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Male, female, white, black, young, old: inclusion, exclusion and what it means for us

By Rebecca Vassarotti - 28 September 2017 6

It was hard to miss the media storm over the past week after Mark Parton MLA voiced the view that the ACT Government’s inclusion policies meant that heterosexual white men over 30 are being overlooked in favour of minority groups. I am sure he didn’t anticipate the scrutiny and really heard the critique about taking the statements out of context. As the commentary rolled, I wondered if enough had been said, and it was time to move on.

There are however a few more things to explore beyond the hype and the sensationalism, and the discussion provides an opportunity for us to explore what kind of community we want to be part of and what we value about living here. While it is tempting to be scornful of such comments or participate in personal attacks, it’s more important to try to explain the importance of inclusion programs and initiatives, as well as to understand what sits behind groups who say they are missing out.

If you haven’t been excluded, discriminated against or denied your human rights because you happen to be part of an identified group in the community, you could think that inclusion isn’t something we need to worry about in Canberra, a progressive and affluent community. This incident has highlighted however that we clearly need to continue to build an understanding in our community that exclusion does exist and it is a problem – not just for the individuals themselves but for all of us.

When one looks into the life outcomes for some of the ‘minority groups’ identified in this discussion, there is clearly the need for us to act. Let’s remember just a few stark statistics. Let’s remember the deeply confronting life expectancy gap of around a decade between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians. Let’s remember the mental health challenges faced by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community, where with LGBTIQ young people aged between 16 and 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetimes. Let’s remember, the ‘minority group’ of women who still face a gender pay gap in this city of 12.4% (a figure that is rising), which has impacts across their life cycle.

The reality of disadvantage isn’t going to shift without concerted effort and that’s why most governments invest in programs to increase inclusion and participation. Inclusion means just that – inclusion for everyone. Inclusion programs are about creating a more even playing field. These programs are not about giving particular groups a head start – it’s actually about getting them to the starting line.

It is true that sometimes moves to be more inclusive can result in groups that have previously been able to access most of the benefits of our community feeling like they are missing out because the rules seem to have changed. Inclusion does mean that we have to share power, and invite others into spaces that have previously been limited to a chosen few of us. It will mean that for some, access not based on merely merit but privilege may become more difficult. It can also change the nature of these spaces – we have seen the broadening out of access in a variety of settings has set new community norms, where we have seen the need to modify language and actions to ensure that they are respectful and don’t work to negatively impact on particular groups of people.

As our community changes, the impacts on particular groups will change and may need specialised support. It is true that there are particular challenges now faced by heterosexual men over 30, and with that, there is a range of tailored services – services such as Menslink and Everyman Australia are just two examples in Canberra of services that have a particular focus on men.

We need to recognize that different groups might need different types of support, and just because one group has this tailored support, it doesn’t mean other issues are being ignored. We need to be careful not to buy into the politics of envy and not helpful to set up a debate which sets one group against other groups, as we have a responsibility to provide adequate support and services for all our citizens.

I think we need political, business and community figures to show leadership in supporting our community in understanding the importance of programs around inclusion. What do you think?

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6 Responses to
Male, female, white, black, young, old: inclusion, exclusion and what it means for us
John Moulis 10:50 am 29 Sep 17

I agree with the respondents who have said that “inclusion” is an attempted social engineering scheme intended to create work for idle public servants.

Social inclusion must come from within the community, it cannot be imposed by government fiat. Over the years we have had waves of migrants from various parts of the world, and we have done our best to accommodate them and include them in our social circle and activities. They enrol at our school or start in our workplace and we befriend them and make them feel comfortable to make their transition into Australian society as seamless as possible. It is a natural evolution, something that happens subconsciously within human nature. It doesn’t happen after orders from a government eager to engage in virtue signalling and political correctness. We were doing this in the years following WWII as the post-war migration boom gathered pace. It happened long before bourgeois political concepts like political correctness and “inclusion” became trendy.

