Social inclusion

Social inclusion is about allowing people to participate fully in the social and economic life of the nation – by having a job, receiving a secure and adequate income, and being closely connected to family, friends and the local community. 

It’s about expanding individuals’ life opportunities through education, training and employment.

It’s also about increasing social cohesion by building social networks, finding new community leaders and providing better education, health, housing and other vital social services in disadvantaged communities

What we want

We want to encourage governments, businesses and community organisations to take a new approach that empowers individuals and communities to lift themselves out of poverty and stay out of poverty.

We want greater investment to develop the ‘human capital’ of every Australian, and smarter and better integrated services to produce more effective results. This approach will not only reduce social disadvantage, it will also increase Australia’s overall prosperity by expanding our national economic capacity.

What we’re doing

  • Exploring the issue
  • Measuring social exclusion
  • Helping people find worthwhile jobs
  • Global financial inclusion and social inclusion

Exploring the issue

Social inclusion is central to the Brotherhood’s approach to tackling poverty. It is the basis of all our work, the design of our services and the research we conduct.

Examples of our programs include the Given the Chance employment program for refugees and the Saver Plus matched savings scheme.


Zoë Morrison 2010, On dignity: social inclusion and the politics of recognition (PDF file, 214 KB)

Paul Smyth 2010, In or out? Building an inclusive nation, The Australian Collaboration and the Brotherhood of St Laurence (PDF file, 1.1 MB)


Inclusive growth: the social policy imperative opinion piece by Paul Smyth Australian Policy On Line, 8 April 2011

The way ahead to an authentically Australian approach to social inclusion speech by Tony Nicholson, Social Inclusion Down Under symposium, 24 June 2008 (PDF file, 24 KB)

Speech by Tony Nicholson, New Agenda for Prosperity conference 27 March 2008 (PDF file, 24 KB)

Closing the gap? The role of wage, welfare and industry policy in promoting social inclusion, speech by Paul Smyth, University of Melbourne Foenander lecture, 3 October 2007 (PDF file, 68 KB)

A new Australian model of social inclusion and employment services, speech by Tony Nicholson, The Social and Economic Imperative: Tapping the Potential of Disadvantaged Australians Conference, 27 September 2007 (PDF file, 30 KB)

Measuring social exclusion

In the past the measurement of poverty has often been limited to the measurement of incomes. Now governments are recognising other kinds of disadvantage. We need new ways to measure how many Australians are socially excluded through lack of access to education, healthcare, housing, transport and other social benefits that create employment opportunities.  

The social exclusion monitor is a new approach to measuring social exclusion in Australia. Developed by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, it is updated following each new wave of data from the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey of 13,000 people.

Helping people find worthwhile jobs

Giving disadvantaged people jobs is the best way to give them a higher income, greater economic security and the happiness and independence that comes from being the master of your own destiny. It’s also good for our economy because it provides employers with more skilled workers and reduces the need for public expenditure on welfare programs and government benefits. The Brotherhood’s approach therefore emphasises the importance of giving people the employment and life skills they need to stand on their own two feet.


Line of sight: better tailored services for highly disadvantaged job seekers, submission re future employment services from 2012, January 2011 (PDF file, 250 KB)

Response to the exposure draft for the new employment services 2009–2012 purchasing arrangements, August 2008 (PDF file, 42 KB)

Submission to the Australian Government on the future of employment services in Australia discussion paper, June 2008 (PDF file, 65 KB)

Sustainable outcomes for disadvantaged job seekers: submission to the Australian Government on the future of employment assistance, February 2008 (PDF file, 150 KB)

Global financial crisis and social inclusion

The impact of economic downturn is inevitably felt hardest in communities with the lowest education and skill levels, vulnerable industries and low rates of business investment. In such places, the effects of recessions can remain well after the economic recovery has begun, leading to long-term unemployment, steady economic decline and the sorts of serious social problems caused by chronic social exclusion. This is bad for people and bad for the economy. It is also unnecessary.

We urge the Australian Government to take all possible steps to stimulate job growth in vulnerable communities and provide targeted assistance those most at risk of long-term unemployment.

Policy recommendations to the Australian Government in response to the economic downturn February 2009 (PDF file, 70 KB)

Submission to the Victorian Budget 2009–10: Building capacity and preventing social and economic exclusion: proposals in response to the economic downturn February 2009 (PDF file, 81 KB)

The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) acknowledges and understands its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and recognises that all children and young people have the right to be treated with respect and care, and to be safe from all forms of abuse. BSL has a zero tolerance towards child abuse. Read the official statement signed by the Executive Director.

Find out more about the work of the Brotherhood
Brotherhood Books
Brotherhood of St Laurence Communtiy Stores
Hippy Australia
Given the Chance

The Brotherhood of St Laurence acknowledges and recognises the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we live and work, and we pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.