Minister Rishworth interviewed on ABC Radio Brisbane Breakfast.


Topics: New funding for Autism CRC, domestic violence leave, Commonwealth rent assistance and social housing 

LORETTA RYAN, HOST: Do you know someone or do you maybe have autism? Last year the Federal Government announced their National Autism Strategy to form a whole of life plan for all autistic Australians. Now today that strategy comes a lot closer to home to help people in Brisbane.

CRAIG ZONCA, HOST: Yeah, The Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, is in studio this morning. Minister, good morning to you. 


CRAIG ZONCA: I didn't know Brisbane is the home of the Autism CRC.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Yeah, look, it is. Obviously, the CRC is providing guidance right across the country, but here in Brisbane is the home of the Cooperative Research Centre, which is providing really important research and information for the whole of the country.

CRAIG ZONCA: So what are you announcing today?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'm announcing today an extra $2 million to help this research centre develop more resources. Already they do a great job. Some of the examples of the things they do is provide a guidelines and advice to educators and teachers about how to make their classrooms inclusive for children with autism. But they've also helped develop an app that helps, for example, people living with autism put their best foot forward when it comes to employment how they emphasise their strengths, but they also help employers make an inclusive workplace for people with autism. What they're developing is evidence-based practical resources that can help our whole community be more, responsive to people living with autism.

LORETTA RYAN: Yeah, because obviously before this, what information did you have coming to you about what was not out there?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: A lot of people said the system services, whether it's the hospital system or the GP service, didn't really understand or know how to support best people living with autism. We're seeing a big shift for that. I've heard from a number of employers that some of the skills that some people have with autism are really attractive. You know, patterns, being able to see patterns and things that other people can't see, but there hasn't always been guidance about how to make sure we're also supporting people with autism. This is really important, but I would also say it's really important because it's evidence based. It's not just someone's idea, it's actually based on research, which means we get the best outcome

LORETTA RYAN: Yeah, but when will we see the benefits? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, some of the guidelines are already available and we need to encourage take up of that by, you know, whether it's teachers, school leaders etc. But what we're also working with the Cooperative Research Centre is to develop our national Autism Strategy, which tries to knit together across the community, identify gaps, identify areas we can do better, and they will be integral in helping us consult and co-design on that.

CRAIG ZONCA: The Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth is with you here on ABC Radio Brisbane. Well, I also want to talk about DV leave if I can, Minister, because it commences from today, it's available, people are entitled up to 10 days leave. How does someone access it if they are in a situation that they need to?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What people now have the entitlement of is to go to their employer and request 10 days or up to 10 days of domestic and family violence leave. So that can be for a range of reasons, it could be if you are needing to move house, if you are needing to attend court or of course even if you need to attend counselling because you've been in a domestic violence situation. So they just need to have a conversation with their employer. Many of the employers have spent the time since the legislation went through the Parliament to get geared up to how they organise their payroll and provide this. There was a lot of employers already doing this, but this is now become a right for all workers. It is important to recognise that it's not just part time and full time. If you were a casual and you were rostered on that day and you needed to take that day off to attend to these matters you will also be able to access it.

CRAIG ZONCA: So how open do you need to be with your employer about your situation to access this leave?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: You do have to provide some evidence of why you need to take this leave, but work is being done with employers as well to really understand and be very, I think, empathetic about the reasons people need to take this leave. I, don't think you're going to see a huge rush of people taking this leave. It's not going to be something that everyone in the workplace takes, but it is so important to be there so that, particularly women, don't have to choose between their job and actually leaving a domestic violence situation.

CRAIG ZONCA: It's hard, though, 10 days leave. I mean, how do you choose that figure and is that enough?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, that's a really important question. Up until now, the entitlement has only been five days of unpaid leave, which means you're not getting income and it is very difficult. Ten days has been what we believe has been the right balance. Employers obviously have to find the money to pay for this. We believe that ten days of paid leave each year is the right balance. It is important to note that this is coming in to day for the majority of employees. If you're in small business and you are in a business of 15 or less, that is being delayed a little bit to ensure that they can get their payroll systems up to scratch. So that will come in August.

CRAIG ZONCA: And of course, if you need help, if you are in a domestic violence situation, can always get in contact with DV connect for help advice and to get you to a form of safety. Their number is 1800 811811. That's for DV Connect 1800 811811. It's approaching a quarter to eight. The Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth, in studio in Brisbane today talking about autism funding for the Autism CRC. But Minister, can I also ask about cost of living pressures and housing stress becoming a huge problem, You would have seen the recent report from the Productivity Commission which found 43.4 per cent of Queenslanders receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent alone. Does the Federal Government need to do more?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, we have a pretty ambitious plan to build more social and affordable housing. It takes time. This can't be turned around overnight. But what we've done is set up the Australia Future Housing Fund, which is about putting money in there and then through the dividends actually building social and affordable housing. So we're working with the states and territories and I know my colleague, Minister Julie Collins, who's responsible for this, has met with state ministers now on three occasions within eight months to try and progress this. We've also announced in the budget our housing accord to get a million houses built with the private sector, but of course having a proportion of that being affordable housing. There is a lot more to do. But we do need to build more houses and we do need to focus on social and affordable housing. 

LORETTA RYAN: That's the long term. What about the short term? What about now?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, the short term, obviously, we are constrained by having affordable housing. We need to look in the long term, we need to be making sure that we are building houses that are cordoned for social housing. Across the country, we've seen, I think, a reduction in social housing over a long period of time. We need to make sure that we're doing that and working with the states and territories to deliver that.

CRAIG ZONCA: So on that rent assistance payments. Is there any discussion at the moment about increasing that rate? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously in the lead up to every Budget, there's a discussion on different payment types. What you've always got to make sure is that they are well balanced, that we can fit it within the Budget. But look, from my perspective as the Minister for Social Services, I'm always looking, in the lead up to any Budget, of what we can do to support people with cost of living. Obviously, one of the big things that the Government did late last year, and people will start to see that flow through, is working with the state governments to provide energy relief, cost of living and energy relief on energy bills. That's one thing that we are doing, so we are looking at all the areas where there is pressure on households and families.

CRAIG ZONCA: And there'll be pressure on the Federal Budget, no doubt. 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There is that as well as that as well.

CRAIG ZONCA, HOST: But it is delivered in a few months time in May. Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth, thanks so much for joining us this morning on ABC Radio Brisbane.