The costs for one child in

long day care accounts for an average of 15.3 per cent of

an ACT family’s weekly disposable income 29 .

Access for disadvantaged and special needs children is

also of concern. For example, while Aboriginal children

comprise 2.8 per cent of all young children in the ACT,

they account for only 1.2 per cent of ECEC placements.

Children with disabilities, from culturally and linguistically

diverse backgrounds, and from low-income families are

also significantly under-represented.

ACT Government investment is vital to buffer any

adverse effects of the Australian Government’s proposed

changes to ECEC assistance payments and activity tests

that will ultimately restrict access for some of the most

disadvantaged low-income families.

THE SOLUTION

If the ACT is to realise the substantial benefits of quality

early childhood education – for individual children, their

families, and the wider community – it is imperative that

universal access to preschool is extended to children

aged 3-5 years, and for 20 hours each week as a

minimum. Increasing the participation of children with

special needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds must

also be a priority.

Achieving this will require sustained public funding

and strategies to increase and retain a workforce of

professional staff who are qualified to support children’s

cognitive, social and emotional development.

14


d) Provide appropriate support for at-risk

young people

Ensure young people from under-served communities have access to

technology, and are supported to pursue careers in STEM.

THE PROBLEM

Digital technologies are having an increasing impact

on Australia’s economy. Deloitte estimates that one

third of Australia’s economy is facing significant digital

disruption in the short term through the increasing

impact of technology on modes of work, consumers,

and access. This transformation highlights the need

for young people to have access to digital literacy

skills, and the capacity to pursue careers in science,

technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in

order to viably participate economically as adults.

As the impact of digital technologies grows, the

divide between those who have access to technology

and those who don’t continues to widen. In 2013, the

Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that almost

half of the lowest income earners don’t have access to

the internet at home.

The ACT Government is currently engaging in exciting

work through the CBR Innovation Network to harness

the energy and skills of young entrepreneurs, and

support new ventures, to help build capacity in young

people to engage in careers in STEM industries.

However, it is crucial that the benefits of these

programs reach young people from under-served

communities, who may not be able to access services

that focus on the CBD geographically, and that require

existing access to technology in order to participate.

According to research from PwC, 5.1 million Australian

jobs are at risk from digital disruption in the near

future. Building skills in young people today to enter

STEM industries is crucial to the long term economic

sustainability of the ACT.

THE SOLUTION

YWCA Canberra recommends that the ACT

Government ensure that young people from underserved

communities have access to technology, and

are supported to pursue careers in STEM. This can

be achieved by increasing the reach and capacity of

existing programs to engage with geographic areas

outside of Canberra City and its immediate surrounds.

CASE STUDY:

YWCA CLUBHOUSE

YWCA Canberra operates a Computer Clubhouse

program in Richardson, Tuggeranong. Founded

in Boston in 1993, the Computer Clubhouse Network

comprises over 100 Clubhouses in 20 countries,

reaching thousands of young people from

under-served communities. The YWCA Computer

Clubhouse opened its doors in October 2014. Our

137 members have the opportunity to work with

high-tech tools, industry mentors, and to drive their

own projects.

Richardson has the highest number of people in the

ACT (24 per cent) who fall into the most disadvantaged

20 per cent of all 15-64 year old Australians.

Many of our members don’t have access to the

internet at home, and are unable to engage with the

benefits of Canberra’s innovation sector.

15


16


Extend current youth engagement activities in the ACT to support programs

that re-engage young people in education or employment pathways.

THE PROBLEM

Youth educational disengagement, underemployment

and unemployment costs the ACT

community both socially and economically. The

discontinuation of federally-funded programs such

as Youth Connections, combined with high youth

unemployment, changes to welfare accessibility,

and inequitable access to education and training, is

pushing more young people in the ACT into poverty.

In recent years, the youth unemployment rate in the

ACT has been steadily growing, with 11.4 per cent of

15-24 year olds unemployed at August 2015, more

than double the overall ACT unemployment rate

(4.8 per cent). One in four people who experience

homelessness in the ACT, and one in three at risk of

becoming homeless, are aged 12 to 24 30 . In 2014,

one in ten 15-24 year olds were not in employment,

education or training (AIHW analysis of ABS 2015 ).

The closure of the nationally-funded Youth

Connections service at the end of 2014 has left

a major gap in services available to assist young

people to re-engage with education, training or

employment. Youth Connections provided tailored

case management to around 350 young people in

the ACT each year, proving highly successful 31 . Six

months after leaving the program, on average 93 per

cent of young people were still engaged in some kind

of training, education or employment; after two years,

89 per cent remained engaged 32 .

Since Youth Connections ceased, no comparable

program has been implemented, placing young people

who are disengaged, or at risk of disengaging, in an

increasingly precarious position. Schools are not

equipped to fill this gap, and there is a pressing need

to invest in intensive programs modelled on Youth

Connections.

