TasCOSS: Prioritise investment in communities, Tasmanians

Kym Goodes, TasCOSS CEO, left, with Youth Futures chief executive Harry Tams and Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie.
Kym Goodes, TasCOSS CEO, left, with Youth Futures chief executive Harry Tams and Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie.

Every Tasmanian should have the opportunity for a good life.

Just getting by day to day, struggling with the basics is not good enough for our fellow Tasmanians.  

As we experiences growing economic prosperity there is little reason for anyone to think of Tasmania as Australia’s ‘mendicant’ state.

In spite of the current strong growth and optimism, fundamental areas like education and health, Tasmania’s low average household incomes, unaffordable housing and higher costs of basics including energy, healthy food and transport are still major issues for many.   

Every year 5000 households go without meals, 7000 of our friends, family and neighbours can’t afford to heat their homes through a cold Tasmanian winter, and more than 21,000 people struggle to pay bills on time.

But Tasmanians know that things can change and that we want to write a different story for our future.

Our story so far, the culture and the perceptions of who we are run deep, often focusing on our deficits rather than recognising our strengths. Our island’s greatest potential asset is in fact us, our people.  

Tasmanians are not born as liabilities. Our systems, cultures and ingrained attitudes can cause people to be isolated and marginalised, rendering them unable to participate, socially or economically.  These systems and the lack of appropriate services and support can lead to poor health, to so many challenges that going to school each day is overwhelming, to getting and keeping a job almost impossible.  

Now is the time to think differently.  We have been at this point before, on the cusp of a vibrant, strong long term economic outlook.  But each time we’ve been here we have overlooked the deep structural investment needed.

It is time to invest wisely, like we did some years ago in tourism and in irrigation, for example. These decisions are in part what has led to our current economic turnaround. Wise investment.   

It is time to strategically assess the needs of our people and our communities and re-balance.  Where there has been under investment we need to catch up.  Where the demographic profile of a community has changed, we need to re-assess the level of infrastructure and services required and invest accordingly.  We need to set our communities up to support people to thrive, be resilient and able to engage in the emerging opportunities to participate, economically and socially.  

We — and our next government reflecting us — will need to commit to this change by investing differently, by investing in communities and people the same way successive governments have prioritised and invested in specific industries and corporations. We need future investment to recognise the equivalent importance of our human capital.

And we need courageous leaders to take us there. Striving for truly “balanced books” shouldn’t be measured by the economy alone — it will be held to account for balancing the books in education, health, employment outcomes, participation rates and in the strength and resilience of our communities.

TasCOSS challenges the next state government to look beyond columns of numbers and see the riches that lie in each Tasmanian household, each Tasmanian community waiting with enthusiasm to be recognised as worthy of investment.

  • Kym Goodes is CEO of TasCOSS