Statistics demonstrate that in spite of Australia being prosperous, too many people are still being left behind. The 2nd Edition of the Australian Social Inclusion Board’s 2012 publication “Social Inclusion in Australia: How Australia is faring” states that social inequality and exclusion is destructive and diminishes the Australian community. There certainly is a great need to break down the barriers that prevent people, “especially the 640,000 Australians experiencing multiple and complex disadvantage”, from fully participating in their communities and society at large. The Board’s president bravely goes on to say that, “Efforts to achieve social inclusion require commitment from all levels of government and the community. It is not just about helping people fit into existing systems and structures—it is about transforming those systems and structures to make them work for everyone. Building a more inclusive society takes time and commitment.” But it is easier said than done.
But what is social inclusion?
According to UNESCO:
Inclusive society is a society for all, in which every individual has an active role to play. Such a society is based on fundamental values of equity, equality, social justice, and human rights and freedoms, as well as on the principles of tolerance and embracing diversity.
To understand social inclusion, it helps to know that social exclusion is the “restriction of access to opportunities and limitation of the capabilities required to capitalise on these [opportunities].”
Human Rights Commissioner, Professor Gillian Triggs rightly says that there is a correlation between discrimination and social exclusion, because “exclusions may be the result of discrimination of individuals or groups on the grounds of their attributes, or social, economic or physical disadvantages. Discrimination can impact a person’s employment and income, their access to health care, education and other services. It can also make it very difficult to participate in their community – for example, in work, or in joining a community group.”
Professer Triggs asserts that the ability to participate in society, and to be free from discrimination and disadvantage is not only an ideal, but a basic human right – “one that we all share in common”. 
It is this “…to be free from discrimination and disadvantage is a basic human right – one that we all share in common”, that is the heart of social inclusion.
Even when born without disadvantage, we can all so easily become marginalised because of our choices or a change in our circumstances that can contribute to a growing negative sense of ‘our own otherness’, which may eventually contribute to our isolation and exclusion from our wider community.
We tend to overlook the less obvious contributors to social exclusion and its impact on mental health and wellbeing – an accident, an illness, the loss of a loved one, witnesses of trauma/abuse, to migrate, to lose a job, to use drugs, etc. We are so fragile; not only in body, but in mind too! Imagine the impact of migrating and no longer sharing a common history, culture or language with the people around you. Not being able to laugh at jokes, because the nuances of language are lost on you. Imagine the loneliness of a lost network, because through circumstances you have been disconnected from your family. Imagine being a ski instructor and losing the use of your legs after a car accident and what that might mean for your employment and social life.
Since 2009 *Paperworks Inc has been committed to social inclusion across all boundaries. Not only people with disabilities or mental health concerns, but retirees, refugees, migrants and disconnected youth have benefitted from our activities. We continue to strive to improve opportunities for employment, volunteering and making friends. This year, we are asking you to please join forces with us by actively supporting the work of our artisans and spreading the message of social inclusion at the same time. From as little as $5 you can purchase a card or a packet of seed tiles for friends, colleagues and business partners. Without the committed help of our community to continue this very important work locally, we might not be around for another year.
*Paperworks Inc is a charitable social enterprise with deductible gift recipient status. All proceeds of sales goes towards the wages of artisans from marginalised backgrounds and towards hosting paper craft activities for disadvantaged people.
1] UNESCO. Consultations of the Director-General with Member States. Social Inclusion, Social Transformations, Social Innovation: What role for UNESCO in 2014-2021? 23 November 2012.
2] Hayes, A., Gray, M., & Edwards, B. (2008). Social inclusion: Origins, concepts and key themes. Canberra: Australian Government. At www.socialinclusion.gov.au/Resources/Pages/Resources.aspx (viewed 15 August 2013)