Advocates push for Brisbane Olympics social impact gold
3 August 2022 at 8:50 pm
Momentum and expectations are building around how the Brisbane Games could leave a social policy legacy that benefits the whole community.
With 10 years to go until the Olympics land on Queensland’s golden shores, advocates are gearing up for an event that could reshape social policy in the state.
According to several not for profit and advocacy groups, the Olympic Games, to be held in Brisbane in 2032, could provide the perfect opportunity to reshape policy in the state in key areas like housing, employment and disability.
But there is much work to be done and a decade in which to do it, and although that sounds like a long time, it’s not for the sort of long-lasting change being considered.
Two groups at the forefront of this push are Queenslanders with Disability Network and Q Shelter.
An inclusive Games and legacy for people with disability
Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) has a vision for the Brisbane Games, and deputy chair of QDN, Dr Sharon Boyce, is ready to implement it.
She was recently appointed to the 2032 Games Legacy Committee to represent the voice of people with disability.
“I would like to think that it signifies the importance of the voice of people with disability,” she told Pro Bono News.
As well as her own lived experience as a person with disability, Boyce will bring the experiences and ideas of her colleagues and networks to the table for consideration, she said.
She said in the past, disability had perhaps not been considered on the same level as other indicators when planning major events.
As one of 12 people on the committee, she’s looking forward to changing that, working with business, government, transport and education to ensure the Games – and their legacy – are inclusive and accessible.
In June, QDN held a forum attended by over 80 people with disability and key supporters, at which it outlined its vision for the Games and their legacy. The summary of the forum was provided exclusively to Pro Bono News, and reveals participants called for:
- A successful, inclusive and accessible games for people with disability as athletes, spectators, workers, and volunteers
- Co-designed planning, designing and delivery of infrastructure, facilities and services with people with disability from the beginning
- A Queensland community that values people with disability as equal citizens
- A legacy of world class accessibility and inclusion across sport, housing, transport, infrastructure, employment, tourism, volunteering, public services and health and well-being for Queenslanders with disability and our community.
A number of actions to achieve key priorities were identified by participants in the forum, who spoke of how these could create change not just for people with disability, but also for First Nations people, rural and remote communities and people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
Co-design with people with disability, and leadership by them, was identified as being particularly important in setting up an inclusive Olympics.
Boyce acknowledged that the vision was “ambitious”, but said she was confident the goals could be achieved in the decade before the Games, especially when woven with the state’s disability plan and the National Disability Strategy.
“Can it be done? I absolutely believe it can,” she said.
“I think there’s something satisfying about… how we could… put those things in place, get sporting precincts up to amazing standards and put money and ideas into these areas and grow these areas.
“It’s about a vision for our state across all areas of support and infrastructure… [to support] people with disability.”
Boyce said the June forum was a “very energised space”, with a “diversity of disability” and hobbies that gave an insight into how Queenslanders with disability live their day-to-day lives.
For Boyce, this helped crystallise the idea of making public life accessible beyond just sport and the Olympics.
She’s keen to work with other organisations, advocates and peak bodies in the lead up to the Games to improve inclusion and access for vulnerable groups.
“I want everybody’s voice to be heard around the table… to generate great ideas. We’ve got to listen to each other as well as promote our own. And I think by doing that, we’ll be able to link together to progress.
“All organisations have different angles and that’s great because it gives a really full perspective about what we could do together in this space. And I think without that sharing, we’re losing a lot and not able to achieve as much as what we could possibly do if we did lead together in the best way.”
She said the legacy would not just be in the bricks and mortar of Games infrastructure, but in changes to community attitudes towards people with disability and other marginalised groups.
Time to go for gold
Like QDN, housing and homelessness peak body Q Shelter identified the 2032 Olympic Games as an opportunity for Queensland to reform areas of its social policy.
Last month Q Shelter released its ‘Go for Gold: A social inclusion legacy for the 2032 Olympic & Paralympic Games’ report, proposing a number of initiatives to improve the state of housing in Queensland in the lead up to the Games.
The release of the report was timed to closely follow the announcement of the Legacy Committee guiding the preparation for the Games, and to take advantage of the gathering hype around them to amplify social causes.
The report notes that Queensland is currently experiencing a housing crisis, with the state’s housing supply not keeping pace with demand.
