Resilient, Strong, Brave: Collective Power of Community
The 2023 WACOSS Conference comes at an important historic moment, as we tackle the big issues of our time, implement the Uluru Statement and demonstrate the collective power of community.
As a sector, a community and a State we have lived through challenging times and saw great strength emerge from mutual aid. Communities came together in the face of pandemics and disasters to find local and joined-up solutions, as public attitudes swung strongly behind the idea that we should leave no-one behind. Now we are faced with new challenges. Rising inflation and living costs, skills shortages and flat wages, a property boom and a shortage of affordable rental housing are leading to growing inequality within our community. Those on low and fixed incomes are left further behind, and new homeowners in the mortgage belt face financial hardship for the first time.
During these hard times the commitment and compassion of the community sector shines through. It is when we step forward to lead the way to new solutions and better outcomes, when we show what we are made of. We are always looking for ways to work smarter, and pushing for better community preparedness and planning, for a greater focus on prevention, early identification and diversion, to invest in community resilience and preparedness.
Staff and volunteer burnout is now a major issue for the wellbeing workforce. A decade of funding and wages not keeping pace with rising costs, short-term contract extensions and insecure work, growing service need and complexity are taking their toll. Improving pay equity for the women dominated health and social services sector is now clearly on the national agenda, with a focus on measuring the wider productivity benefits of care work to drive better pay.
Organised and well-resourced local networks will play a critical role in developing and delivering the integrated place-based service systems of the future. The commitment to develop national wellbeing budget frameworks comes off the back of a decade of our collective advocacy to better measure what matters beyond the economy. Better capturing and reporting community outcomes will enable us to demonstrate the true value of our work, giving us the opportunity to shine.
Resilience is needed now more than ever as we respond to these challenges. The defining feature of communities that thrive is their complexity and inter-connectedness. Diversity means there are more options and alternatives, different strategies interact and complement each other.
Now is the time for us to be strong and brave, to share and grow our resilience and assert our collective power.