Media Release

May 29, 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces 2012 Social Justice Award Winner
Former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner AM delivers landmark Social Justice Oration

A central Victorian project that is working to give long-term unemployed people the confidence and skills they need to fill an over-supply of jobs has won a landmark social justice award.

The inaugural Joan Kirner Social Justice Award, a $5000 award for grassroots community workers and projects, has been won by the Maryborough Neighbourhood Renewal Team for their 'Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin'-By World' project.

The announcement was made via a video message from Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Communities in Control Conference on May 29, 2012.

Maryborough has a disproportionately high rate of generational unemployment, the Maryborough Neighbourhood Renewal Team says.

"Despite the availability of jobs locally, rates of unemployment and disengagement from education and training have remained amongst the highest in the state.

"Employers are desperate to fill positions. They cite instances of people leaving within days of starting a new job and cannot understand why unemployed people do not take up the available job opportunities."

The Getting Ahead project is designed to help people who have experienced generational unemployment to understand the impacts of their disadvantage and learn the "rules and behaviours of the middle class", or life skills, that are needed to get and keep jobs and training.

Ten months since the introduction of the project, seven of the 15 participants are employed and the remaining eight are in accredited education or training.

"Health and wellbeing are up, drug and alcohol use are down, and there have been vast improvements in relationships and civic engagement," says Maryborough Neighbourhood Renewal Place Manager Margaret Kent.

The Joan Kirner Social Justice Award recognises those people and groups who are emulating the lifetime work of former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner AM in bridging the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" in Australia.

"The key factors to success in this award are respect, inclusion and collaboration," the former Premier said. "As the Maryborough team has shown, social change initiatives work best where the process of change is owned by those affected by the change."

The Joan Kirner Social Justice Award is an initiative of Our Community, an award-winning social enterprise that provides tools and training for not-for-profit groups, and the Trawalla Foundation, which is run by businesswoman and social entrepreneur Carol Schwartz and her family.

The inaugural award was launched in January 2012. A new recipient will be selected annually.

The announcement of the award at the Communities in Control Conference was followed by the delivery by Joan Kirner of a landmark Social Justice Oration, which received a standing ovation.

Info/pics/interviews: Kathy Richardson | 03 9320 6815