In ACT schools, children and young people

experiencing poverty and social and educational

disadvantage are often hidden or unacknowledged.

The ACT is also one of the most poorly performing

jurisdictions when it comes to equity in educational

outcomes for students from lower socioeconomic

backgrounds 33 .

Research shows that young people who leave school

early often experience complex and interconnected

barriers that prevent them from remaining in school.

These include learning disorders and underdeveloped

literacy and numeracy skills, bullying, low self-esteem

and a combination of low-expectations and limited

adult support. Crucially, none are ‘pull’ factors; most

students do not leave for greener pastures, but due to

a lack of support.

While the establishment a service to re-engage young

people who have disengaged from school has upfront

costs, the social and economic cost of not providing

such support is significant for the individual and for

the wider ACT community and economy. These costs

manifest through increased need for welfare support

and government-subsidised services, increased

contact with the criminal justice system, poorer health

outcomes and subsequent pressure on the public

health system, low participation in the labour market

and the associated loss of taxes and contribution to

the economy.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must urgently invest in a service

to rapidly re-engage young people who disengage

from school. Such a program will build on the evidence

of what works: rapid action; early intervention;

meaningful vocational guidance; incorporating

the young person’s strengths and aspirations;

collaboration between schools, health and community

agencies, employers and the broader community;

access to high-support flexible learning options; oneon-one

coaching; and reintegration support.

17


Increase funding for counselling services for young people and their families,

thereby making them accessible both inside and outside of the child protection

system and school environments. Ensure such services are adequately

resourced to respond to the extent and complexity of needs, and support

referrals and coordination with other services.

THE PROBLEM

Therapeutic counselling services play a vital role

in supporting vulnerable young people in our

community.

Service providers are experiencing an increase in

the number of children presenting with a range

of complex social, familial and developmental

vulnerabilities and needs 34 Despite this, access to

therapeutic counselling for children and young people

in the ACT is not funded to meet current levels of

demand and the range of contexts in which it is

required.

The rate at which both adults and young people

access community mental health services in the ACT

is higher than any other Australian jurisdiction. In

2013, the contact rate of community mental health

services in the ACT was 690.4 contacts per 1,000

people, which is more than double the national rate.

The rate at which children under the age of 15 access

community mental health services in the ACT is also

more than double the national rate and significantly

higher than any other jurisdiction. In 2013-14, more

than 18,000 contacts in the ACT involved children

under the age of 15, with the rate for young females

more than 2.5 times the rate for young males 35 .

Despite the high rates of service use, many young

people in the ACT are unable to access timely

services. Nationally, it is estimated that, of those

young people aged four to 17 years who experience a

mental health issue, only one in four access a mental

health service. According to a report released by the

Youth Coalition of the ACT in 2015, young people in

the ACT identify a range of barriers including “cost,

limited transport options, stigma, discrimination,

confidentiality concerns and long waiting times”.

Although the ACT has increased the number of

counsellors employed in school settings, the ratio of

counsellors to students remains well under the 1:500

ratio recommended by the Australian Psychological

Association.

Eligibility criteria for the Health in Mind Program

mean that most young people and families are unable

to access free counselling in community health

centres. Aside from this program, counselling support

to children and young people is only available as a free

and immediate service through school counselling

services, and additional limitations apply to these

school-based services.

The needs of many children and young people

are complex and need to be addressed within the

context of the family. School-based initiatives may

also exclude young people already disengaged from

education or dealing with difficulties such as bullying

at school. It is critical that services provide a holistic

approach, and are offered both inside and outside the

school system.

The ACT Government’s Human Services Blueprint

envisages a cohesive and coordinated model of

service delivery 36 . If this vision is to be realised for

vulnerable children and young people, it essential

that counselling services are better resourced and

supported to develop partnerships and referral

pathways.

In the ‘A Step up for our Kids’ Out of Home Care

Strategy 2015 – 2020 released early last year,

the ACT Government focuses on the need for a

‘trauma-informed’ Out-of-Home Care response for

children who have experienced abuse or neglect. A

relationship-based, trauma-informed approach is also

required for secondary counselling services working

with children and young people who are not in the Out

of Home Care system. However, the lack of sufficient

funding means that the needs of many of these

vulnerable children and young people remain unmet.

18


Despite the ACT Government’s recent investment in

early intervention for children with mental disorders,

the demand for therapeutic counselling services

remains unmet, and the capacity of these services to

work across agencies and sectors is constrained both

by limited resourcing and siloed service systems and

funding streams.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must increase funding for

secondary intervention counselling services for

young people and their families to ensure that such

services:

• Are accessible both inside and outside of the child

protection system and school environments;

• Are adequately resourced to respond to the

extent and complexity of needs; and

• Are able to support referrals and coordination

with other services provided by the Health,

Education and Community Services Directorates.

