Today on our first Assembly sitting day for this year, I outlined a number of key priorities for 2018 continuing the strong and progressive agenda that we outlined last year, including Labor commitments made at the 2016 election and those contained in the parliamentary agreement.
I’ll continue to progress these initiatives in a collaborative way and I want to thank the many community members who are feeding into my work. These people reflect a progressive community with a strong set of values, working together to push for equality and fairness in all parts of life.
Educating for broad horizons
Next week I will deliver a statement to sum up the first year’s work on developing a new strategy for the future of school education in the ACT and I’m proud to say that this process has been truly community led. With the help of expert leaders in the education field, we have found a great balance with a conversation bringing the best of knowledge and evidence, but that is grounded in what local teachers, students and families identify as most important.
My statement next week will start to shape the policy direction for this strategy – clearly and rightly focused on equity to drive the best outcomes for everyone in our schools. Of course the Labor values of equity and universal access to education will be strong themes across the Education and Early Childhood Development portfolios in 2018.
Right now the government is about halfway through the roll-out of 15,000 Chromebooks this year – improving equity, helping Canberra kids learn with the latest technology and easing the expectation on teachers to be experts on every device. This work is nation-leading. Other states are following Canberra’s lead, and I’ve got no doubt that a few years down the track we will start to see amazing young students emerge on the back of this investment.
I’d also like to emphasise the work I will continue to progress around inclusion and support for all students in ACT schools. In particular this will include full implementation of the Schools For All program, continuing with our commitments to support mental health for young people and making sure that every school is a safe school for young LGBTQI students, their friends, families and school communities. Australia has demanded equality for the LGBTQI community and this includes young people. The government will proudly continue in providing the Safe and Inclusive Schools program.
In early childhood education and care, last week brought disappointment as the federal government again fell short of its obligation to join states and territories as a partner to fund long term, universal access to preschool. The bookshelves are straining under the weight of evidence as to how important this access is for young children, particularly those from poor or disadvantaged circumstances.
It is as important as school education – in many ways more so. That’s why, with the help of my ministerial advisory group, the ACT will work to keep pressure up for long term commitment at the national level and also make every effort we can locally to extend the reach of quality preschool education.
Housing strategy / new approaches to housing
This year will also see the release of the government’s next housing strategy and again, my approach to this work has been to empower the people who live and breathe these issues each day, to help guide the policy process in government.
The government facilitated a long period of outreach and consultation last year, culminating in the housing and homelessness summit in October. The next step in this process will be the release of a full and detailed communique reflecting the community’s input. Currently with the housing advisory group, this document will present an extensive list of policy options. Not all will be right for the ACT but I will welcome any constructive involvement from across this chamber as we look at these options.
We will then face the challenge of assessing a long list of ideas and crunching the numbers around what will be possible and effective with the level of influence the ACT Government has over our housing market. I have also begun conversations with my ministerial colleagues around which there are shared responsibilities in the housing response and I look forward to working together in bringing the strategy together.
In greenfield development, 2018 will see the delivery of the first year of public, affordable and community housing targets through the Suburban Land Agency and I will bring key arms of government together to set new targets heading into 2019.
Gender equity and family safety
Last year I made a number of statements about my priorities in these two important areas and I have spoken repeatedly about the government’s commitment to achieving gender equity. It’s a challenge which needs to be taken on in every part of government, in private enterprise, in the community and in the home.
In 2018 the government, together with the Ministerial Advisory Council on Women, will get stuck into further implementation of the Women’s Plan. We will continue to reach out to the many champions for gender equity – both women and men – to push this movement forward and continue to show national leadership.
After two years of particular emphasis in the prevention of domestic and family violence and in the sports portfolio, the government will make further strides in these areas.
The family safety hub will take shape having been through an extensive co-design process and will become a real organising point and a place for innovation among the amazing support services working in this field. Through the Coordinator-General for Family Safety, we will also continue to work on a seamless government response to domestic and family violence and sexual assault.
Some of the important gains which have been made have not been the most expensive initiatives but have enabled new partnerships and approaching things from a new angle. One example is the work of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service and Housing ACT, working together to identify suitable properties for the Room 4 Change program which is now established. As we know, the key indicators around domestic and family violence are likely to stay very high as Australia comes to terms with the full extent of this problem and this is no different for Canberra.
What is really growing is our knowledge of some of the related factors and the controlling or abusive behaviours which play out in too many relationships. In so far as it’s possible, I will use the structure of the Safer Families program to report on these different factors and the government’s response to them.
In the sport portfolio, 2018 will see delivery of the numerous commitments the government made towards gender equity. Each of these was funded in the last budget and is now working together with ongoing policy commitments around elite team funding and board representation.
These priorities represent another great example of where the community has embraced the government’s direction – in some cases they’ve raced ahead of us – to work together on getting things done. One area where I will focus particular energy this year is on further improvements to sporting amenities – making them safe and inclusive for everyone – and I’ll soon announce a number of grants all aimed at this outcome.
At the national level, the ACT has been pushing for more than a year now on the need to agree clear targets for growing participation and promoting gender equity in sport.
This is an outcome I will continue to work towards with fellow ministers and sports administrators – not to rank states and territories in a competitive way but to show a shared commitment to using sport to drive greater equity in all our jurisdictions.
This summary gives a small snapshot of the challenges and opportunities I’ll be embracing in 2018.