What does is it mean to have a prosperous Geelong? For many people, prosperity equals wealth but having a good life can be experienced in many ways. As we grow our city, we need to understand what it means to have ‘good growth’ and ensure no one is left behind. From a government policy perspective, this concept of growth has mostly been equated with economic growth being the only way to improve standards of living. However, at the London Prosperity Board this approach is being challenged.
In an environment of austerity politics, “growing social and financial inequalities and entrenched poverty show that increasing economic growth does not automatically translate into better opportunities or improvements in health and quality of life for people and communities.” (Source https://londonprosperityboard.org/)
The Committee for Geelong’s new strategic framework that will guide our thinking for the next three years has an objective to stimulate economic and social prosperity. Good policy needs to address both the social and economic to achieve outcomes that support our diverse community.
A great example here in Geelong is the multi-award winning and internationally acclaimed Back to Back Theatre. With an ensemble of actors who are neurodivergent and/or with a disability, the work of the company comments on broad social and cultural dialogue. While Back to Back has been in Geelong for 30 years, we are now even more uniquely placed to lead the world in what it means to be inclusive while producing creative and economy output.
The National Disability Insurance Agency officially opened its national headquarters in Geelong this year. Bringing more than 600 people to the new, state-of-the-art, accessible building, the two-year construction created hundreds of jobs and delivered a more than $300 million in economic impact. The annual ongoing economic impact for Geelong is about $334 million, including the value of jobs and flow-on benefits to the community.
In terms of support services in the region for people with disability, the newly formed genU started as Karingal in 1952 when a group of Geelong parents formed a play group for their children, each with a disability. These parents wished to provide the chance for their children to have lives that would be fulfilling and would realise their abilities. Now genU has revenues of over $300 million and provides disability services including individual support, accommodation and recreation activities, and employment services and training. Other Committee for Geelong members who are part of the growing network of disability support services are Leisure Networks and Encompass Community Services.
Just this month, Deakin University released the Accessible and Inclusive Geelong Project in partnership with the Victorian Government. This project is a feasibility study looking at how to design Geelong to ensure that we are Australia’s premier accessible city, a world-leading inclusive city, and a preferred accessible tourist destination. The project envisions a city designed so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. The research includes an economic evaluation to inform recommendations for the best returns on investment. The broad areas addressed by the study include built environment, community infrastructure, employment, and economic participation.
With WorkSafe and the Transport Accident Commission already located in Geelong, we can now rightfully hold a unique national identity as a centre of excellence for disability, accessibility and personal injury insurance. If we can leverage this unique identity, we can truly claim to be a clever and creative city for all. And surely this will equate to prosperity for all.