Anglicare – Launch of Strategic Plan
It’s great to be here today to launch Anglicare Victoria’s Strategic Plan.
This plan outlines an inspiring vision to help disadvantaged children, young people and families reach their full potential and plots the path for achieving that vision.
The values driving the plan are a credit to your organisation.
As one of Victoria’s largest providers of care and support to children, young people and families in crisis, Anglicare Victoria delivers more than 100 different programs from over 40 centres across Victoria to 50,000 people.
Your grassroots work in the community brings you face to face with the consequences of rising mortgage stress, shrinking rental accommodation, higher petrol prices and increasing cost of living pressures.
You see first hand the crippling social exclusion brought about by inter-related problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, sub-standard housing, substance abuse, high crime levels, poor health, disability and family breakdown.
And you deliver programs that make a difference – foster care, food and material aid, care for children with disabilities, family and financial counselling, assistance for victims of child abuse and neglect, parenting advice and support, residential and crisis accommodation for young people and parish partnerships.
Meeting community needs for services and support is undeniably challenging – especially in a society undergoing rapid and comprehensive structural, social and demographic change.–
Anglicare Victoria’s strategic plan charts a way forward for realising this vision and sets out a framework of values for dealing with the challenges of a changing Australia.
The plan is an excellent example of community-focused governance.
The strategic plan clearly emphasises the importance and moral imperative of giving children the best possible start to life. And I understand that many of Anglicare Victoria’s services are targeted to supporting vulnerable young people.
Sadly, we know that a child’s future can be irreparably damaged by neglect or abuse.
I don’t have to tell anyone here today about the tragedy of rising instances of child abuse and neglect. You confront it everyday. The recent media reports are, I am sure, familiar to you but no less horrifying.
All children deserve a safe, healthy and happy childhood.
Yet over recent years the reported levels of child neglect and abuse in Australia have increased at an alarming rate.
Last year there were around 60,000 occasions where authorities found that a child either was or was likely to be harmed, abused or neglected. Those rates have doubled in the last decade.
These are challenging issues with no simple solutions. Parents and families will always have primary responsibility for caring for and protecting children. State and territory governments become directly involved in this relationship when children are at risk of neglect or abuse.
Through a national framework, the Australian Government can provide Commonwealth leadership to improve child protection.
Last month, I released a paper on what role the Commonwealth should play in child protection, and how, as a nation, we can improve our child protection systems. The paper, called Australia’s children: safe and well has generated great interest, with more than 150 submissions received to date.
There is clear evidence of the need to better share child protection information – both within and between jurisdictions, and between government and non-government organisations.
Organisations like Anglicare are working on the frontline and can be an early warning system in child abuse or neglect cases. We must do better at harnessing your knowledge and using it – both to intervene and prevent neglect and abuse before it occurs, and, where needed, to strengthen reporting so that children are not falling between the cracks.
As well as the vital issue of information-sharing, the framework also covers: better prevention and integration of services; how to improve responses for children in care and leaving care; improving responses for Indigenous children; attracting and retaining the right workforce; and improving child protection systems.
I commend Anglicare Victoria for taking the time to make a submission on the paper. Your perspective will be invaluable in getting real improvements in child protection.
I am very familiar with the great work of Anglicare Victoria. I saw what you achieve first-hand when, following the election, Ray Cleary and I visited a homeless shelter behind the Cathedral in Melbourne’s CBD. The staff were doing an amazing job and it was clear that the support they offered was greatly needed and much appreciated. But the destructive impact of homelessness was painfully apparent.
Emergency accommodation is stretched to the extreme. On any night around Australia, about 100,000 people don’t have a roof over their heads.
These might be women and children escaping domestic violence. They might be young people leaving dysfunctional families. People with a gambling addiction, or a problem with substance abuse. Some have a mental illness, some have a disability, some are alcoholics.
For all these people, the importance of housing for re-building their lives cannot be overstated. Housing is the building block for getting a job, caring for children or dealing with health and other personal challenges. We must do everything we can to stop a period of homelessness becoming a way of life.
Anglicare clearly recognises the vulnerability of young people in particular, to homelessness and provides accommodation and support for ‘at risk’ adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years. And Anglicare’s crisis accommodation provides a safety net for homeless young people aged between 16 and 22 years.
The Australian Government will continue to support organisations like Anglicare in dealing with homelessness.
In May, the Australian Government released a Green Paper, called Which Way Home, which sets out our targets to make sure all Australians have access to decent, affordable accommodation. More than 535 submissions have been received.
Our aim is to build pathways that take people from initial contact with crisis services into safe, appropriate accommodation – and ultimately a pathway to longer-term goals of personal security, self-development, social inclusion and employment.
The White Paper, to be released in September, will set out a comprehensive action plan to reduce homelessness leading up to 2020.
You work with some of the most disadvantaged in our society providing life-saving and life-changing support.
This is why the Government acted so quickly when it became clear that the Howard Government’s fringe benefit tax changes would have an adverse impact on employees of charitable organisations like Anglicare.
The Howard Government’s 2006 changes could have seen many employees lose up to $100 a fortnight.
These changes were meant to come into effect yesterday. But the Government’s urgent amendments were passed into law on Thursday morning, hours before Parliament rose for the winter recess.
This urgent passage has meant a last-minute reprieve. Staff in not-for-profit organisations like Anglicare will not suffer a loss of family tax or child care benefits if their circumstances have not otherwise changed. Centrelink is ready to help any employees who experience any difficulties over this early July period.
Organisations like Anglicare are a conduit between government policy and the community – working in partnership with values embedded in principles of social justice and a belief in a common humanity.
Anglicare’s motto says it all: Supporting families, building community today.
With that motto in our minds, I take great pleasure in launching Anglicare’s new Strategic Plan.