For all people to lead a good life Victoria needs a long-term social policy agenda and governments that strive to be engaged and embedded in communities.
Enter a treaty with the Aboriginal community
Transforming government means confronting our shared past: to plan for the future of all Victorians we must find a pathway forward to reconciliation with Victoria’s first peoples. Aboriginal Australians have long called for a Treaty, or treaties, between community and government:
“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.”
Aboriginal Victorians should decide the scope of a Treaty, potentially including sovereignty, rights, government relationships, service delivery and decision-making.
It could also include education, Aboriginal guardianship, housing, economic empowerment and business development.
Steer social change with a social policy blueprint
Under a flagship strategy for Victorian social justice, different areas of government can develop leadership, oversight and coordination to work together in achieving social change.
Victoria needs a clear future vision setting high aspirations through targets, timeframes and accountabilities. This will bring together different plans and ensure resources are working in the right places and reaching the right people. Rather than delivering a list of isolated announcements, different agencies can work together towards the same goals, and changes can be correctly aligned – not duplicated or haphazard – and rolled out in the right sequence.
Create inclusive growth
To reduce economic inequality, Victoria can pursue inclusive growth, which ensures that the dividends of economic growth flow to those with the lowest incomes through stronger income support, more jobs and higher wages. This is fairer than the current economic growth trajectory, where most of the extra income generated by economic growth flows to people who already have high incomes and wealth.
Prevent and intervene early
The key to enhancing the lives of Victorians is to prevent health and social problems, rather than waiting for them to become entrenched and acute before acting. Across the Victorian Government, resources need to be directed ‘upstream’ to prevention and early intervention services, disrupting the heavy reliance on ‘downstream’ services that provide acute, emergency and crisis responses. In every case, prevention and early intervention is cheaper and leads to people living happier and healthier, more productive lives.
Plan to match place-based needs with local services
Victoria has an opportunity to forecast and budget for local social and community services and infrastructure needs, as local communities grow and change differently in different places.
Already we can see moves in this direction. Victoria is getting better at future planning through Infrastructure Victoria and the School Building Authority. We can now make this ‘business as usual’ across government, so every local community has the mix of local services that fit with its current size and need. This includes the right suite of community services, including childcare, neighbourhood houses, community health services, mental health services, disability services, children’s services and family violence services, among others.
Develop ‘one place, one plan’ place-based approaches
Social and community services are most potent when they work as part of broader, collaborative action in local communities. Place-based approaches facilitate government, non-government, private sector and community collaboration to tackle local issues. Local networks can identify opportunities and linkages not visible to more distant and centralised agencies.
Fragmented, overlapping and partial place-based initiatives currently operate. This inhibits co-ordination and increases the workload on everyone involved. Instead, these initiatives should move to ‘one place, one plan’ place-based partnerships, with governance structures reflecting unique local community composition.
Collaborate and co-produce with the community sector
The community sector is a resource with decades of experience in delivering services to Victorians. The Victorian Government can be more effective and efficient and generate better ideas if it draws community organisations into the heart of policy-making. Co-production encourages people using services to get involved in service delivery and planning, funding decisions, evaluation and outcomes measurement. The Victorian Government can create more successful services by encouraging and endorsing co-production for program development, community service organisations and place-based initiatives.
Co-design with service users for person-centred services
People with lived experience, including of poverty, disability, family violence or homelessness, have knowledge and insight essential for governance systems, place-based approaches, and service design and delivery. Co-design “involves coming alongside people who experience vulnerabilities, to work with them in creating interventions, services and programs which will work in the context of their lives, and will reflect their own values and goals”. Local co-design can use collaborative problem-solving to produce tailored service design and delivery suited to local needs.