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Policy and Advocacy: AASW Actions to Achieve the SDGs

It is the AASW’s position that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a vital mechanism through which we can collectively address some of the biggest challenges currently facing Australia, and the world, with a particular focus on human rights, social and environmental justice. Social workers are deeply committed to human rights and sustainability. It forms the basis of our professional values and provides a framework through which we can better understand what the people we work with are experiencing and what we are collectively working towards.

The AASW represents thousands of social workers who are on the front line of human rights protection and it is their daily work to ensure that every individual is free from discrimination and inequality, and in doing so collaboratively foster sustainable and resilient communities. As such we are key partners in assuring that the principles and aspirations of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international conventions derived from that Declaration have meaning in the daily lives of all Australians.

In line with our strategic plan the AASW is commitment to working towards a sustainable and socially just environment through individual, cultural and structural change. The AASW achieves this through our continued policy and advocacy work at all levels of government, and internationally through the International Federation of Social Workers. The AASW ‘Code of Ethics’ underlines the important role that social workers and the AASW have in working towards equitable societies by advocating for inclusive, sustainable and effective social policy. Advocacy is a core skill of the social work profession and has been since the profession’s very beginning and the SDGs provide another medium through which we continue this tradition.

Through policy practice and direct advocacy, the AASW is working towards achieving the SDG 2030 targets locally and internationally. Our work through submissions, engaging with ministers, media advocacy and direct action has focused on a wide range of issues including: mental health, child protection and wellbeing, family violence, housing, Indigenous rights, refugees, poverty and income support, environmental justice and disability to name a few.

AASW Actions to Achieve the SDGs

Below is an overview of some of the policy and advocacy actions the AASW has taken to achieve the goals.

This is an overview and the section is currently being updated.

GOAL 1: No Poverty
  • Part of the Raise the Rate campaign calling for immediate increase of income support payments
  • Submission to and giving formal evidence to Senate inquiry into Intergenerational Welfare Dependency
  • Closing the Gap Refresh
  • Submission to Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018
  • Submission to Inquiry into Local Adoption
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
  • Federal Election 2019 Policy Platform (see Income support and employment programs)
  • 2019-20 Pre-Budget Submission (see Income support and welfare)
  • Submission into the Design, Scope, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Contracts Awarded and Implementation Associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System Initiative (2017
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
  • Submission to the Royal Commission into Mental Health Victoria
  • Submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
  • Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
  • Submission to Productivity Commission Mental Health
  • Submission to Fifth National Mental Health Plan
  • Submission to the inquiry into The Role of Commonwealth, State and Territory Government in Addressing the High Rates of Mental Health Conditions Experienced by First Responders, Emergency Service Workers and Volunteers

GOAL 4: Quality Education
  • Submission to Closing the Gap Refresh (Partnership Agreement between COAG and National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations came into effect March 2019)
  • Submission into the Senate Inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2018)
  • Submission to Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (A More Sustainable, Responsive and Transparent Higher Education System) Bill 2017
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
  • Submission to First comprehensive review of the family law act ALRC
  • Submission to Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) bill (Submitted)
  • Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2018 – submission; strongly calling for FV leave to be paid & for period of leave to be extended & greater clarity in relation to definitions & terminology (Sep 2018):
  • Parliamentary inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence – submission (2017) arguing for system to be reformed including for legislation, processes & procedures to be more sensitive to complexities of FV
  • Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria (May 2015) – submission:
GOAL 6: Clean water and sanitation
  • AASW is a member of Climate & Health Alliance (CAHA) & has contributed to CAHA’s submissions on the health impacts of climate change, including its impacts on water quality, access & distribution.
  • CAHA – Submission to the Environment and Communications References Committee inquiry into current and future impacts of climate change on housing, buildings and infrastructure (Jul 2017)
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 2016 Income support and allowances briefing paper
  • 2016 Letter to government on low rates of Newstart and other allowances
  • 2014 Position statement on income support and young people
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 2019 Federal Election Policy Platform

  • 2018 submission to the Senate Inquiry into Intergenerational Welfare Dependence

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-Being for Australia (CAHA Declaration)
  • AASW & Climate and Health Alliance Declaration on Climate Change
  • Submission into the Senate Inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2018)
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Federal Election Policy Platform 2019
  • Submission to Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-Being for Australia (CAHA Declaration)
  • AASW & Climate and Health Alliance Declaration on Climate Change
GOAL 13: Climate Action
GOAL 14: Life below water
  • National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-Being for Australia (CAHA Declaration)

GOAL 15: Life on land
  • National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-Being for Australia (CAHA Declaration)

GOAL 16: Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • Joint Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission Consultation: OPCAT and Civil Society 2017
  • Submission to Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria 2017
  • Children in immigration detention briefing paper 2016
GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

You can learn more about the AASW’s work including the recent submission to the Federal government’s SDG inquiry, on our policy and advocacy webpage.

AASW Submission to the Australian Senate's inquiry into the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2018, the Australian Senate held an inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Federal inquiry looked at a wide range of issues including:

  • the understanding and awareness of the SDG across the Australian Government and in the wider Australian community;
  • the potential costs, benefits and opportunities for Australia in the domestic implementation of the SDG;
  • what governance structures and accountability measures are required at the national, state and local levels of government to ensure an integrated approach to implementing the SDG that is both meaningful and achieves real outcomes;
  • how can performance against the SDG be monitored and communicated in a way that engages government, businesses and the public, and allows effective review of Australia’s performance by civil society;
  • what SDG are currently being addressed by Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) program; which of the SDG is Australia best suited to achieving through our ODA program, and should Australia’s ODA be consolidated to focus on achieving core SDG;
  • how countries in the Indo-Pacific are responding to implementing the SDG, and which of the SDG have been prioritised by countries receiving Australia’s ODA, and how these priorities could be incorporated into Australia’s ODA program;
  • and examples of best practice in how other countries are implementing the SDG from which Australia could learn.

In our submission we argued that:

"It is the AASW’s position that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an important mechanism through which we can collectively address some of the biggest challenges currently facing Australia, and the world, with a particular focus on human rights and social justice.

Social workers are deeply committed to human rights. It forms the basis of our professional values and provides a framework through which we can better understand what the people we work with are experiencing. As social workers we are on the front line of human rights protection and it is our daily work to ensure that every individual is free from discrimination, oppression and persecution. As such we are key partners in assuring that the ideals and beliefs enshrined in all the relevant declarations have meaning in the daily lives of all Australians. Unfortunately, the current political, social and economic situation highlights how much work is still needed.

Continued reports from the United Nations and numerous other organisations emphasise how Australia is failing in protecting the rights of so many of its citizens and those it has been tasked to look after. We welcome the opportunity to provide a submission to this inquiry and this government’s interest in SDGs. We believe SDGs provide an important opportunity to work together under a shared framework towards assuring that every person, group and community is given the basic protections they require and a sustainable environment to achieve their full potential."

You can now access the final report that supports several of the AASW's recommendations and repeatedly cites our submission.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers