Good morning everyone and thank you for inviting me to open this plenary session on the future of place-based change.
Unfortunately I’m not able to be there with you in person today and I’m recording this a little earlier in Parliament House in Canberra.
I would like to start this morning by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which I am on today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
I extend that acknowledgement and respect to all First Nations peoples there with you today.
I’m proud to be part of a Government that is committed to delivering a Voice to Parliament and recognising our First Nations people in the constitution.
Ensuring local communities have an opportunity to be heard by the Parliament is something worth voting YES for.
I would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which ChangeFest is held, and acknowledge elders past, present and emerging.
I am honoured that I am able to lend my support to a First Nations led, place-based, social change approach, and this will be a great opportunity to share learnings about how communities and collaborators are leading change.
I want to begin by recognising the extensive work undertaken by ChangeFest to put community-led approaches in action, and hold such a successful event at this scale.
With community-led change, we will see real results and long-term change.
It’s an honour to be given the opportunity to highlight the importance of these community-led approaches, and how our Albanese Labor Government is committed to backing-in community-led change.
For me, I truly believe place-based solutions are critical to empowering communities and delivering solutions that actually work.
They are how we will see significant, lasting change.
Place-based solutions, including shared decision making, working across governments, and facilitating access to community-level data will help communities – but it will also help government and non-government sectors to empower communities by ensuring they have access to supports that best suit them.
While there is significant government and philanthropic investment across Australia, recent events, including widespread flooding, bushfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic, have presented additional challenges for communities.
It is critical we listen to these communities and learn from their experiences.
ChangeFest is and has been a vehicle for real lasting change in this space.
The first ChangeFest was held in now-Treasurer Jim Chalmers’s hometown of Logan in 2018 and the Stronger Place, Stronger People initiative was announced at ChangeFest 2018.
Just recently I was in Logan visiting Village Connect and Logan Together, where I saw place-based solutions in action, including one of their maternal and child health hubs.
The design of these hubs were driven by data and community voices, and aligned with the shared strategy for change. By designing cultural-specific child and maternal health hubs, we are seeing better outcomes for mothers and children in Logan, including lowering the rate of stillbirths from 2 to 0.5 per cent.
Use of the Hubs, including by Pasifika mothers, has increased breastfeeding and a lower likelihood of pre-term birth.
Women using the Hubs were also found to be statistically more likely to attend antenatal psychosocial screening.
What is critical about place-based solutions is the coming together and cooperation of different community organisations, services, levels of government, to coordinate solutions in one place – meeting the specific needs of that community.
It’s critical to ensure people aren’t falling through the cracks anymore.
This new way of working allows the supports that already exist in a community to be knitted together, and reduces the need for people to tell their stories over and over again.
It will be better value for money for Government investment, it will produce better outcomes and build a stronger community.
Communities look different. They have strengths and different issues that need to be solved and it’s far from one size fits all. We know solving the complex problems children and families face in communities will be different.
Ongoing engagement with a community to identify its strengths and needs is critical to make better, shared decisions.
Driven by community, this approach can allow real change to be enacted and allow governments at all levels, along with services, businesses, schools and police, to all play important roles in supporting the community.
By listening to the voices of communities and working hand in hand, the Government will continue its commitment to drive improvements to support.
One integral part of this involves governments working differently.
We have commenced this through a range of place-based initiatives, partnering with community to align policy agendas with community for change.
The Government is currently investing more than $100 million per year in place-based programs and initiatives, operating in many locations across Australia.
There is opportunity to learn from the community-led initiatives that are delivering results and to back what works.
Many more place-based and community-led initiatives are funded by states and territory governments, and philanthropy.
The Albanese Labor Government is committed to supporting community-led change. This involves governments working differently, genuine partnerships at all levels, co-design and adjusting funding and policy to align to community agendas for change.
I am excited by what can be achieved when we work together, and look forward to seeing the results from the many new partnerships we are creating.
My department has activities already underway which demonstrate this new way of working.
Another example of the Stronger Places, Stronger People initiative that I mentioned before is the work happening in Bourke.
This work is well progressed in Bourke. Maranguka is working with local families, the three major service providers in town, Bourke Shire Council, the NSW and Australian governments, and is authorised by the Bourke Tribal Council.
There is commitment to redesign family support in Bourke, so that it works for local children, young people, parents and carers.
Workshops to redesign family support are being planned for April, the decisions made will be shared by community, services and governments. The outcomes will be services and activities that meet the needs of Bourke families and are culturally respectful.
And while not technically a place-based initiative, a great example to highlight the benefits of shared decision making is the work we have done to deliver the first action plans under Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031.
These Action Plans are another example of the results we can achieve by working together in a delegated decision making framework.
The Action Plans were done in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and importantly with a children-centric focus. This was a true co-design process.
We are ensuring that the voices of people affected by policies are at the centre of policy-making, and this is a principle we are applying to the development of the Early Years Strategy too.
The Strategy aims to deliver the best possible outcomes for Australian children by recognising how critical the early years are for children’s development and continued success over their lifetime.
Just a few weeks ago parents and community organisations were joined by representatives from across government, non-government, academic and business sectors – along with First Nation’s voices – to start the discussion on how to get the settings right across all portfolio areas for Australia’s children, ensuring parents and children are at the centre.
Community-led systems change, like the work underway in Bourke and Logan, is addressing the causes of poverty. We know that community-led systems change is delivering better outcomes and the Albanese Labor Government wants to better back this work in partnership with communities.
In closing, let me say thank you again to ChangeFest for inviting me to speak.
My Department has long been a major sponsor of this event. You continue to pave the way and inspire the success of community-led change.
Your work today, led by local communities, will continue this process, and make real change.
This is only the beginning of the conversation.
As the Prime Minister has said previously, this should not be a remarkable exception, it should be the default approach, that governments align effort to community-led change.
I can’t wait to see where place-based, community-led approaches take us.
Your contributions are recognised, valued, and celebrated.