Community Roundtable

I spoke in parliament last week about a roundtable that I organised with some of the community leaders in my electorate.
Statements by Members
Fraser Electorate: Social Justice Summit
21 Mar 2011

The community sector is vital to helping disadvantaged Australians. It is often overlooked in politics. In my time in office I intend to make it a priority to connect with and support community organisations in the ACT.

On 1 March I held a breakfast round table discussion in Parliament House with 13 community leaders in my electorate. The purpose of the discussion was to learn more about the unmet needs in Canberra, the public policies that are working to help the disadvantaged, and changes that should be made to help them more.

Those who attended were Lynne Harwood from Galilee, Annie Madden from the Australian Injection and Illicit Drug Users League, Clare Doube from Companion House, Roslyn Dundas from ACTCOSS, Frances Crimmins from the YWCA, Dira Horne from Belconnen Community Service, Gordon Ramsay from Canberra Region Uniting Church, Sue-Anne Muggleton from UnitingCare, Shannon Pickles from St Vincent de Paul Society, Jenny Kitchin from Anglicare, Amy Kilpatrick from the ACT Human Rights Commission, Simon Rosenberg from Northside Community Service and Jackson Dunkley from Catholic Care. I was also joined by Alicia Payne, convenor of the ACT ALP’s Community Services and Social Justice Policy Committee.

Many attendees argued that Canberra’s most pressing social policy problem is housing affordability. We discussed homelessness, which is becoming a growing problem, especially for large families and youth. We discussed the importance of reducing the stigma and discrimination that is often directed towards disadvantaged Australians. Through preventive measures some of the participants expressed their belief that we can address poverty and disadvantage at its source rather than simply trying to react to homelessness, drug overdoses and mental health problems after the damage has been done. Some participants expressed concern about the balance of spending between proactive and reactive measures.

We also discussed the infrastructure of the community sector. Some participants believe that amalgamations or mergers are efficient and practical, whereas others argued that maintaining small, values-based organisations is the best way to run the community sector.

From my perspective, and hopefully that of other attendees, the summit was a tremendous success. The discussion was constructive and enjoyable and I hope it will be the start of an ongoing conversation. I want to publicly thank all of those who attended for their willingness to speak on these important issues so early in the morning and for their constructive and respectful attitude to their colleagues during the discussion.

Finally, I would like to thank Matt Hunter from Carleton College in Minnesota. Organising this event was the major project of Matt’s internship in my office and he did it with diligence and modesty.

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