CASE STUDY:

CIRCLES OF SUPPORT

YWCA Canberra has extensive experience in providing

therapeutic counselling services to children,

young people and their families. Our Circles of

Support program involves early intervention for

children, young people and their families, providing

access to therapeutic counselling support as well

as support for parenting. Since this program commenced

in 2012, it has struggled to meet demand

and is currently oversubscribed, with 20 families on

the waiting list and unable to access a counsellor

for up to six months.

In addition to restricting the numbers of families

who can access the service, funding constraints

have limited our capacity to provide the level of

support needed for families who are grappling

with multiple complex needs. Many of the families

referred to our service have a history of trauma

and violence or abuse. A recent survey of the

24 families attending the service highlighted the

prevalence of trauma and, in particular, physical

violence (18 out of 24 families), emotional violence

(22), sexual violence (9), and financial abuse (5).

Only one family had not disclosed violence or abuse

of any kind.

These experiences of trauma are rarely disclosed

by the family at the time of referral. It takes time

to establish a trusting therapeutic relationship,

to build on the client’s capacity to recognise and

reflect on the responses triggered by their experience

of trauma, and to support the client to

develop the skills and confidence to respond differently

when they are being triggered. This relationship-based

and trauma-informed model of care is

not quick work accomplished in six sessions.

19


PRIORITY TWO:

Reduce gender inequality and violence

against women

Gender inequality and violence against women have profound social, cultural and

economic consequences, impacting individuals, families, workplaces, and the wider

ACT community.

Gender inequality is inextricably linked to domestic violence, and both require a

whole-of-government response to achieve long-lasting change. While the ACT has

made significant inroads into reducing gender inequalities, major gaps remain.

20


a) Consider gender issues in all policy development

Move the ACT Office for Women into the Chief Minister’s Directorate, to

prioritise gender issues in all high-level government decisions.

THE PROBLEM

A key obstacle to incorporating a gender perspective

into government decision-making is the lack of a

clear mandate and political will. Despite ongoing

commitments to reducing gender inequality by

successive ACT governments, progress has been slow

and piecemeal.

While the development of the ACT Women’s

Plan 2010-2015 represented an important policy

development and led to some notable improvements,

gender is not systematically integrated into

government decision-making, and in some areas the

ACT has gone backwards.

Overall, there has been a trend toward

‘mainstreaming’ service delivery, leading to reduced

funding and/or closure of various specialist services

for women. The failure to consider gender in high-level

decisions and across the range of policy areas has led

to policies and procurement practices that neglect

gendered impacts and disproportionately impact on

women.

Gender is a whole-of-government issue that cuts

across portfolios. The location of the Office for

Women within the Community Services Directorate

limits the visibility and relative priority assigned to

gender equity across different areas of policy. The

Office’s scope of influence and its access, monitoring

and coordination roles are limited by its current

institutional location and authority.

Maximising the effectiveness of gender-equity

agencies or institutions requires:

• Clearly defined mandates, authority, and

mechanisms for key functions

• Adequate funding, resources and staff to

implement the mandate

• Strong political commitment

• Location at highest possible level of government.

Experience from Australia and overseas demonstrates

that institutional location is critical to advancing

gender equity, and that the agency or office

supporting gender equity needs to be located in

the chief coordinating department of government.

Recognition of this is expressed in the United Nations

Beijing Platform for Action, which recommends that

responsibility for driving gender equity should be

located at the highest level of government 37 .

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Office for Women should be relocated to the

Chief Minister’s Directorate, to boost its authority,

visibility and leverage necessary to coordinate a

whole-of-government approach to gender equity.

This will send a strong political message about the

Government’s commitment to women’s empowerment

and gender equity, and ensure improved targeting of

funding and better policy outcomes for women and

the wider ACT community.

21


Office for Women to employ a full-time policy officer to oversee the

implementation of gender impact assessment tools across all ACT directorates.

THE PROBLEM

Government has a responsibility to develop inclusive

policy and to deliver responsive services.

A key strategy to achieve this is through

mainstreaming gender impact assessments across all

areas of government policy and decision making.

Policies or programs that appear gender neutral may

impact differently on women and men, even when

such effects are neither intended nor envisioned.

Gender impact assessments ensure gender

considerations are systematically considered in the

design, implementation and evaluation of policies and

programs 38 .

Successive ACT governments have committed to

integrating gender impact assessments into the

development and implementation of ACT policies

and programs. In 2008, a Parliamentary Agreement

between the Government and ACT Greens committed

to phasing in the publication of gender impact

statements and gender disaggregated data by 2010.

More than five years later, this commitment

remains unrealised. While there have been some

improvements in the collection and reporting of

gender-disaggregated data, significant gaps remain 39 .

In a number of areas, such as gender assessment

of budget measures, the ACT has gone backwards.

Gender analysis is included as an optional component

in the ACT Government’s Triple Bottom Line (TBL)

Assessment Framework, contingent on whether “the

purpose of the policy is to address poverty or gender

issues” 40 . No reference is made to consultation

or engagement with the community, nor does the

Framework specify how gender impact assessments

will be operationalised.

