WA Social Service Sector Launches ‘What If It Was Me?’ Election Campaign
20 January 2017 at 12:47 pm
Western Australia’s community service sector is getting personal with its state election campaign in a bid to drive social issues onto the agenda.
The What If It Was Me? campaign, launched Friday, encourages West Australians to consider how easily people can slip into disadvantage.
Led by the sector’s 29 peak bodies, including the Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS), the campaign will run in the lead up to the 11 March election.
“Since the end of the boom, wages have fallen and jobs are being lost. Most of us know somebody who is doing it tough, even if we aren’t,” WACOSS CEO Louise Giolitto said.
“Inequality and disadvantage have always existed in WA, but for many it is now no longer something that just happens to others. More and more people are at a point where they are asking: ‘What if it was me?’
“WA has more than 240,000 people living below the poverty line, with the highest level of income inequality in the country.”
She told Pro Bono News the What If It Was Me? campaign would personalise the message.
“Inequality in Western Australia is definitely on the rise so our campaign is aimed at all West Australians,” she said.
She said people should ask questions like: “‘What if it was me who lost my job, could I continue to pay my mortgage?’ ‘What if… I became homeless, could I continue to go to work?’ ‘What if it was my child that had a drug addiction and we wanted help for rehabilitation but we couldn’t get it?’ ‘What if it was my best friend experiencing terrible domestic violence but we couldn’t get them into a shelter?’”
She said putting an “end to inequality” in WA needed to be the number one focus in the election.
The group of peak bodies, representing a myriad of community service organisations that support over a million people in WA, have outlined their six key priority areas for the election.
Giolitto said they were underpinned by “growing inequality and poverty” in the state.
“The key priorities should be social reinvestment in smart justice strategies that stop locking up our young people, especially our Aboriginal young people,” Giolitto said.
“We want an increase in investment in early intervention and treatment approaches, which are known to deliver healthy communities and substantial long-term savings.
“One of the key issues in this state is homelessness, we need the government to give an absolute commitment to increase the social housing stock. Having a roof over your head is a basic human right on so many fronts… and we have a waitlist of over three years with over 8,000 people.
“WA has the highest unemployment rate of the nation right now, but the youth unemployment rate, especially in regional WA, is almost double that of the nation. We need incentives for employers putting our young people to work.
“We need to increase funding for refuges, advocacy services, community legal centres and safe home programs as part of our response to family and domestic violence.
“And we need to trail more flexible approaches when it comes to hardship grants to make sure we’re hitting the key priority areas of why people are in hardship.”
She told the launch, which was attended by WA Premier Colin Barnett and Labor leader Mark McGowan, that the upcoming election provided both voters and political parties with the opportunity to make a choice.
“Our political parties can take action on inequality which is at the root of disadvantage and so many of the social problems experienced in our community,” she said.
“Without programs that address inequality and disadvantage, things are going to get worse. Difficult economic times are exactly the moment at which it is most important for whoever is in government to invest in our community services.
“Around the world, we are seeing the political consequences of income inequality and entrenched disadvantage.
“WA is at a crossroad – we can choose a fairer future. It’s just a question of priorities.”
The group’s election platform, and a breakdown of party policies, can be viewed here.