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Victoria needs to unleash the power of local communities to solve entrenched disadvantage

Many parts of Victoria are struggling with entrenched social disadvantage. Traditional top-down approaches aren’t working, where different government agencies each try to solve a tiny piece of the problem in isolation.

Today, the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) is calling on the Victorian Government to take a new approach, and allow local communities to be partners in solving social problems through local leadership and collaboration.

“There are already dynamic and active community leaders building on local strengths and networks to create change in communities across Victoria,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“This enthusiasm can be harnessed by the Victorian Government establishing a Social Innovation Fund to provide additional resources to ignite the potential of these place-based collaborations.”

“The insight, on-the-ground experience, and leadership of local communities are essential to make long-term improvements in their trajectory. Only with local support, energy and collaboration can the wide-range of government programs, grants, volunteers and philanthropy make a meaningful impact.”

“A Social Innovation Fund can provide the ‘glue’ that holds local collaborations together, and gives them the capacity to engage, consult, and design innovative approaches adapted to local needs, as well as measure their results.”

“Local community collaborations are an essential tool to tackle entrenched disadvantage. Turning around a community takes time and resources, and requires communities to work together towards unified goals for the long term. Services and projects need to be co-ordinated across government siloes so they are working together – not at cross-purposes.”

“Communities need to be able to determine their own shared priorities, rather than be told from outside, and have the capability and resources to innovate and try new ways of working. Governments need to have the confidence to trust communities to work in their own interest.”

“Across Victoria, we see communities looking for ways to unite behind a common purpose. Shepparton is currently hosting ‘1000 Conversations’ about how to provide a bright future for their young people.  We see organisations like the Ten20 Foundation hosting conversations about children’s education and development. We see successful stories like ‘Go Goldfields’ making real, measurable progress in turning around disadvantage in a community.”

“The Victorian Government can support more of these initiatives by investing strategically in community-led collaborations that bring together the resources in a community to work smarter.”

“The themes of collaboration, early intervention and prevention, and taking more person-centred approaches to the design and delivery of public and community services are spread throughout the VCOSS State Budget Submission: Putting people back in the picture. The submission outlines a whole-of-government plan that pulls together recommendations in 12 priority investment areas to tackle poverty and disadvantage across Victoria.”

Key investment goals include:

  • Strengthen community organisations to help people fulfil their potential
  • Prevent, identify and respond to family violence
  • Deliver an equitable education system to help every child fulfil their potential
  • Help people facing disadvantage gain work and skills
  • Help make housing affordable
  • Help vulnerable families nurture their children
  • Build healthy communities
  • Improve the lives of people with disability
  • Prevent crime through a smarter justice system
  • Cut the cost of living for people on low incomes
  • Expand people’s transport options
  • Build cohesive and resilient communities.

“If implemented, our plan will help create a Victoria that creates inclusive growth, recognises difference and support diversity and responds to population growth and change.”