A key factor underlying the ACT Government’s failure

to mainstream gender impact assessments into

government policy making is limited accountability

and parliamentary oversight. This is a key

shortcoming identified in the 2012 audit of the ACT

Government’s gender impact assessments, and

remains an ongoing barrier to achieving a more

systematic approach.

Given that so much of what sustains gender

inequalities are the unspoken assumptions and the

taken-for-granted parameters within which policy

is currently made, it is crucial that government’s

approach is more than tokenistic, especially in regard

to policy development.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must ensure consideration

of the gender impacts of policies and programs

are undertaken by directorates from the initial

development stages through to the delivery of

programs and services. This will include procurement

processes and internal policies and procedures.

For this to happen, a full-time policy officer will be

employed within the Office of Women to monitor

compliance, facilitate the development of gender

impact assessment tools and guidelines, and provide

guidance and advice.

To further enhance accountability, oversight of the

ACT Government’s implementation of gender impact

assessments will be included in the terms of reference

of a Legislative Assembly Standing Committee.

22


Reinstate gender analysis of the ACT Budget, to be undertaken by the

Office for Women.

THE PROBLEM

Government budgets have a powerful impact on social

and economic inequalities. Expenditure and revenue

measures have different implications for, and impacts

upon, women and men.

Gender budget analyses can reveal these

differing impacts and thereby help to improve

the effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and

transparency of government policy, as well as making

significant contributions towards gender equality and

the realisation of women’s rights.

Australia pioneered the gender analysis of budgets

in the mid-1980s and, within the ACT, such analysis

was an integral part of the budget process when selfgovernment

was established in 1989.

Despite the compelling need for gender budget

analysis and the persistence of gender inequalities,

the ACT Government ceased publishing gender

budget analyses in 2008 41 .

This move undermines accountability and

transparency, and calls into question the ACT

Government’s commitment to gender equality.

In a tight fiscal environment, conducting genderresponsive

budget analyses not only contributes

to equality objectives, but is also an economic

imperative, ensuring the better use of limited public

resources and contributing to improved budgetary

performance 42 .

With compelling evidence that gender inequality has

economic and social costs, shifting fiscal policy to

close inequalities will ultimately strengthen the ACT

economy 43 . Gender responsive budgeting enables

better targeting of resources and can help to avoid

‘false economies’, where attempts to reduce or

contain financial costs in one sector may transfer

or increase actual costs for certain individuals

and groups, thereby lowering overall productivity

and increasing expenditure in other parts of the

economy 44 .

Reintroducing a gender analysis of the ACT Budget

would:

• strengthen awareness and understanding

of gender issues and impacts embedded in

Government budgets and policies

• make the Government accountable for translating

its gender equality commitments into budgetary

commitments

• support changes to budgets and policies to

promote gender equality.

THE SOLUTION

It is critical that the ACT Government undertake a

gender analysis of the annual ACT Budget in order

to assess the relative impact of Government policies

and programs on different groups of men and women

in the ACT community. Such an analysis will provide

greater consistency between economic measures

and social commitments, improving Government

transparency and accountability, and achieving more

effective and efficient use of limited public funds.

23


) Increase leadership opportunities for women

Require all ACT Government boards to have mandatory quotas for 50 per cent

of directors to be women.

THE PROBLEM

Women remain under-represented in ACT Government

boards and committees. This gender disparity persists

despite a range of workplace initiatives and nonbinding

targets for all government appointments.

Since the inception of self-government in 1989, there

has been a target of achieving and maintaining 50

per cent representation on Government boards and

committees. However, this target is non-binding, and

change has been slow. The proportion of women on

government boards today is the same as it was 15

years ago 45 .

Despite initiatives including the ACT Women’s Register,

there has been a decrease in the percentage of

women on ACT Government boards and committees.

Of the 43 appointments to ACT Government boards

and committees in 2013-14, only 12 per cent had an

equal gender representation.

The decrease in recent years is particularly

concerning given progress on public sector boards has

long been held up as a benchmark for better gender

balance – and it’s a reminder that change cannot be

taken for granted. It is also of concern given that the

public sector acts as a pipeline for women moving

onto boards in the private and business sectors 46 .

If Government boards and committees are to

make informed and effective decisions, it is critical

they harness a diversity of perspectives and are

representative of the communities they serve. As

the OECD noted in 2014:, ‘...gender diversity in public

institutions is particularly crucial, given that these

institutions make decisions and create rules that

affect people’s rights, behaviours and life choices…

ensuring that decision-making bodies reflect the

diversity of the societies they represent can provide a

balanced perspective in designing and implementing

24

these rules, thus enabling an inclusive approach to

policy making and service delivery’ 47 .

The stubborn gap between policy intent and actual

outcomes is not acceptable, and the implications

are clear and unequivocal: if we sit back and wait for

change, progress will be excruciatingly slow.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must introduce legislation for

mandatory gender quotas (minimum 50 per cent

women) on our government boards.

