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Learning and Development Calendar
ACTCOSS provides training in cultural awareness, emerging leaders, boards, quality standards, and more!

Event to acknowledge the Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations - 10 February

This year ACTCOSS is collaborating with the Dhunlung Yarra team at Relationships Australia to host an acknowledgement of the Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.

The theme for this year is 'Heal our past, build our future, celebrate our heroes'.

Northern Wiradjuri Elder Coral Peckham will talk of her experiences and knowledge. We are very grateful Coral has agreed to join this event. Coral is from the Red Ochre People of Dubbo and carries a wealth of knowledge and is well known and respected Elder in her own Community.

Lost in Transition: ACTCOSS Community Summit - 26 February

This community summit will bring together service user, consumer advocacy and service provider representatives to give their perspectives on the impact of social service reform on continuity, quality and sustainability of services.

The summit will consider what can be learned from people's experience, with a focus on planning, implementation, and alignment of intentions and outcomes of social service reform.

At the conclusion of the summit a communique will be presented to government outlining community expectations for managing risks associated with major, concurrent changes in service funding, provision and procurement.

Community Services Industry Plan: Scoping Paper released by KPMG

A Community Services Industry Plan is being developed to support the ACT community sector through a period of significant structural adjustment.

KPMG has been engaged by the ACT Government Community Services Directorate to develop the Industry Plan with consultations to commence in early 2016. A steering group has been formed with community sector, government, union and consumer representatives to oversee the plan’s development. ACTCOSS is supporting community sector engagement in the development of the Industry Plan.

KPMG has produced a scoping paper to support Industry Plan consultations with community service providers and other stakeholders. Community sector organisations are encouraged to read the scoping paper and to participate in consultation activities that will be run by KPMG and ACTCOSS in early 2016.

For information about the Community Services Industry Plan and how to be involved in its development, contact Geoff Buchanan at ACTCOSS on 02 6202 7222 or

Op-ed: Housing and homelessness clear examples of a Canberra of two parts

Appeared in The Canberra Times, 24 January 2016

In this op-ed, Susan Helyar, Director of ACTCOSS, calls for a whole of government commitment to improving homelessness services and accessible, affordable housing supply in the ACT.

ACTCOSS welcomes the expanded ACT Ministry

Media release, 22 January 2016

Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, commented today on the new administrative arrangements released by Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

"I welcome the new and expanded Ministry and congratulate Dr Chris Bourke MLA and Meegan Fitzharris MLA on their appointment as Ministers."

ACT HACC-YP Services Mapping and Capacity Report

17 December 2015

This project aimed to map the existing ACT Home and Community Care – Younger People Service System and assess capacity and unmet need. This research report provides credible evidence that the system has not only had very limited capacity to accept new clients, but that some services are currently providing many more outputs than what funding covers.

Don’t sign up to a shocking deal, community sector urges State and Territory leaders

Media release, 11 December 2015

Councils of Social Service (COSS) across the country have rejected the effort at so-called tax ‘reform’ emerging from the Treasurer’s and Leaders meetings held over the past two days.

'Of all the packages and reform proposals on the table over the past six months, this attempt at a deal has picked up their worst elements,' said Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service.

Unaffordable housing and homelessness dim the lights in the festive season

Joint media release with ACT Shelter, 27 November 2015

As Canberra families gather to watch our city attempt to break the Guinness Book of Records title for the world’s most lights on an artificial Christmas tree tonight, community organisations around Canberra have joined together to publish fact sheets that highlight the other side of Canberra during the festive season – people less able to enjoy the season because they face extreme housing stress or homelessness.

The fact sheets are part of a campaign called My Vote For Housing which is an initiative of ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter inviting voters and candidates to consider housing and homelessness as key issues in next year’s ACT election.

ACTCOSS Annual Report 2014-15

The ACTCOSS Annual Report 2014-15 is now available.