The report warns that large scale events like the Games will cause displacement of existing populations without early interventions to prevent rising rental costs and ensure adequate housing supply.
Drawing on case studies from previous Olympic and Paralympic Games, the report proposes a number of outcomes across homelessness, housing, employment and economic participation, governance, and monitoring and evaluation, including:
- Ensuring Brisbane 2032 contributes to a reduction in homelessness
- Ensuring Brisbane 2032 achieves an increase in housing supply inclusive of social and affordable housing.
- Ensuring Brisbane 2032 achieves increased employment outcomes for people who are unemployed or underemployed.
- Ensuring housing and homelessness expertise at all levels of governance.
- Implementing a transparent monitoring and evaluation framework that includes targets, indicators, and measures.
The report makes a number of recommendations too, including:
- Clear social and affordable housing targets in key locations, including targets for the conversion of athletes’ village accommodation to social and affordable housing
- Developing measures to assist people to exit homelessness before Brisbane 2032 and prevent more people from becoming homeless
- Creating a lead agency for whole-of-housing system responses in Queensland with responsibility for coordinating all contributions across the levels of Government
- Monitoring and responding to housing market changes leading up to, during and after Brisbane 2032, in impacted regions
- Reporting on progress against housing targets to achieve real-time improvements
- Establishment of a housing trust to capture community-wide contributions to social and affordable housing in perpetuity
Jackson Hills, manager of policy and strategic engagement at Q Shelter, spoke to Pro Bono News about the release of the report and said the organisation hoped the state government would take advantage of the “huge opportunity” that the Games present.
“We have a very tough climate at the moment with housing stress in most locations, not just in south east Queensland but right across Queensland. But what are some of the policy changes we can make in a positive sense to have a better impact on the vulnerable in the community by 2032 and importantly after 2032?” he said.
The report notes that the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games had a positive legacy for housing, with the athletes’ village transformed into a “mixed community” with 400 social and affordable houses for rent after the Games. Meanwhile, many of the employment opportunities created by the Games were filled by those experiencing unemployment.
These sorts of approaches could be replicated by Brisbane.
Hills said social procurement is another area in which the Brisbane Games could excel, by connecting with organisations led by marginalised community groups like First Nations people.
He said while further research would need to be done in this space, Q Shelter recognised the correlation between better housing outcomes and employment.
Q Shelter’s vision for housing ahead of and after the Games takes into account the current housing crisis and the potential displacement of vulnerable communities that the Games could cause.
“If you look at the case studies, you’ll see that unfortunately quite often there’s been a crisis response to housing with major events. What I mean by that is, it’s left to probably the last 12 months to address rough sleeping populations and some of the homelessness challenges. That’s obviously too late,” Hills explained.
“I think with ten years to work with, we’ve got a greater opportunity to have some more interventions in the planning of housing supply and some of the other recommendations in the report. We want to avoid having a crisis response right at the end of the runway and start planning much sooner.
He said it was vital to have housing and homelessness representation in the governance structure for the Games. A housing economist was among the 12 people appointed to the Legacy Committee, Hills said, which Q Shelter welcomed.
It is also vital, Hills said, to map the current and projected state of social and affordable housing in key areas relevant to the Games, including Brisbane itself.
The report recommends the creation of a housing trust or foundation to capture sponsorship and philanthropy around housing, which Hills said is inspired by similar models around the world.
These bodies create a “funding vehicle” beyond traditional government funding, he said.
“What we’re suggesting in the paper is you could establish a housing trust in Queensland that takes advantage of philanthropic and responsible investors, institutional investors, other investors beyond traditional government sources that are linked to the objectives of… social and affordable housing, and respond to that need.
“It creates a funding opportunity for the community housing sector to draw upon to accelerate growth and build more housing,” he said, adding this would back up government-built social and affordable housing.
“One of the biggest things that needs to occur here in the next five years is a massive acceleration of social and affordable housing.”
It’s a big agenda, but Hills is confident that the Queensland government can get it right.
“I think the appetite from the Queensland government around legacy seems really strong and from all reports I think they’re very open to shaping that. We’re very optimistic about what can be achieved, especially with ten years to work with.
“But we need to get moving so we don’t procrastinate and lose momentum.”