I understand how people like Mark believe that mainstream Aussie males feel left out of this process, but social inclusion and integration sometimes involves an element of give and take and compromise. By including newcomers into society we should be mindful not to alienate people who do not fit into the designated focus groups or target demographics.

Affirmative Action M 8:41 am 29 Sep 17

My family migrated from Italy in the 50’s & we were the first non anglo’s in the neighbourhood. I copped some racism & discrimination but gave back as good as I got & wasn’t worried by it.
I reckon this social inclusion is the biggest load of social engineering garbage we have seen for a while. It is essentially a job creation scheme for social workers & academics.
It is primarily the responsibility of the migrant to actively integrate. My mother did so enthusiastically & had a pretty good life. My Dad refused to integrate & suffered the consequences.

BadDad123 10:25 am 28 Sep 17

Mark Parton said “We have a worryingly high level of suicide among middle aged men in Australia and it’s on the increase.”

While I agree there is always concern about any suicide and what we as a society can do to address it – the ABS figures do not reflect Mark’s statement.

A total of 2,862 Australians died by suicide in 2016, a rate of 11.7 deaths per thousand people. That’s less than last year (which had a rate of 12.6) but is still a full point higher than the rate ten years ago.

Suicide rates decreased from 2015 to 2016 but the rate of young people dying by suicide hasn’t changed, the change in rate is mostly driven by a decrease in suicides by middle aged men.

CaptainSpiff 9:37 am 28 Sep 17

Very well put chewy14.

Long forgotten are MLK’s words about being judged by the content of ones character. Instead, the left wants to put everyone into groups depending on whichever external characteristic they may share. It is a truly cynical way of looking at people.

Mark Parton MLA 8:53 am 28 Sep 17

chewy14 said :

The problem with this kind of “inclusiveness” is that it is what actually drives division within the community and exacerbates the problems its supposed to be addressing.

By not treating people as individuals with individual experiences but rather defining them (and their need or disadvantage) by their apparent membership of groups such as gender, racial background or sexuality, all you do is encourage labelling and further disadvantage.

The underlying assumption is that membership of certain groups inherently requires government support, funding or special “inclusiveness” programs regardless of their circumstances, which drives everyone else to see them in that light too. You stigmatise them as “lesser”.

How about instead of treating individuals as part of some amorphous blob of “disadvantage”, we treat people as individuals and help them based on need?

Exactly the point I was making. Inclusion must be about everyone.

My speech was in response to a government motion patting itself on the back for the strength of its inclusion policies. The guts of my speech was that inclusion must be about everyone and that there are large groups of Australians, including many Canberrans who feel marginalised, but don’t fit neatly into one of the ‘minority’ groups.

In my speech I spoke about the high suicide rate for middle aged men in Australia. The alarm bells should be ringing very very loudly.

We have a worryingly high level of suicide among middle aged men in Australia and it’s on the increase. In the decade to 2014, the suicide rate among Australian men aged 55 to 64 surged by 58 percent. Are we doing enough ?

Applause to the ACT Government for going out of its way to specifically include some minority groups, but the reality based on the dozens of emails that have come to my office since this speech is that there is a very large group who don’t feel included.

Rebecca says “It is true that there are particular challenges now faced by heterosexual men over 30 and with that, there is a range of tailored services such as Menslink”
Menslink do some amazing work…..but it’s all for young men under the age of 25.

chewy14 7:48 am 28 Sep 17

The problem with this kind of “inclusiveness” is that it is what actually drives division within the community and exacerbates the problems its supposed to be addressing.

By not treating people as individuals with individual experiences but rather defining them (and their need or disadvantage) by their apparent membership of groups such as gender, racial background or sexuality, all you do is encourage labelling and further disadvantage.

The underlying assumption is that membership of certain groups inherently requires government support, funding or special “inclusiveness” programs regardless of their circumstances, which drives everyone else to see them in that light too. You stigmatise them as “lesser”.

How about instead of treating individuals as part of some amorphous blob of “disadvantage”, we treat people as individuals and help them based on need?

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