29 August 2009

New Australian report on cultural and social inclusion, and disability

This is my home… belonging, disability and diversity
Dinesh Wadiwel and Carrie Hayter for National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA), August 2009

Drawing on focus group discussions this report document stories and descriptions of what it means to belong, to be accepted and to feel socially included and connected.
Social policy researchers have taken an increasing interest in moving beyond traditional measurements of poverty and disadvantage (such as income deprivation) to a focus on social capital and cohesion, and wellbeing as measurements of broad participation and community resilience.

However, culture has an effect on what people understand by ‘belonging’ and ‘participation.’ It remains unclear whether current understandings of social cohesion and wellbeing are comparable across all cultural and linguistic communities.

NEDA facilitated three focus groups in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth between March and April 2009 with people from NESB with disability. This report documents their stories and descriptions of what it means to belong, to be accepted and to feel socially included and connected. The report highlights the importance of faith and friendship in understanding belonging and social connection, and emphasises the role of discrimination and poor responsiveness of support agencies in generating exclusion. This report follows on from the February 2009 literature review to explore the meaning of belonging, home and social connection for people from NESB with disability

The key findings of the report are that:

  1. Religion, faith and spirituality are an important component of social connectivity and belonging for many people from diverse backgrounds. Measures of inclusion must adequately value the role of faith in building inclusion and connectivity for many Australians.
  2. Discrimination has an impact upon opportunities and social inclusion outcomes. A social inclusion agenda must address systemic and individual discrimination, including racism.
  3. Family and friends are important gateways to social participation and belonging. Friendship networks in particular are worthy of further investigation as an enabler of social inclusion.
  4. The ability to be to have a voice and be heard is a key component of feeling included. Linking social inclusion with human rights frameworks and support for advocacy provides a direction for giving people opportunities to be heard.
  5. Creating more positive interactions between support agencies and consumers can have the benefit of a stronger sense of belonging and connection for people who face social exclusion.These key findings provide future directions for building cultural and linguistic inclusion as part of the Australian social inclusion agenda. > read report

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