Embracing diversity and inclusion

Goal: Everyone is recognised, valued and included.

People can only lead a good life if they are respected for who they are, and everyone gets the same chance to achieve. Victoria is blessed with incredible diversity: proud First Australians, people from cultures around the world, strong and talented women and men, people of diverse age, abilities, and gender and sexual identities.

Our challenge is to harness all their talents and energies to realise a fair future together.

To do this, we must remove the roadblocks that prevent people from getting a fair go.

We need to confront the attitudes and biases, conscious or unconscious, preventing us seeing people’s true value. We need to address the wrongs of the past, and achieve reconciliation for the future.

By giving every Victorian a fair chance, including treating them equally, we can overcome disparities and allow everyone to achieve a good life.


 Embedding Aboriginal self-determination

VCOSS recognises that the lands of Victoria were never ceded by its First People, which remains unfinished business. VCOSS supports a Treaty between the Victorian Government and the Aboriginal nations of Victoria, and to map out a pathway to self-determination and reconciliation.


Cultivate strong, Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations

The best way to redress centuries of marginalisation is a policy of Aboriginal self-determination and strong, sustainable Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCOs). Self-determination is an ‘ongoing process of choice’ through which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can meet their social, cultural and economic needs, recognised by Australia as a human right.

Strong, independent ACCOs are the foundation infrastructure upon which self-determination can be built. ACCOs deliver culturally appropriate services, designed and trusted by Aboriginal people.

Through well-resourced organisations, the diversity of Aboriginal voices can be amplified. ACCOs provide tools for change and control of resources through which Aboriginal communities can overcome the manifold disadvantages they face,87 to take their rightful, proud place as the original custodians of the lands and waters of Victoria.


* Enter a Treaty with the Aboriginal community
* Build the Aboriginal community sector workforce through coordinated planning
* Keep Aboriginal children in the care of their communities


 Pursuing gender and sexual equality

Gender and sexuality are deeply personal components of identity, and part of the richness of human diversity. Societies with greater gender equality tend to have less crime and violence, stronger economies, better business performance, and be more cohesive and connected.


Develop a gender inclusive culture

Victoria can pursue cultural, structural and attitudinal change around perceptions of women. This means investing in programs and interventions that erode gender stereotypes and develop public consciousness
of the equal capabilities and value of women and men.

By encouraging women’s participation in all levels of government, and supporting business and the community to dismantle barriers to equality, we can facilitate equal representation and life achievement, and change perceptions of women’s capabilities and leadership potential.


Use a gender lens in policy-making, budgeting and auditing

By adopting a gender lens in budgeting and policy-making we can help overcome the inequalities experienced by women, including greater risk of poverty, 15.3 per cent lower wages, and superannuation balances nearly half the size of men’s. Victoria can build on the commencement of a Gender Equality Budget Statement by more widely adopting gender impact analysis, gender budgeting and gender auditing. These are tools to make better decisions to reduce gender inequality and support women’s participation. They help design organisational systems, policies, plans, services and communication to erase discriminatory effects, eliminate unequal access, or combat harmful gender stereotypes.


Teach respect in relationships

Victoria can help shape positive attitudes and behaviours toward gender roles, encouraging equal relationships and reducing gender-based violence. Victoria can maintain and expand the Respectful Relationships education program, which engages schools in addressing gender inequality, gender stereotypes, and attitudes that foster violence.


Respect and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Victoria can help LGBTI Victorians live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives by removing residual legal discrimination and improving support for the LGBTI community. This can help overcome their higher risk of abuse, violence, discrimination and exclusion, which results in increased incidence of depression and anxiety, substance abuse, self-harming and suicidal thoughts. Victoria can remove remaining employment discrimination allowed by the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, and create safe, open, non-judgemental services, including in the areas of health, family violence and aged care. Key interventions can include specialist training and resources, inclusive policies and practices, and specific service interventions.



 Empowering people with disability

The more than one million Victorians with disability have the same right to a good life as everybody else. This includes being able to exercise their human rights, make choices, and understand and execute their responsibilities.


