Making a difference on World Day of Social Justice

As the United Nation states, “Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations”.

“We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality, or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”

Wendy Brooks and Partners commemorates World Day of Social Justice by calling on everyone to do what they can for social justice and celebrating the achievements of organisations who are making a real difference.

Homelessness is an important issue of our times and the “housing first” approach taken up by Haven; Home, Safe has some incredible success stories, especially for highly vulnerable young people and their kids. Their 2-year intensive support model breaks the cycle of homelessness and enables people to be self-sustaining (often without any need for government welfare) which many of the short-term transition programs currently funded by government do not achieve.

Sidney Myer Haven

People with disability are much less likely to be participating in the labour force than people with no disability (53.4% compared to 83.2%) and this figure is even lower for people with a profound or severe limitation (only 25% are in the labour force). The Customised Employment model which supports people with disability to identify, gain and sustain meaningful employment has evidence demonstrating it is the most successful approach to assisting people with significant disability to participate in the labour force. A university-community partnership involving the University of Melbourne in partnership with Centre for Disability Employment Research and Practice and Scope is trialling this model and customising it for the Australian environment.

In India, Centurion University has a completely different approach to employment for the differently abled but their program is designed to lead to the same end – a career path. Centurion has adapted its Coffee Brew Master program to meet the needs of differently abled students, particularly for Deaf students. This program places students in India’s largest coffee chain, Café Coffee Day. To date, over 480 differently abled students have been trained as café personnel and placed in Café Coffee Day cafes all over the country.

For this to work though, Centurion has a specialised outreach program involving the panchayats (local village councils), job fairs, door knocking and alumni word of mouth to encourage students from rural areas to study at the university. It also then provides relocation support, mentoring, counselling, links with health and social services and crisis support.

The experience of many organisations is that you need to provide prolonged, tailored wraparound support for changes to be sustainable. All of the above projects – Haven; Home, Safe, Customised Employment and Centurion’s program for Deaf students all provide this level of support. Too often, governments fund shorter programs that may save money in the short term but cost so much more in the long term.

On this World Day of Social Justice, we call on governments to fund this type of bold, ambitious solutions that don’t just offer band-aid measures but break the cycle of dependency and create a more equitable, socially just and sustainable world that benefits everyone!

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