Building a Victoria Without Poverty
30 May 2014 at 4:03 pm
It’s time to unite our community, not polarise it, writes Victorian Council of Social Service Chief Executive Officer Emma King, who recently launched the VCOSS State Election Platform – Victoria Without Poverty.
The Federal Budget has left us reeling. The Commonwealth Government has taken a divisive approach to make those who can afford it the least bear the brunt of its proposed budget changes.
We should not be corralled into a debate that demonises some, and pits Australians against each other. Are you a “heavy lifter” or a “leaner”, a “winner” or a “loser”, or do you “earn” or “learn”?
VCOSS believes that this divides, rather than unites, our community.
Instead of buying into loaded language, VCOSS believes we need to stand together to argue the case for the stronger, fairer society Australians aspire to. We need to deliver solutions, not create more problems that make Australian’s lives harder. Heading towards the Victorian state election it is imperative that we begin talking about finding ways to build the type of future we want.
And what we want is a Victoria without poverty.
In Victoria today one in five people live near or below the poverty line. The division between rich and poor is widening. Our schools are becoming more unequal, our children are being taken into child protection at record rates. Homelessness is rising, and the prison population is exploding. There are growing numbers of reports of violence against women and their children.
The continuing transition of the Victorian economy from manufacturing to services risks stranding workers without jobs. And on Melbourne’s outer fringe and across regional Victoria our failure to match booming population growth with the required physical and social infrastructure, means more people are forced to make choices to merely survive, rather than thrive.
If we continue down this path, we will see more and more Victorians trapped in a cycle of entrenched poverty, unable to escape.
But it is not inevitable; we can choose a different future.
In six months Victorians will vote for their next State Government. Now is the time to define the type of community we want to live in, along with the opportunities we need to create for future generations.
It is not the time to begin casting stones at one another, to allow cheap slogans to categorise and demonise vulnerable people, while pulling their support systems out from under them.
Do Victorians want to live in a community that looks after its most vulnerable? VCOSS believes this is the foundation of a civilised society. Leaving the most vulnerable and disadvantaged to a life of poverty and despair is not only morally unconscionable; it comes at a significant social and economic cost. All parties seeking election need to be able to articulate how they will reduce poverty now, and prevent it in the future.
VCOSS has distilled the wisdom of Victorian community service organisations to form a state election platform aimed at uniting the community, not polarising it, by showing how to build a Victoria without poverty.
We believe, and the evidence shows, that with smart policies aimed at the right places, we can make real and substantial differences in people’s lives. And we believe this is the Victoria that people want.
By redressing the imbalances that hurt people receiving the lowest incomes, living in the most disadvantaged areas and facing the biggest difficulties – we can build a more prosperous and inclusive Victoria without poverty. At the same time, we can prevent the social costs to our community that come from waiting until problems reach crisis point, by dealing with the causes of disadvantage.
VCOSS has identified the top 12 ways we can build a Victoria without poverty in the next term of government.
From helping every child succeed in education, to reducing housing costs, improving public transport access, reducing violence against women and their children, improving workforce participation, delivering energy efficient homes, reducing crime through justice reinvestment, delivering fair funding to community sector organisations for better services, developing a plan for social policy change and delivering better governance, we will make a strong start to building a Victoria without poverty.
Beyond these, there is more to do to give all Victorians a better chance at a decent life.
We need to train people for a modern workforce, improve access to health care, support diverse and vulnerable communities, respond to climate change and manage emergencies better. We need to consider where jobs, transport, health and community services are, and ensure people can afford safe and stable housing nearby. There is much to do, and the VCOSS State Election Platform spells out in detail how it can all be done.
VCOSS has provided all sides of politics with a map they can follow to unite the community, rather than polarise it, and improve the lives of all Victorians by building a Victoria without poverty. We now call for the political will to deliver on this vision.
About the Author: Emma King is CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Service. The VCOSS State Election Platform was launched at the 2014 VCOSS Summit.