The social inclusion policy agenda in Australia: A case of old wine, new bottles?
The election of an Australian Labor Government in Australia in 2007 saw ‘social inclusion’ emerge as the official and overarching social policy agenda. Being ‘included’ was subsequently defined by the ALP Government as being able to ‘have the resources, opportunities and capabilities needed to learn, work, engage and have a voice’. Various researchers in Australia demonstrated an interest in social inclusion, as it enabled them to construct a multi-dimensional framework for measuring disadvantage. This research program resulted in various forms of statistical modelling based on some agreement about what it means to be included in society.
The multi-dimensional approach taken by academic researchers, however, did not necessarily translate to a new model of social policy development or implementation. We argue that, similar to the experience of the UK, Australia’s social inclusion policy agenda was for the most part narrowly and individually defined by politicians and policy makers, particularly in terms of equating being employed with being included. We conclude with discussion about the need to strengthen the social inclusion framework by adopting an understanding of social inequality and social justice that is more relational and less categorical.
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