Boost Victorian disability advocacy and information funding

Victoria can match Australian Government funding for disability advocacy, providing at least $5.1 million for advocacy recurrently, and making sure information services for people with disability are not lost in the NDIS transition. Disability advocacy helps empower people with disability, as well as their families and carers, to defend their human and legal rights, communicate and meet their needs, and safeguard against abuse. These services are especially valuable during and beyond the NDIS transition.


Strengthen Victoria’s safeguards for people with disability

Victoria can guarantee and strengthen safeguards to protect people with disability against violence and abuse through the NDIS roll-out and beyond. The NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework will only apply to NDIS providers and participants, leaving a major gap in coverage for individuals accessing services outside of the NDIS.

The majority of people with disability will be ineligible for individual NDIS packages and even those who qualify for NDIS supports will continue to access mainstream services, such as education and health. Victoria must provide strong safeguards for people at risk of violence, abuse and neglect across all settings.


Select people with disability as decision-makers

Victoria can include more people with disability in government decision-making structures and processes, ensuring their voices are heard in decisions about their lives. People with disability have valuable insight from lived experience that can make government policies, programs and practices inclusive and accessible.


Standardise disability statistics

Victoria can better understand and improve its effectiveness at reaching people with disability by improving their recognition when collecting administrative data. Collecting better data provides a picture of service use and uptake by people with disability, allowing better identification and removal of barriers and gaps in access. Data collection should be made consistent with national and international standards, such as by adopting a standardised disability data flag.


Make government information accessible

Improving communication accessibility will ensure all Victorians can get the information they need. This can include better access to interpreting in Auslan or community languages, improving website compatibility with screen readers, and providing government information in plain or Easy English. These changes would improve accessibility for people with disability as well as the broader community, including people for whom English is not their first language, those with varied levels of literacy, and children and young people.



  Planning an age-friendly Victoria

Age should not compromise someone’s ability to live a good life. As our population continues to age, we need to ensure the supports and services are in place to allow older Victorians to continue to lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives of their choosing. Older Victorians are active participants in our families, communities and economy, including by working and volunteering, and as unpaid carers, looking after spouses, older parents, children and grandchildren.


Unveil a long-range blueprint for older Victorians

Victoria has an opportunity to develop an extensive agenda to strengthen Victorians’ quality of life and the state’s economic performance as our population ages. Victoria’s seniors have diverse needs, with some at greater risk of social exclusion or disadvantage, including people on low incomes, people with disabilities, older women, those living with dementia or chronic health conditions and people living in rural areas.

The blueprint should incorporate the dimensions and diversity of older people’s lives, including areas such as employment, healthy ageing and participation, strengthening culture, supporting diversity and addressing vulnerability, carer recognition and support, access to services and housing, and preventing and responding to elder abuse.


Combat elder abuse

Victoria can strengthen its action on preventing and responding to elder abuse with a cross-sectoral Victorian strategy as well as working with the Australian Government on a national response. This can help protect older Australians, of whom up to 1 in 17 experience elder abuse, the most overlooked form of family violence. Elder abuse includes any action that harms or distresses an older person, carried out by someone they know, including physical violence, psychological or emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. It is rooted in ageism, which is influenced by society’s attitudes towards older people, and their marginalisation in the community.

Victoria can respond with comprehensive strategies to detect and respond to elder abuse, such as training for frontline staff across government services and investment in specialist services. Prevention can also be a strong focus, based on understanding ageism and community attitudes as key causes.



 Celebrating and supporting cultural diversity

Everyone should be able to pursue a good life in Victoria, no matter where they were born or who their parents are.



Nurture inclusive and specialist cultural support

Victoria can build on actions to support people from culturally diverse backgrounds or who are new to Victoria. For instance, expanding the range of education and employment services, language and translation services, the Victorian African Communities Action Plan, support for young people, and festivals and events.

In our regions, a more diverse community is clamouring for culturally appropriate settlement and health services, and community engagement for people and families. Gender equality and rights education in both pre-arrival and settlement phases can support women and girls in reaching their full potential, along with culturally sensitive information to prevent domestic and family violence in culturally diverse communities, particularly in regional Victoria.

Specialist financial counsellors can provide culturally responsive training in household budgeting to avoid financial hardship. Similarly, culturally competent and bilingual drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services can improve access for marginalised communities.