Community – Kim Fischer

The universal right to shelter

Speech given to ACT Labor Annual Conference (29 July 2017)


Today, we are each taking time out of our weekend to try and make the world a better place. The values and principles we are debating today define Labor as the party which is prepared to commit to big ideas to solve big problems.

We fight for universal health care and we should equally fight for a universal right to shelter.

There is no more fundamental human right than access to safe and secure shelter, yet in the ACT we have the second-highest rates of homelessness in the country.

How is it that we have 2000 homeless people living in Canberra, while the Federal Government has nearly 200,000 square metres of unoccupied government offices in Canberra alone?

The only thing standing between homeless people and opening up government offices is bureaucracy and a lack of political will.

In Canberra’s cold July, the lack of action in opening up those government offices, just a third of which could shelter all of Canberra’s homeless, is unacceptable and cruel.

According to the most recent Productivity Commission statistics, in the ACT we fail to provide accommodation solutions to more than 34% of people seeking accommodation support. 16% of people requiring homelessness assistance are migrants from countries where English is not the main spoken language – almost double the national average.

I acknowledge the ACT government is looking into housing affordability and homelessness, and I hope that opening up of government offices is part of that solution.

Delegates, I urge you to support this amendment.

The power of language

My latest RiotACT post discusses commemoration of International Mother Tongue Language Day next week. The United Nations-sponsored event has promoted “linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism” since 1999:

… it is important to recognise and respect how language impacts a person’s cultural heritage, identity, and place in society. Speaking in the language and accent of your parents and grandparents is a continuous and powerful reminder of where you come from.

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Spare a thought for those working this Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time for many families, but it can also be tricky for some:

… spare a thought for those dedicated workers and volunteers who are there for people who need care, and to pick up the pieces when Christmas really doesn’t go to plan for the rest of us. Babies still get born, people still have accidents, our elderly still need care. Whether they are police, paramedics, doctors, or nurses, some people simply don’t get to spend Christmas Day at home.

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The NDIS will transform lives – here’s why

Not everyone understands the positive impact the NDIS will bring to the lives of people with disability. In this week’s RiotACT article I explain the key changes:

Each “individualised support package” allocates an annual amount of funding which is tied to a range of particular support needs of that participant … By having certainty about funding, as well as the freedom to select and change providers, the power relationship between care providers and the client is rightfully inverted.

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The modern work conundrum – what’s a family to do?

In this week’s article, I look at ways to improve work/life balance for parents:

Employees that are parents still want to work hard, but they need employment arrangements that value outcomes over the number of hours spent at work. Workplaces that allow limited personal calls, time-shifting of work outside of normal hours, remote working arrangements, and allow employees to do family-related tasks during work hours or break time reduce stress on parents and increase loyalty to their employer.

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RiotACT post: Dancing in the streets? Nope, too much red tape

In this week’s RiotACT article, I look at the complexities of holding public events in the ACT and ask if there’s more that could be done:

The ACT government’s recently-launched Access Canberra site promises coordinated approvals assistance for events, which is a very promising step forward [..] They should consider maintaining a central list of community rooms and facilities available for hire on Access Canberra, and providing a simple, online process that allows groups to book and use any of these facilities.

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