Current Discussion

Current Discussion: Social Inclusion

This discussion is now closed.

What does social inclusion mean to you?

You may have noticed that the term ‘social inclusion’ has recently been a hot news topic.

Media interest began when the Federal Mental Health and Ageing Minister’s portfolio expanded to cover social inclusion. When asked in the first hours of his appointment to define social inclusion, Minister Butler said that social inclusion meant “different things to different people.”

This comment seems to have spurred on a number of articles in The Australian. Many of these are critical of the Government’s social inclusion agenda. Some articles accuse Government of hiding behind the jargon of social inclusion and of not doing enough to support people to feel included in the community. Minister Butler has since provided more information about Government’s social inclusion agenda and wrote that

‘Social inclusion recognises that disadvantage does not only rest on the amount of money you have in your pocket (though that is obviously important), but also on a range of other factors including educational opportunities, disability or mental illness, access to services and shelter, family and social relationships.’

Minister Butler says that part of Government’s role in improving social inclusion is to improve coordination of services.

We want to know what you think.

What do you think of this definition of social inclusion? Do you think it is a new concept or just new jargon?

As a mental health consumer, what does social inclusion mean to you? When have you felt socially included?

Who is responsible for promoting social inclusion?

What can government and community members do to promote social inclusion?

Tell us what you think. We will post your comments so you can exchange ideas with other consumers about what social inclusion means to you.

To send your comments to the policy team click here.

Comments received so far:

Margaret (3 February 2012): I think it’s a load of jargon that talks in riddles and does not have anything to do with what my understanding social inclusion is. We still lock people up with mental illness as society does not except people that may be different. Why talk the talk when you can’t do the walk. What I mean by this is that the government opened another 300 mental health beds. So it is a big contradiction to real social inclusion. What the government needs to do is make community based care fairer, indiscriminative out of a prison like environment. These people are the most abused people in society and I am ashamed of the way in which mental health care (and I use the word care loosely) is delivered to people who of no fault of their own suffer mental health issues. We deliver age care packages for aged people in the community to keep them at home for as long as possible. Why not afford people with mental health issues that same opportunity. Much more dignified and less chance of being abused in a jail like atmosphere with no support or anyone to complain to. These people need a voice and a choice. 

Fred says (16 Jan 2012): ‘As a carer it is the person I support: Being recognised for the person they are not as an illness. Being openly included in all aspects of society without the stigma that can and is associated with mental illness. Not feeling as though they have to live up to the expectations of others. Being treated with dignity and included in all aspects of service delivery, (Client centred practice). Being allowed to have views and values that may not always agree with others. (Not always a sign of unwellness). Being HEARD not just listened to.’

Helen says (14 Jan 2012):  I think it’s great to talk about Social Inclusion as some people feel lonely and isolated. However I think in the end whether you have an illness or not, it’s up to you to get involved in activities of life. It’s very hard when you are ill, but when I am stable I have every opportunity of including myself in life’s activities. Some things are too expensive, but there are local things on that I can budget for and some things for free, advertised in the local newspaper. If a person needs company, one could join walking groups, join writing groups or whatever interest a person has. Thank you for listening.’

Nicole says (13 Jan 2012): ‘Social Inclusion to me means that a person is accepted by society regardless of any illness or disability they may have. Every person has the right to be an accepted member of the community and to feel safe and free of discrimination and until our society accepts peoples differences we will not have social inclusion. We have legislation that state all people are entitled to be treated equally and attitudes are changing very slowly but are we doing enough to encourage more changes in attitudes?’

Anonymous says (13 Jan 2012): ‘I agree with the Minister’s definition somewhat. I think social inclusion means having positive relationships with different people – other consumers and the wider community. I find interest groups are good as there, people are more interested in a common goal or idea, rather than how much money you have or whether you are a mental health consumer or not. I think social inclusion is linked a bit with stigma and prejudice and we are all guilty a bit and so I think anti-stigma campaigns are good run by government or ngo’s as well as positive exposure to the wider community of mental health issues and what people with disability are capable of. Education and the arts can help promote more positive images of mental health consumers.’

Warren says (13 Jan 2012): ‘”Social Inclusion” is a two way street. Many of us with mental illness begin to believe that we don’t really belong in social situations, or in employment, or in relationships. We become prejudiced against ourselves. It becomes easier to be passive and drop out of things. That makes it easier for society to dismiss us as defective. The current surge of public funding has more to do with the taxpayer expressing pity for poor victims of past neglect. The honeymoon won’t last long. That is why we people with mental illness need to go forth and join society, get jobs, be fruitful and multiply. Easier said than done? Of course! But we are up to it. I always say if there are two equally qualified applicants for a job (or a relationship?) and one has a mental illness, the one with the mental illness is the superior candidate. They have something the other doesn’t. They are more experienced.’

Michelle says (12 Jan 2012): ‘‘Feeling useful, valued, needed, having a role, being a part of, feeling accepted, included, feeling heard. Ways to do this include, working, volunteering, joining a club, joining a social group, doing a course, socialising with family and friends, and getting support when you need it from community organisations, and family and friends. What is needed is access to the above via, internet, telephone, transport, community organisations, educational facilities…. etc…’

Jon says (12 Jan 2012): ‘Personally, I think the term Social Inclusion is just a renaming of older schemes that have been tried in the past with limited success. As a mental health consumer my perspective may be prejudiced but over 56 years now- my current age- I’ve found the general public in most instances aren’t really interested unless one of their family is being discriminated against somehow. It’s viewed primarily as a waste of taxpayers’ money. I’ve tried these schemes myself & find there’s no real planning or backup for those of us who don’t fit neatly into prepared boxes. This happens whether you’re a professional or a concerned member of the public. Called the too hard basket. Think these schemes could be workable if they were properly implemented but they never are- not enough money, professionals and it appears every time they’re a great way to show the government cares while using them as a P.R. exercise. Interested in what others think-professionals or consumers.’

Anonymous says (12 Jan 2012): Social inclusion to me means having friends, family, workmates, sport team members, and even acquaintances that you have enjoyable interactions with leading to a sense of belonging and acceptance even if they know that you have a mental illness. Also feeling connected to the wider community not just with other consumers.’