I would like to begin by proudly acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the lands across this great state and paying my respects to all First Peoples. Wherever you are reading this from in Victoria, it is Aboriginal land; always was, always will be.
Our vision as the new Department of Families, Fairness and Housing is to empower communities to build a fairer and safer Victoria. We want a place free from disadvantage and discrimination where all people can build meaningful lives.
This strategic plan – our first since the department launched on 1 February 2021 – sets out our plan for delivering on the government’s priorities and commitments across our portfolios. Our department oversees the portfolios of housing; child protection; disability, ageing and carers; prevention of family violence; women; veterans; youth; multicultural affairs; and equality. In delivering across these portfolios, we work every day to achieve a fairer, safer and more inclusive Victoria. We support people so they can feel empowered, safe and secure. We work hard each day to help Victorians thrive.
We are deeply committed to Aboriginal self-determination and to supporting Victoria’s treaty process. We acknowledge that treaty will have wide implications for the way government departments and agencies do business with Aboriginal Victorians. This is likely to include a framework for transferring decision-making power and resources to support self-determining Aboriginal communities to take control of matters that affect their lives. We aim to create respectful and collaborative partnerships and develop policies and programs that respect Aboriginal self-determination and align with treaty aspirations. Culturally safe practices are also at the centre of our actions.
We want Victoria to be a fairer and more equitable society. We want all people to have access to the things they need to flourish.
As a foundation, we want all Victorians to have access to safe homes. This means having housing that is accessible, appropriate, affordable and meets peoples’ needs. We are working towards achieving this with an unprecedented investment in social and affordable housing – the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build (Source: Premier’s Media release, ‘Victoria’s Big Housing Build’, 15 November 2020). It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the social and affordable housing landscape. It is an investment that benefits the whole community.
Bringing real change to our community means providing tailored support to all Victorians. This includes culturally diverse communities, Aboriginal people, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability, women, seniors, carers, veterans, young people and children. Our focus is on building inclusive, engaged communities that contribute to a stronger Victoria. We want all voices to be heard and celebrated, and we will create more opportunities that make everyone feel valued. We will keep working to reduce inequality and discrimination and to promote accessibility and inclusion.
All children, young people and families have a right to be safe and supported. We are helping families to have respectful, strong relationships. We will keep focusing on intervening earlier while also offering intensive family support to help keep families together. This includes leading Victoria’s commitment to end family violence, elder abuse and all forms of violence towards women and children. We have already made extraordinary progress in implementing recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence, including increasing frontline service delivery, building new infrastructure, improving practice and changing legislation. But we know we must continue our work to build a system that supports the safety of people who experience family violence and sexual assault, and holds perpetrators to account. We will also continue delivering improved access to our specialist services and campaigns aimed at ending family violence.
We will keep striving for gender equality and increase women’s economic participation and leadership in Victoria. We will do this by supporting programs and services and removing systemic barriers to ensure a level playing field for people of all genders.
We will keep supporting seniors across Victoria to thrive in their later years. And we will continue advocating for the needs of older people and value their contributions to our communities.
We also know how important it is to empower young people to fully take part in the social, economic and civic life of our state. We are committed to creating fairer access to opportunities and support. We want young people to know their value and that we are listening to what they have to say.
Our support for people in our community extends to our veterans. We will continue supporting Victorian veteran wellbeing, recognition and acknowledgement of service through initiatives that support their successful transition to, and involvement in, civilian life.
We will continue advocating for equality and inclusion for LGBTIQ+ communities. Whether that is by opening the Victorian Pride Centre, delivering Melbourne Pride 2021 or developing Victoria’s first LGBTIQ+ strategy, we aim to improve the lives of all LGBTIQ+ Victorians.
We know how difficult the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic health emergency has been for all Victorians. Other catastrophic events such as the bushfires in early 2020 and the storms and floods in June 2021 have shone a light on those in our community who experience property loss or significant disruption. This is alongside psychological, physical and cultural trauma. We will continue to work across government, with our service partners and communities, to coordinate and deliver our relief services. This will help Victorian communities recover and start to rebuild their lives.
We will continue to work closely with Victorian communities. The strength, leadership and resilience of our communities and sector who have responded to the challenges of emergencies has proven how essential collaboration and connection is.
While our department works with people and communities to overcome challenges, we also have opportunities to make real change. We have a unique footprint – with offices across Victoria – where we will connect services and initiatives in places where people live and work. We will continue building initiatives that are person- and family-centred and that are joined in a way that maximises the impact for communities.
We will further our collaboration and connection with the community as we design and roll out our policies and services. This will allow us to deliver better, safer services that prioritise the people they support. We will keep working closely with our partners to respond to demand for these services and supports. This will ensure we are making the changes needed to support and sustain the community services sector.
Victorian people are vibrant and resilient, and we will support them as they move through their lives. I am proud to be the Secretary of this new department and to share our plan to make Victoria a fairer and safer place for everyone who calls it home.