This quota should be implemented in conjunction

with a range of supportive measures, including

the continuation of leadership workshops and the

maintenance of the ACT Women’s Register, along

with measures that promote the flexible workplace

conditions conducive to gender equality.



My view is that you can never be

fully effective as a public service

in developing policy solutions,

while you are not yourself

representative of the community

who you are seeking to serve

and develop policy solutions in

response to 48 .

– Chris Eccles, Secretary of the Victorian

Department of Premier and Cabinet


Ensure that ACT Government procurement procedures require that tendering

organisations comply with the Workplace Gender Equality Act.

THE PROBLEM

Gender inequality remains firmly entrenched in

Australian workplaces. Women continue to earn less

than men, are less likely to advance their careers as

far as men, and are underrepresented in leadership

and decision-making roles 49,50,51 . They are more likely

to experience discrimination, with one in two women

experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some

point during pregnancy, parental leave, or upon

return to work 52 . Women are also more likely to be

underemployed or working in casual, insecure or parttime

employment.

In the ACT, while there has been some progress in

reducing gender inequalities in the public sector,

limited progress has been made in the private sector.

Women in the ACT earn, on average, 11.7 per cent less

than their male counterparts, and the pay disparity

is significantly higher in the non-government and

for-profit sectors 53,54 . This disparity is unacceptable,

unfair, and is ultimately costing the ACT economy

through unrealised productivity and downstream

impacts 55 .

To close the pay gap and overcome other gender

inequities in the workplace, the Workplace Gender

Equality Act (WGE Act) came into effect in 2012, and

requires non-public sector employers with more than

100 employees to report against a set of ‘gender

equality indicators’.

Employers with more than 100 employees must

submit a report annually to the Federal Workplace

Gender Equality Agency, and those that fail to comply

with the WGE Act are publicly listed on the agency’s

website. In addition, the agency issues compliant

organisations with an annual letter of compliance,

and this letter can in turn be used when tendering for

government contracts.

The ACT Government, is yet to harness its purchasing

power and the potential of procurement to drive

change. This is despite the compelling need for

action and evidence of the extensive and effective

use of public procurement to support gender

equality and other social objectives in overseas

jurisdictions 56,57,58,59 .

In the ACT, the commissioning of services and

products accounts for a substantial portion of

Government expenditure and economic activity, yet

some of those organisations that currently receive

Government contracts do not comply with the WGE

Act. Excluding non-compliant employers from future

government contracts would provide an additional

spur to address gender inequalities across ACT

workplaces.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must set a requirement for

organisations tendering for contracts to comply with

the WGE Act.

This policy should be consistent with the Workplace

Gender Equality Procurement Principles developed by

the Commonwealth Government, and ensure that the

obligation to comply with the WGE Act is embedded

throughout the procurement process 60 .

25


c) Support women fleeing from domestic violence

Reform anti-discrimination legislation to protect and support employees

experiencing domestic violence.

THE PROBLEM

Around 1.4 million Australian women are living or have

lived in an abusive relationship, and 800,000 of those

are in the paid workforce 61 . Workplace participation

is an important structural and social support for

victims and survivors of domestic violence, and can

be paramount to their ability to put their life back

together and avoid poverty and ongoing financial

hardship 62 .

The National Domestic Violence and the Workplace

Survey found that nearly half (48 per cent) of those

who reported experiencing domestic and family

violence said the violence had affected their ability

to get to work 63 . Further, women who experience

domestic and family violence are more likely to have a

disrupted work history, have lower personal incomes,

and be employed in casual or part-time work 64 .

For victims and survivors of domestic violence,

discrimination in the workplace can take many

forms 65 . Employees with domestic violence issues are

often placed in the ‘too hard basket’, with employers

refusing to make adjustments or denying leave and,

at times, demoting employees or terminating their

employment. Fear of such discriminatory treatment is

one reason that victims and survivors do not disclose

their violent situations to employers 66 .

The impact of domestic violence on employment

outcomes has broader economic impacts. Access

Economics estimates that lost productivity associated

with domestic violence amounted to $484 million in

2002/3, and is set to rise to $609 million by 2021 67 .

This includes costs associated with both victims and

perpetrators’ absenteeism, misuse of work resources

by perpetrators, and retraining and rehiring costs due

to staff turnover.

Despite the compelling need for workplace

protections, existing statutory and regulatory

frameworks are inadequate. The gap in current

legislation has been highlighted by the ACT Human

Rights and Discrimination Commissioner, who

recommended that the ACT Discrimination Act 1991

be amended to “expressly protect people against

discrimination on the basis that they are or have been

threatened with or subjected to domestic violence

or family violence” 68 . Similar changes to state and

territory and Commonwealth anti-discrimination

legislation have been consistently recommended by

the Australian Law Reform Commission and Australian

Human Rights Commission 69,70,71,72,73 .

