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Rethinking Welfare for the 21st Century: Forum Proceedings

In September 2010, The University of Auckland Business School co-sponsored by The University of Auckland's Retirement Policy and Research Centre, Public Policy Group and Departments of Economics and Sociology,  and by Child Poverty Action Group held a public forum: Rethinking welfare for the 21st century

The purpose of the the forum was not simply to be reactive to current welfare policies and the Welfare Working Group, but to begin the proper debate that is fitting for the 21st Century on these issues. These proceedings bring together the various contributions of that day and also include as background material, supporting articles and papers that have been written in the same vein.

Rethinking welfare for the 21st century: Forum Proceedings (2010)

In 2010 the government announced the Welfare Working Group (WWG) and introduced a major welfare reform in the Future Focus Bill 2010, rapidly passed into law in August as Social Security (New Work Tests, Incentives, and Obligations) Amendment Act 2010 No 105.

Alarmed by the narrow nature of the debate and the undue focus on paid work as only the solution to complex problems of poverty, several academics and front line workers sought an outlet for a wider debate. An alternative working group was set up to provide a forum for different views and in September 2010 a coalition of interests focused around The University of Auckland Business School Retirement Policy Centre, the Sociology Department, the Economics Department, the Public Policy Group, and Child Poverty Action Group held a forum to discuss the way in which welfare should be re-designed for the 21st Century.

The intent was to examine the social inclusion framework which has seen some shift in Australian hard line welfare policy. Paid work is important but it is only one aspect of social inclusion and while not always the case, Australian policy appears to have benefited from putting social inclusion rather than paid work at the centre. As contributor Paul Smyth who is a Professor of Social Policy at Melbourne University and the director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence said in the November Brotherhood comment paper on his return to Australia:

Working for social policy change can often seem like watching the grass grow. While the day-to-day growth may be imperceptible, with time the change is unmistakeable. The case of the social inclusion agenda in Australia is an excellent example. Adopted by the Rudd government three years ago, it has often been dismissed as ambiguous and ephemeral.

...as 2010 draws to a close the reframing of Australian social policy around concepts like ‗social investment‘ and the ‗inclusive society‘ sets Australia starkly apart from a country like New Zealand which is currently immersed in the kind of ‗welfare war‘ which we experienced back at the turn of the century.

The purpose of the Auckland University September forum was not simply to be reactive to current initiatives and the WWG, but to begin the proper debate that is fitting for the 21st Century on these issues. These proceedings bring together the various contributions of that day and also include as background material, supporting articles and papers that have been written in the same vein.

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