Reducing inequality in Western Australia
The cumulative body of research on ethnic relations by Professor Charles Husband formed the basis for a significant contribution to the creation of equal and inclusive services for the ethnically-diverse population of Western Australia: addressing the on-going quality of service delivery by all government departments.
Previous research at Bradford into the dynamics of service delivery and professional practice in multi-ethnic societies; working with, for example, midwives, nurses, social workers and journalists resulted in innovative work on inter-ethnic relations with government departments and professional bodies. This research led to an invitation to collaborate with the Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia (WA) where, in 2005, the Substantive Equality Unit (SEU) was established to challenge discrimination, and develop a policy framework to address the issue of culturally sensitive service delivery across all government departments.
Challenging discrimination within the Australian setting meant that sensitivity towards the distinctive history of Australian identity and politics had to be considered when addressing inequality. Professor Husband’s previous practical and academic work in Australia provided a background to his work on this initiative. Working with a small team of colleagues, and with critical political backing at key moments, a carefully staged programme of work was developed.
This included a phased development of education, evaluation of current practice, innovation and monitoring of changed practice. Operating with the slogan: ’If you want to treat me equally you may have to be prepared to treat me differently.’ This major policy innovation presented a challenge to pre-existing conceptions and modes of practice; and was rolled out across state government departments.
Among the issues addressed by the SEU was the experiences of Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people when accessing the private housing rental market. Recommendations were drawn up to remove the barriers for Aboriginal and CALD people by the provision of training, guidelines and legislative regulation for industry operators.
The SEU continues to impact positively on the lives and opportunities of minority groups living in WA, influencing government departments to increase the accessibility and use of services by people from minority backgrounds.
This research fits within the Centre for Applied Social Research.