Protection from discrimination on the basis of status

as a victim of domestic violence would improve the

likelihood that victims will disclose domestic violence

where it is adversely impacting on them in the

workplace, allowing them to access support and stay

safely in their jobs.

THE SOLUTION

It is imperative that the ACT Government closes

the gap in current anti-discrimination legislation by

amending the ACT’s Discrimination Act to include

‘victim or survivor of domestic violence’ as an

attribute upon which discrimination is prohibited. This

will strengthen existing protections under the Fair

Work Act and complement other measures to support

victims and survivors of domestic violence.

In addition to legislative changes, the ACT

Government should also ensure that employers and

employees have access to resources and information

about their rights and responsibilities, as well as

template policies that could be adopted by employers.

26


Reinstate gender-responsive services to prior funding levels, to provide

transitional housing support for families escaping domestic violence.

THE PROBLEM

Domestic violence is the number one cause of

homelessness among women and children in

Australia 74,75 . Without a significant increase in the

supply of transitional housing for those escaping

family violence, many women will leave abusive

partners only to find they have nowhere to go.

At the same time the demand for services has

increased in the ACT, funding cuts have reduced the

level of transitional housing services available. As a

result of federal cuts to funding through the National

Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and the

National Affordable Housing Agreement, annual

funding to ACT homelessness services has been

steadily eroded over the past three years, with $3.7

million cut in 2013-14, and a further $2.2 million in

2014-15.

The ACT Government developed a revised costings

model to determine the allocation of funding cuts

across the housing and homelessness sector,

resulting in a reduction in overall funding. The

revised funding model does not factor in the more

intensive support that women fleeing domestic

violence require. The freeze in indexation imposed in

the ACT Government’s 2015-16 budget has further

compounded the funding shortfall.

While chronic under-resourcing is an issue across the

homelessness support sector, women and children

fleeing domestic violence have specific needs

and complex issues which are not addressed by

mainstream providers.

Gender-responsive services provide tailored support

that recognises the impact of trauma and violence,

provides an environment that is safe and respectful,

and includes case management that attends to the

range of needs and issues that women and families

face.

There are two types of assistance that are critical to

support women affected by domestic violence: “safe,

secure and affordable housing, and provision of a

continuum of individualised and open-ended support

including outreach services, that wraps around

women and their children in a range of areas (therapy,

health, life skills, housing assistance, etc) for as long as

they need it” 76 . Gender-responsive service delivery is

essential in supporting women and children who have

experienced domestic violence.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must immediately restore

funding to specialist, gender-responsive housing

support for women and children escaping domestic

violence.

In addition, tendering processes will not disadvantage

specialist services for women and children.

Future funding models must incorporate the full costs

of providing intensive, specialist support for women

and children who have experienced violence and

trauma.

27


d) Ensure that women have access to adequate

and affordable housing

Change ACT Government definition of affordable housing to be more inclusive.

THE PROBLEM

Appropriate, affordable and stable housing is

essential to the wellbeing of both individuals and

the community. In the ACT, a shortage of affordable

supply, and various factors fuelling demand for

housing, has contributed to record high house prices

and private rents. Canberra’s higher than average

level of income not only masks the extent of housing

stress, but exacerbates it by pushing up the cost

of housing and creating upward pressure on rental

prices. Over the past 15 years, the increase in rental

prices has rapidly outstripped the inflation rate for the

ACT, with average rent prices increasing at a rate 66

per cent higher than the CPI 77 .

The majority of those in housing stress are in private

rental, with 60 per cent of renters on low incomes

experiencing housing stress, and 25 per cent spending

over half of their income on rent 78 . Some housing that

is ‘affordable’ for people on low incomes may not be

safe or appropriate.

To improve access to affordable housing for people

on low and moderate incomes, the ACT Government

provides an Affordable Rental Scheme, delivered by

not-for-profit, non-government organisations, who

offer rents at 74.9 per cent of market price. Eligibility

for affordable rental housing usually begins where

social housing income/asset thresholds cut out.

Despite the intent of this program, the reality is that

for people on low incomes, the 74.9 per cent rental

rate remains unaffordable. Average rental costs

and the costs of living in the ACT are high; while

discounted rent is tied to market prices it will most

likely remain unaffordable for many on low incomes.

Using the 30/40 definition of housing stress * , the flat

rate of 74.9 per cent of market rent would mean that

many tenants in the Affordable Housing Program are

in housing stress.

An ACT Shelter 2015 survey found that households in

the bottom two quintiles are not only compromising

on basic necessities such as food and healthcare

costs, but are also increasingly falling prey to highinterest

short-term lenders 79 . The constant struggle to

pay the rent and other living costs, and the perpetual

sense of insecurity that this brings, takes its toll on

people’s health, their dignity and wellbeing.

THE SOLUTION

Affordable rentals must be offered at a much deeper

level of subsidy than is currently provided under the

74.9 per cent market rate.

