Balancing the Act: ADCQ newsletter -

Robert Jones Oration 2014

On Thursday 8 May 2014 the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland held, in partnership with Spinal Injuries Australia, the inaugural Robert Jones Memorial Oration. The Oration was delivered by Dr Margaret Ward who delivered an inspirational paper titled Getting in the door: the public interest in the design of private housing. Her address focused on the role housing plays in everyone's life.

Oration commentator, Oration presenter and the CommissionerJohn MacPherson gave a reflection on the life and contribution of Robert Jones; Dr Margaret Ward delivered the inaugural Oration; Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks hosted the Oration.

Here is an excerpt from the thought provoking Oration:

"If we are committed to equity and inclusion of all people, we must first understand deeply how and where equity and inclusion starts. We must take then an active and public interest in the design of our private spaces, and expect to be included no matter who we are, as we live, grow old, and die…So who is responsible for this action? Iris Marion Young suggests that, when it comes to an issue of social injustice, we fall into four broad groups:

The first group are those who are in positions of power who understand the impacts of social exclusion and do nothing. This group are few; they are not only responsible but also guilty of their inaction.

The second group are responsible by association. The thousands of people that make up the housing industry, developers, designers, builders, suppliers and buyers go about their daily business unaware of how their individual housing decisions contribute to social exclusion. When brought to their attention, they consider they have little impetus from their leaders, or individual power or opportunity to change the status quo.

The third group do take individual responsibility.They make their homes visitable; they build visitable dwellings one at a time, they teach and promote universal design.

The fourth are those who take political responsibility. They take public and collective action to intervene, and call to account those people in power who do nothing. And typically they are led by those, like Robert Jones, who are most affected, who know deeply what social exclusion means.

Perhaps this is a moment to reflect which group you fall in to.

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With some rare exceptions, governments at all levels have handed over the responsibility to Livable Housing Australia to improve the supply of visitable housing. Livable Housing Australia is not meeting its targets. Powerful industry interests have successfully advocated against the plans for regulation in Victoria and ACT. And a recent review of the Livable Housing Australia agreement suggests that most of its original supporters have simply lost interest.

Robert JonesAt this point it looks like the representatives of the fourth group will need to act to call those in power to account.

They will need to continue the work of Robert Jones and his colleagues, in their quest for equity and inclusion in the design of our buildings—started two decades ago. They will need to engender public interest in the design of our private spaces. They will be unpopular and they will be dismissed, as Robert often was. But they will continue because they know that, to have truly inclusive communities, we all matter, and we matter to the last moment of our lives."