Launch of Communities for Children, Frankston
Well thank you very much Bruce it is tremendous to be here with you all today and can I acknowledge the traditional owners and any elders past and present.
To Paul and to Andrea and Jane and particularly to Lisa can I say also thank you to you for having us here today and to be hearing your tremendous stories about what is happening here in Frankston. Many of us have nicknames in life and my good mate who just introduced me has one but it is a fairly obvious one, it’s Billy. Now I just thought this was a sort of abbreviation of his surname, but in recent times Billy as we have known him has been described as an evangelist for small business and an evangelist more broadly and so I have decided it’s Billy Graham mate. That is where it is coming from, but he is known as an enthusiastic evangelical proponent of every cause he is invested in – no less so than his ministerial portfolio but certainly none more so than his heart for his local community here in Frankston and more broadly in this area. That is why he has been such a successful local Federal Member of Parliament for a very long time because it has been his passion for community. For many years I was a director the Liberal Party of NSW and I would recruit many candidates for politics. The thing I used to look for most in a candidate was not an evangelist but someone frankly who had a pastoral heart, something I know Anglicare would know a lot about, a lot about – that pastor’s appreciation and that doesn’t have to be in any sort of religious sense but just someone who has a real heart for community and a heart for people. So Bruce it is a pleasure to be with you here today because I know how strongly you feel about this.
It is true that the Commonwealth has committed just under – just under a million a year to support this incredible initiative, Communities for Children Frankston. It has been a tremendously successful community based approach to changing the lives of young people and families here in this community and as we have heard, from Lisa herself, it is all about helping families, children, parents, communities make good choices. In the work that we do in social services we need to address so many different situations. Those situations are almost always the product of choices that people have either had to make or regrettably made in the course of their life. There are things that are beyond our control on occasions which force us in to places which take us to great hardship. On other occasions there are decisions we take particularly young in life that can get us on the wrong track. Then as a community and a society we work hard to try and provide some support for the difficulties that creates for people. But the most important thing we can do is intervene early to help people to make better choices early and then live the life that comes from making good choices. So that is why I am quite excited about this programme and why I am so pleased that we have been able to support the programme – $5 million or just under that $4.9 million over five years. Because it is facilitating better choices for families and communities here and one of the things I really liked when I was looking at the evaluation report and the strategy which we are launching today was that outcome where people said it made me – it helped me to become a better parent. What more important job is there for any of us than that as parents? To want to be a better parent and to be the best parent we possibly can be. It can be tough, it can be incredibly tough and that’s for people who are in a good place that have all of life’s advantages and being a parent can be a tough thing. But add any number of other areas of disadvantage and lack of access to good choices and resources and various other things can happen in a person’s life then being a parent in those situations can be extremely tough.
If we aren’t able to be the parents that we want to be then obviously our kids are the ones who suffer. It is therefore not surprising that when we see in our own statistics and in our own experience as a portfolio that those growing up in families that are jobless, those that are growing up in families that have been intergenerationally dependent on welfare – where there are very few choices if you are on welfare, very few, that children as they grow up in those families are more likely than not to find themselves in exactly the same situation by the time they are in their early twenties. That has profound consequences for us as we go over the course of someone’s life – not just the sheer human and social cost of what happens to that individual and that family but also frankly the very heavy financial and fiscal burden that places on the community as well. And so that is why investments in these sorts of initiatives are so incredibly important because it can change all of that and it changes from a very early point in the process.
I also noticed that when – it was great that when you have done this evaluation, you have put this strategy together listening to kids. It is great fun listening to kids, it is not only incredibly funny most of the time but the insights you get from innocence I think can be quite confronting and quite startling and they have a tendency to be able to underscore truths quite quickly. But I was surprised when I was sitting there the things they hate, being we are in Melbourne, that Collingwood didn’t appear on the list but maybe that will come up next time I’m not sure, that may be just a Sydneysiders take on the whole thing. I was also pleased to see that in the strategy too you have echoed very similar priorities to what we are pursuing as a Commonwealth government – as a federal government. Family violence, parental education, transitions – those transitions, you know one of the things our welfare system does really badly is transitions. We don’t tend to get or more importantly I suppose have systems that deal with how people can transition through a particular phase in their life. We tend to put a label on someone which says DSP, you are permanently incapacitated for the rest of your life and you live a life on welfare forever. That is it and we write generations off on the basis of that because we struggle with having systems that say you may go through a period in your life where your capacity is less than it otherwise would be but that is not a sentence that is just a transition and to be able to appreciate and see that as a transition but more importantly have systems that enable people to become self-sufficient again I think is something very exciting for our whole sector to appreciate, realise, more importantly have programmes that can actually make it happen.
Child wellbeing; all of these things form your key priorities in this strategy and I am very pleased to see those but particularly on domestic family violence. I can’t think of an issue outside the issue of greater support for those with disabilities in recent times where there has been greater political consensus, greater policy consensus, great community consensus, even media consensus for goodness sake about the need to have this as a national priority and a state priority and a community priority and a family priority as an individual priority. To see that flowing through as I move around the country and seeing that having been acknowledged so clearly and whether it is particularly through the current advocacy and leadership of people like Rosie Batty and Ken Ley and the committee that they are currently working on and they will bring recommendations back to the government which we have provided for in the Budget to be able to respond when they come to us – I think is enormously important. But it is an opportunity we have to really take hold of and so with the resources you have here as part of this programme I just want to encourage you to absolutely get it right and absolutely get the outcomes.
Because when I look at the challenges we face as a community in the social services area I know the government isn’t big enough to deal with it; the government together with the community, together with the corporate sector, all of us understanding that we all need to get bigger to deal with all of this then we do have the opportunity to make a difference. But just being good-willed or having a good sentiment or the right heart about this – it’s not enough, it’s not enough, stuff has to work for it to be enough and the debate should be less about well how much does that person care and how much does that person care – how about we assume we all care and we are just trying to get it right and that there is a lot of good faith and a lot of good will going into exactly these programmes.
So I look forward to coming back and seeing how this programme continues to tell the rest of the country how it is done and how it should be done and I have no doubt that will be the outcome. In saying that I particularly want to acknowledge Jane for her great work on this programme and the leadership that she has shown here as driving this very important programme and if we could find a way to clone you and take you around the rest of the country we will have our Department of Social Services laboratory people working on that process because I think it is very essential. These things don’t work without local leadership, it doesn’t matter where you go – trying to solve problems in indigenous communities, in incredibly socially disadvantaged – economically disadvantaged communities, the one thing that turns around is one person showing leadership and that is what you have done Jane and I want to thank you for that.
So I am very pleased to launch the Evaluation Report and Strategy. Thank you very much.