The Affordable Rental Scheme needs to set rental

rates using a method that is more inclusive and results

in housing options that are genuinely affordable. The

scheme should be better targeted, responsive and

effective, and take into account the real life situations

of low income households.

YWCA Canberra recommends that the Government

adopt the rent-setting model that currently applies to

Affordable Rental tenants who are 65 or over 80 . Using

this rental formula, rents are calculated based on a

banding system that charges a percentage of rent,

with those on lower weekly incomes paying a lower

percentage of market rent 81 . This means that tenants

pay an affordable rate that reflects their capacity to

pay.

28


Increase provision of safe, affordable, single unit housing for single women in

Canberra, of all ages.

THE PROBLEM

In the ACT, the scarcity of safe and affordable housing

for single women is a significant and growing area of

unmet need.

Single, older women comprise a rapidly growing

cohort facing housing insecurity and the risk

of homelessness. A constellation of factors has

contributed to this issue, including years of unpaid

caring, wage inequities, less secure work tenure,

insufficient superannuation, relationship breakdown

and the rising costs of living 82,83,84,85,86 . At the

same time, housing prices and rents have become

increasingly unaffordable: over the past decade,

incomes have grown by 57 percent, yet house prices

have increased by nearly 150 per cent and average

rents have increased by 213 per cent 87 .

Last year, ACT Shelter released a landmark research

project exploring older women’s housing vulnerability

in the ACT. They found that in 2011 there were 11,431

women in the ACT over the age of 45 on low to

median incomes who did not own their own home. In

contrast, there were 7356 men living in the ACT in the

same category. Older women facing homelessness

tend to avoid seeking help and feel ashamed of their

situation. As such, it is believed that statistics on this

issue are conservative and do not reflect the extent of

the problem.

In the ACT, there are no supported accommodation

placements specifically for older single women. Given

research that shows the number of single, older

women soon reaching retirement age without either

economic or housing security is set to increase, it is

vital that a range of long term, affordable housing

options for single older women is developed, alongside

measures to increase affordable housing options for

all single women.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must make a significant

investment in safe and affordable housing options for

single (older) women, recognising that not all women

are in a position to share housing.

In developing more affordable housing options,

consideration needs to be given to ensuring

accommodation is appropriate for single older

women, allowing for their specific needs, including

managing a disability, proximity to transport, health

facilities and other community services, and space for

grandchildren or pets.

29


PRIORITY THREE:

Make community inclusion and equality a

priority for the ACT

Despite enjoying one of the lowest levels of overall disadvantage in Australia, the

ACT also has one of the highest proportions of highly socio-economically diverse

neighbourhoods, with large numbers of both the most and the least disadvantaged

individuals living side by side 88,89 . If we measure equality according to the ratio of the

highest incomes and lowest incomes within a jurisdiction, we find that the ACT has

the highest rate of inequality compared to any other state or territory 90 .

Overcoming inequality and promoting community inclusion must be a core priority

of the ACT Government. YWCA Canberra acknowledges that in a tight fiscal

environment, the prudent and efficient use of government resources is necessary to

maintain a strong economy and sustainable service system. However, it is imperative

that support is maintained and enhanced for those who are most vulnerable.

We should be striving for greater equality and social inclusion across the ACT. This

will not only benefit the marginalised members of our society, but increase our

community wellbeing as a whole.

30


a) Support reconciliation with Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander peoples

Implement Reconciliation Action Plans in all ACT directorates.

THE PROBLEM

Despite improvements in certain outcomes, there

remain stark social and economic disparities and

enduring barriers to reconciliation. Too many

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

experience racism and discrimination, with

one in five in the ACT reporting that they have

experienced racism and discrimination in the

preceding 12 months 91 . Most Australians believe that

institutions need to do more to reduce prejudice and

discrimination, with more than three quarters of

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people stating

that government departments need to do more to

advance reconciliation and build trust and respect 92 .

To progress reconciliation, many organisations have

developed Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs).

While RAPs have given momentum and traction to

reconciliation, much more work remains to be done,

and there is a pressing need to re-energise and

expand efforts. Within the ACT, Aboriginal and Torres

Strait Islander peoples remain under-represented

across Government directorates and agencies 93 .

While Reconciliation Action Plans have supported

improvements in some areas of government, several

ACT directorates still lack a plan, including the Chief

Minister’s Directorate.

In addition, there is evidence that some of the

momentum and effort in driving organisational

change has recently waned. The most recent survey

of organisations with a RAP show an overall downward

trend in RAP awareness and perceptions of impact

among employees, including among those working in

the government sector 94 . Despite ongoing goodwill

and positive statements of intent, progress on a

number of measures has stalled: employee awareness

of organisational initiatives supporting reconciliation

has declined; fewer organisations with RAPs are

offering cultural awareness training; and fewer are

proactively increasing recruitment and expanding

opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait people

within their organisation 95.

THE SOLUTION

All directorates in the ACT should implement

Reconciliation Action Plans that provide clear

mandates and accountability, and are backed by

genuine effort and conviction.

