ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Canberra is growing - it’s time to get ready

22 November 2018

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) says it’s time for planners and policy makers to abandon short termism and invest in preparing for the future of the city following new population forecasts released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

According to the ABS the ACT is projected to increase to between 479,000 and 510,000 people, closing the gap on Tasmania's population and, if higher assumptions hold, could be approaching the million mark by 2066. Our current population is 419,200.

According to ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar, “These figures and national population discussions all point to the need for us to think deeply, progressively and well about the kinds of settlement planning and investments that will enable everyone in our growing city to share in the enjoyment of Canberra's prosperity and liveability.

“We need to think properly about how we create and maintain a great place. Our city is changing permanently, growing horizontally and vertically. We need less short termism and more shared understandings of how we make a good city built to last. A start would be an agreed set of social wellbeing goals in the ACT; improved integration and coordination across Directorates and policy agendas; more focus on early intervention; addressing cost of living pressures for the lowest income households through financial assistance and concessions programs; and more effectively preventing and enabling recovery from adverse financial and social circumstances.

"We'll need high quality community-based services in a city enriched by greater diversity. All government funded services will need to be designed to work best for people made vulnerable by insecure work, deterioration of the social and income support safety nets, experiences of stigma, racism and discrimination, and/or barriers to participating in community events and getting around safely and affordably. The ACTCOSS submission to the ACT 2019-2020 Budget provides specific advice about the investments that are needed to improve existing services and build new services that will meet the changing and growing needs of our city and region.

“Planning and city reform going into the City Planning refresh needs to be smart and tactical – targeting investments that support people to feel included and enable access to the spaces and places that enable social connectedness and feelings of belonging.

"We are learning what works and what doesn't as residents get more involved in designing our city. There are lessons to be learned from the bus network redesign and the Housing Choices Collaboration Hub processes. ACTCOSS has urged the ACT Government and private sector to draw more on lived experience, putting the people who experience the most disadvantage front of mind and using these perspectives to inform smart design and tactical investments.

“The community sector is ready and keen to inform decision makers in government and the private sector about what is needed to ensure our city and region are prepared and ready for the growth trends forecast today,” Ms Helyar concluded.

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200

Read more in our ACTCOSS Budget Submission.