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Election Analysis  |  Election 2016

Who Might I Trust to Foster an Inclusive Society?


Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 10:00 am
Keith McVilly
The Not for Profit sector is uniquely positioned, and some might say ethically obliged, to ask of our political aspirants how their policies will foster an inclusive society, writes Keith McVilly, Professor of Disability and Social Inclusion at University of Melbourne in the first in a series of election analysis.

Tuesday, 24th May 2016
at 10:00 am
Keith McVilly


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Who Might I Trust to Foster an Inclusive Society?
Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 10:00 am

The Not for Profit sector is uniquely positioned, and some might say ethically obliged, to ask of our political aspirants how their policies will foster an inclusive society, writes Keith McVilly, Professor of Disability and Social Inclusion at University of Melbourne in the first in a series of election analysis.

Five weeks away from the federal election, I ask the question, who might I trust with my vote? In the Not for Profit sector, concerned as it is primarily with the wellbeing and quality of life of our fellow Australians, the answer to this question is critical. But on what basis and against what criteria might I answer my question; what do I need to hear our political parties and individual candidates articulate so I might know I can trust them to work for the wellbeing of our country and the wider global community of which we are all part?

A brief systematic review of official party political policy statements and a sample of candidate letterbox drops and train station handouts reveals the usual plethora of promises and cross-party critique of issues related to health and education, law and order, defence and national security, tax reform, and the ubiquitous claim to tough economic management. Such issues are often presented as “ends in themselves”; the commitment to which and achievement of these being posed as evidence of good government for our time and a reason to trust one party over another.

But amidst this debate have our politicians lost sight of some of the fundamental reasons for policy development? Have we challenged them and have they explained to our satisfaction how their policies affect the building of an inclusive society as the basis and source of all our wellbeing? Policy commitments on education and health care, law and order, defence and national security, tax reform, and economic management can all serve to either undermine or foster an inclusive society.

In building the trust necessary to win over the voters of Australia, our political aspirants need to demonstrate that they have considered not only the economic and environmental implications of their policies but, importantly, the way in which these policies will either detract from or contribute to building an inclusive society.  

It is only when such a truly inclusive society is realised that we will all benefit from what diplomat, philosopher, and theologian Michael Novak, in 1983, described as “unity in diversity”: “Unity in diversity is the highest possible attainment of a civilization, a testimony to the most noble possibilities of the human race. This attainment is made possible through passionate concern for choice, in an atmosphere of social trust.”

Notably, the importance of this concept to building and sustaining the wellbeing of peoples and nations has been recognised by the European Union in their adoption of the official motto “In varietate Concordia” (united in diversity).

The Not for Profit sector is uniquely positioned, and some might say ethically obliged, to ask of our political aspirants how their policies will promote unity in diversity and in turn foster an inclusive society pro bono publico. It is the party and the candidate which best answers this question that will win my trust and my vote.      

About the author: Keith R. McVilly Professor of Disability and Social Inclusion at the University of Melbourne. He is a Registered Clinical Psychologist and his work addresses the translation of research into policy and practice, with a focus on promoting the well-being and community inclusion of people with multiple and complex disabling experiences. His work reflects the centrality of relationships to wellbeing. Much of Prof McVilly’s research is conducted in applied settings, working directly with people with disability, families and services providers. He has a particular interest in the issues affecting people with cognitive impairment who present with severe challenging behaviours, and those involved in the criminal justice system.

Hear Prof Keith McVilly and Dr Sara Bice discuss the issues for the Not for Profit sector in the federal election campaign in the latest edition of Pro Bono Australia’s Not for Podcast.


Keith McVilly  |   |  @ProBonoNews

Keith R. McVilly is Professor of Disability and Social Inclusion at the University of Melbourne.

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