The ACT Government should commit to continuing

and strengthening the reconciliation process, giving

substance to rhetoric, and delivering meaningful

and sustained change. This commitment needs to

be reflected in the design and operation of policies

and processes across Government directorates and

agencies.

31


) Prioritise community inclusion and access in

urban design and planning

Develop the existing green spaces at Lanyon Marketplace to incorporate play

equipment and barbeque areas, to encourage community events and activities.

THE PROBLEM

A key responsibility of the ACT Government is

strategic land use planning that supports equitable

access to services, public spaces, infrastructure and

equal opportunities for all community members.

While planning policies and processes have been

developed to support these objectives, access to

community infrastructure and recreational spaces is

uneven across Canberra, particularly in some outer

suburbs. Overall, disadvantage is dispersed and

scattered across the suburbs of Canberra, with small

pockets of concentrated disadvantage, including

areas on Canberra’s outskirts 96, 97 . In addition, the

geographic distance of these suburbs from the

CBD and town centres, coupled with limited local

infrastructure and community spaces, risks creating

and compounding social exclusion and isolation.

Many of the factors contributing to social exclusion

can be addressed by better planning in relation to land

use, transport and services infrastructure, and urban

design 98, 99 . For example, local community spaces

are valuable in providing opportunities for people to

engage with their community without having to travel

far, and can include public parks, libraries, and shops

where people can meet and pursue activities which

give them a sense of connectedness and wellbeing.

Through the operation of the Lanyon Youth and

Community Centre, YWCA Canberra has seen

firsthand the need for greater access to green spaces

for families and children in this community. For

many residents in Lanyon, lack of transport means

accessing existing green spaces outside the local

area is difficult, increasing the need for an accessible

space in the existing community hub of the Lanyon

Marketplace.

THE SOLUTION

The ACT Government must build on and improve

the quality, amenity and variety of public spaces in

the neighbourhoods of Canberra, with a priority on

equity and social inclusion and a corresponding focus

on suburbs and areas where such public spaces are

currently limited. This should include the provision of

more community spaces and recreational facilities in

South Tuggeranong and, in particular, in the Lanyon

Valley.

Green spaces incorporating play equipment and

barbeque areas would also encourage community

events and activities.

32


c) Ensure services are accessible to people from

culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Provide access to free interpreting services across the social support, legal and

community service sectors.

THE PROBLEM

Interpreting services are central to the principles

of access, equity and social justice for individuals

facing language barriers. The failure to provide

appropriate language services can impede access to

essential healthcare, legal assistance, and housing

and social support services for people with limited

English-language proficiency. Engaging an accredited

interpreter to support service delivery can cost

governments significantly less than the remedial

costs that are incurred when a service is not delivered

effectively due to language barriers 100 .

In recent years, front-line services in the ACT have

experienced a surge in demand from clients requiring

translating and interpreting services, particularly in

the homelessness, domestic violence, legal assistance,

disability, employment and aged care service

sectors 101 .

According to the 2012-16 ACT Languages Policy, the

ACT Government is committed to ensuring “access to

interpreter assistance to those who need it at service

provision points across the service delivery system in

the ACT, which includes non-government organisations

delivering services and programs on behalf of the ACT

Government” 102 (emphasis added).

Despite such commitments, recent changes to access

arrangements for translating and interpreting services

are undermining the capacity of already overstretched

frontline services.

Previously, many government-funded services in the

ACT could access free translating and interpreting

services through the Commonwealth Department

of Social Services (DSS). However, in 2014, services

that receive funding from the ACT Government were

advised by DSS that they would no longer be eligible

for free translating and interpreting services.

This presents a substantial funding shortfall for many

vital frontline services. ACT Government contracts

do not cover the costs of interpreting, and services

have been advised that they will now be expected to

absorb the costs of interpreting within their current

funding, with no additional allocation from the ACT

Government.

This situation is unsustainable and is placing frontline

services under considerable strain. In particular, it

is severely affecting the ability of services providing

support to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)

women who are victims of domestic violence. In

the ACT, domestic violence support services have

experienced an increase in demand from women

from CALD backgrounds. Toora’s Domestic Violence

Service estimates a funding shortfall of over $23,000

per annum due to the unfunded cost of interpreter

services, a figure which is likely to increase. A similar

funding shortfall is estimated for the Domestic

Violence Crisis Service ACT, which logged 395

telephone interpreted calls in the 2014/15 financial

year 103 .

THE SOLUTION

It is vital that the ACT Government funds the provision

of translating and interpreting services for social

support, legal assistance and community support

services, including services that support women

fleeing domestic violence.

Additional resources must also be provided to

ensure interpreting services are available for civil

and administrative matters in ACT courts. Investing

in the provision of interpreters in civil proceedings

is a fundamental pre-condition for access to justice

and for ensuring the safety of women who have

experienced domestic violence.

33


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