Community sector calls on Chief Minister to commit to clear bottom lines in tax reform debate

Media release, 5 November 2015

Following the release today of new NATSEM modelling outlining the impacts of potential GST changes on low-income and disadvantaged households, the ACT Council of Social Service calls on Chief Minister Barr to reject any tax deal or increase in GST unless:

ACTCOSS Budget Priorities 2016-17

ACTCOSS has published our submission to the ACT Budget for 2016-17. ACTCOSS argues that improving social inclusion and equality should be the core agenda guiding ACT Government spending decisions. Housing, education and transport are identified as areas of high community need in the ACT. The submission provides extensive evidence to support 50 brief recommendations and six detailed recommendations.

Councils of Social Service: ‘community service guarantees’ and fair tax reform to pay for them

Joint COSS media release, 21 October 2015

ACOSS and the State and Territory Councils of Social Service have released a statement on reform of the federation based on legislated ‘community service guarantees’ in areas of shared responsibility to ensure universal access to affordable essential services for people across the country. The statement also sets directions for tax reform to help pay for these guarantees.

Push for housing as key ACT Election issue: voters invited to "Make My Vote for Housing"

Joint media release with ACT Shelter, 17 October 2015

One year out from the coming ACT Election, Canberra’s 270,000 voters are today being urged to make housing and homelessness key issues in deciding the poll.

Following a week which has thrown the spotlight on housing costs driving poverty in Canberra during Anti-Poverty Week, the peak bodies ACTCOSS and ACT Shelter have joined forces to unveil a yearlong campaign to enable voters to have their voice heard on Canberra’s housing affordability crisis.

Launch of Green Paper: Safe + Well – Redefining the affordable housing crisis

15 October 2015

Today the Anti-Poverty Week headline event launched the green paper Safe + Well – Redefining the affordable housing crisis. The paper features the voices of representatives from Canberra’s community and private sectors as they unite around the issues surrounding the ACT housing affordability crisis.

Councils of Social Service call for development of national plan to tackle poverty and inequality in Australia

Joint COSS media release, 12 October 2015

At the start of Anti-Poverty Week, ACOSS and all eight State and Territory Councils of Social Service, are calling for the development of a national plan to tackle growing poverty and inequality in Australia, including setting targets to ensure the incomes of the lowest income earners increase at least at the pace of those in the middle.

National Councils of Social Service urge Senate to vote down 4 week wait period for income support

Joint COSS media release, 11 August 2015

Meeting in Darwin today, the nation’s peak community sector bodies issued a joint call for the Australian Senate to vote down the harsh Federal Government proposal to withhold income support from young people and some single parents.

The heads of ACOSS and state and territory Councils of Social Service said:

"We call on Senators to reject these changes which will only cause greater financial distress and an additional barrier for people to get back into paid work."

Issues Paper: Educational Inequity in the ACT

July 2015

The Youth Coalition of the ACT in partnership with ACTCOSS has released a paper highlighting the importance of education and the issues and challenges of educational inequity in the ACT. Most young Canberrans will have a positive experience at school, but our high average attainment works to hide the fact that there are students falling behind, not achieving and disengaging from school in the ACT.

Over the next year, the Youth Coalition, in partnership with ACTCOSS, will be working with ACT community sector organisations to develop a common understanding of what is needed to address educational inequity and support the students that are not succeeding in our school system. This paper is designed to stimulate discussion and provide background for an initial conversation about what is working well in our education system, where improvements can be made and the role of the community sector in supporting and working with young people, their families, and schools, to ensure that all young people can succeed in education.

Government leaders urged to find long term solutions to fund vital public services

Joint COSS media release, 21 July 2015

Councils of Social Service (COSS) across Australia today called on the Council of Australian Governments to work together on long term solutions to fund important universal and social services such as health, education, housing and community services into the future.

As our national leaders prepare to meet, we urge them to put aside political differences and forge a way forward which guarantees access to services for all Australians into the future, regardless of location or income, through secure long-term revenue streams.

Submission on the Taxi Industry Innovation Review

July 2015

ACTCOSS has three key requirements of any new development in transport: that it be accessible, affordable and fit for purpose (incorporating east to west travel needs and within neighbourhood travel inside and outside of peak hours as well as mass transit). In this submission ACTCOSS focuses on the need to regulate safety and quality standards and to further consult with people living with disability who face increased reliance upon (with associated cost) taxi-type travel. ACTCOSS argues for the need to enhance transports choices as well as preserving quality and safety for all and makes relevant recommendations to meet these ends.

