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Media Release by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Social inclusion policies get a hearing at Australian Workplace Conference

Senator Ursula Stephens, today addressed the annual Australian Workplace Conference in Sydney.

Senator Stephens outlined how the Australian Government’s social inclusion agenda has been a guiding principle of the government’s employment and workplace relations policy, and response to the global economic crisis.

"We know that having a job is much more than an income. A job represents the opportunity to connect and participate, and is a source of self-respect and dignity.

"This is why preserving and creating jobs has been the driving purpose of the government’s economic stimulus response," Dr Stephens said.

Senator Stephens also explained that the social inclusion approach to addressing disadvantage and marginalisation requires a different skill set to that of the past.

"We’ve begun an internal transformation across the Australian Public Service, building the capacity of policy-makers to develop collaborative and innovative approaches that ‘wrap’ services around individuals.

"At the same time, we need to look at the workforce capacity of our major partner in our social inclusion work – the non profit, or third, sector," said Senator Stephens.

Dr Stephens provided an update on the development of a national compact – or partnership agreement – between the government and the third sector that includes workforce capacity as an important component.

"There’s been a lot of discussion about sector sustainability, and specifically the sector’s capacity to attract and retain staff with the skills and capability to deal with the complex problems of social exclusion," Senator Stephens said.

She encouraged conference participants to get involved in the national compact online forum (www.socialinclusion.gov.au/forums) and advise both government and the third sector on how they can ensure that staff on both sides have the skills they need to turn exclusion into inclusion.