New Reconciliation Action Plan

We have launched our second Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The RAP sets out specific actions ACTCOSS is committed to achieving during 2015-18 to contribute to the vision of a reconciled Australia.

New report: Independence in the Not-for-Profit Sector

25 June 2015

ACTCOSS and SACOSS are launching the report Independence in the Not-for-Profit Sector at the ACOSS conference today.

The report sets out the findings of a research project investigating the meaning of independence in the community not-for-profit (NFP) sector. While frequently independence is a central concept in debate on the NFP sector, the meaning of independence is taken for granted. This report highlights that there are a range of ways in which independence is defined and understood in the ACNC Act, in policy debates, and by sector representatives. It also highlights that independence continues to be considered of vital importance to and by the NFP community sector.

ACT 2015-16 Budget Snapshot for the Community Sector

ACTCOSS has produced its annual Budget Snapshot document. The Snapshot outlines selected Budget initiatives affecting people experiencing disadvantage and the community sector. Read our response to the ACT Budget in our media release: Budget has right focus but investment is modest (Word doc 98KB), (PDF 91KB).

Budget has right focus but investment is modest

Media release, 2 June 2015

The ACT Council of Social Service says the ACT Budget for 2015/2016 recognises the need for social inclusion and equality to be at the centre of decision making and planning for the ACT community. However, the investments announced in this Budget do not fully address the gaps we know exist in our economy, our infrastructure and service systems.

Nominations open: 2015 Canberra and District Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Sector Worker of the Year Award

Since 2006, ACTCOSS has coordinated the Canberra and District NAIDOC Award for the Canberra and District Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Sector Worker of the Year.

Nominations for the award are open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in the ACT and region, who are employed in the community sector and non-government agencies who work with the local community. The award will be presented at the ACT NAIDOC Awards on Saturday 4 July 2015.

ACTCOSS would like to thank bankmecu for sponsoring this award.

New Report: Analysis of Changes in the Cost of Housing in the ACT

27 April 2015

ACTCOSS has released a new report tracking the cost of housing, particularly for vulnerable and disadvantaged households in the Australian Capital Territory.

Key Messages Research conducted by ACT Shelter in November 2014 shows: Download the report:

Response to Proposal for NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework

This submission to the Australian Government Department of Social Services, is ACTCOSS' response to the draft Proposal for a National Disability Insurance Scheme' Quality and Safeguarding Framework. ACTCOSS advocates for access to Individual Advocacy as part of the Framework, and an independent statutory complaints function, with a Disability Complaints office independent of the NDIA.

Concessions essential to cope with ACT costs of living

Media release, 10 April 2015

ACT government concessions are essential to ensuring that people experiencing disadvantage are able to afford fundamental necessities and should not be changed in the 2015-2016 ACT Budget. A new ACT Council of Social Service report tracking the cost of living in the ACT highlights why.

“Our Cost of Living Report finds that key costs of living are rising in the ACT. It also finds that cost of living pressures are increasing for some people on lower incomes faster than the average rate. For those on the lowest incomes whose discretionary spending is limited, these escalating costs can mean having to make difficult choices between basic needs such as housing, food and transport,” Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service stated.

Draft determination review for ActewAGL electricity prices 2014-19

SEE-Change and ACTCOSS have provided a joint submission to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) on the draft determination review for ActewAGL electricity prices 2014-19. This submission provides a brief analysis of the issues that should be taken into consideration by the AER in their review, including energy hardship in low income households, the need for infrastructure development, and ActewAGL as a major employer and economic contributor in the ACT.

Review of the Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme

The Conservation Council ACT Region and ACTCOSS have provided a joint comment on the Energy Efficiency (Cost of Living) Improvement Act 2012.

We have a shared view that human contributions to climate change must be addressed while at the same time recognising energy needs, particularly for heating, cooling and lighting. Increased costs for energy will impact most on people with low or fixed incomes. The reduction of energy use through energy efficiency measures has the dual impacts of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions along with reducing the costs associated with energy use. The attention given by the Act to priority (low-income) households is a welcome focus for the implementation of energy efficiency measures.

Social Inclusion and Equality are welcome new portfolios in ACT Cabinet

Media release, 21 January 2015

Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, commented today on the announcement of the new portfolio arrangements for Ministers released by Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

"I welcome the new Cabinet and congratulate Yvette Berry MLA on her Ministerial appointment. ACTCOSS looks forward to working with Minister Berry whose portfolio responsibilities, which include Housing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Community Services, Multicultural Affairs, Women, and Social Inclusion and Equality, cover much of the core business of ACTCOSS – advocating for policy, programs and services that promote justice, equality, reconciliation and social inclusion."

Collective community sector call for Government halt to 'devastating' funding cuts

COSS media release, 31 December 2014

ACOSS and state and territory Councils of Social Service have issued a collective New Year's Resolution for the Federal Government to stop devastating funding cuts to community organisations all over the country.

Speaking today, ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: 'We are determined to convince the Federal Government to reverse its decision to cut funding from community organisations around the country as well as the key national community peak bodies in the housing, homelessness, disability areas, two days before Christmas."

"It is clear that the consequences of these cuts have not been considered by the new Minister responsible, and all our early signs from community people around the country tells us the impacts on vulnerable communities will be devastating."

80% of community services can't meet demand

Media release, 8 December 2014

A national report released by the Australian Council of Social Service today provides alarming evidence that community services are not able to meet demand for support because of a lack of resources, and that quality of life is decreasing for some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.

Commenting on this report today, Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service said: “This means people in Canberra who are eligible for support are being turned away – most often from legal and housing services.

ACTCOSS Budget Priorities 2015-16: ACT Budget Submission

ACTCOSS has published our submission to the ACT Budget for 2015-16. Our Budget Submission includes key asks around affordable housing and homelessness that community sector organisations have come together to promote. We collectively believe on-going investment will underpin and facilitate genuinely better and more sustainable outcomes for disadvantaged Canberrans in the areas Government has identified as priorities for action in its Budget Strategy.

Our members have also identified three areas of urgent need that we advise the Government to invest in as a matter of priority: Accessible services and community infrastructure; prevention, early intervention and targeted assistance; and reorienting and prioritising service delivery in the context of whole-of-community roll out of the NDIS.

ACT Labour Market Trends Help Explain Rates of Poverty in the ACT: Report

Joint media release with Women's Centre for Health Matters, 14 October 2014

The ACT Council of Social Service and Women's Centre for Health Matters released data today showing that outside of public sector employment, industries with growing employment opportunities that do not require degree-level qualifications offer low wage, relatively high rates of part-time work, suggesting many workers struggle to earn enough to cover their costs of living.

Commenting on release of the report, Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service said, "Our community knows that a full-time job is the best way to ensure protection from poverty. But in some industries, notably those where women are significantly over-represented, workers have comparatively low (full-time) wages and part-time employment is high."

Read the entire media release: Read the 6 page overview document: Read the full data report:

Human Services Blueprint

The ACT Community Sector has worked with the ACT Government to design and implement a new approach to community, health, justice and education services so they respond better to community expectations and needs - by being person-focused, strengths-based and focused on achieving positive outcomes. This work has led to adoption of a Human Services Blueprint by the ACT Government and a number of Better Services Initiatives were funded in the 2014-15 ACT Budget.

ACTCOSS has contributed to developing the Human Services Blueprint and implementing the Better Services Initiatives because we believe it has the potential to deliver real improvements in the design, delivery and resourcing of services so they make a positive difference to people in Canberra, especially those who are living with poverty and disadvantage, or who are facing a vulnerable time in their life. Three principles underpin this work: You can find out more about this work and ways to get involved in decisions about how the Human Services Blueprint is implemented.

Presentation available: Internet connectivity among people experiencing poverty and deprivation

During Anti-Poverty Week this year ACTCOSS facilitated a conversation about the interactions between poverty, disadvantage, and digital technology, often referred to as the 'digital divide': the space between those who have access to digital technologies and those who are excluded from accessing digital technology because of inability to cover costs.

Speaker Dr Sarah Wise (University of Melbourne and Berry Street Victoria) has kindly provided her presentation from the event for download.