The Department of Communities is a multi-function human services agency. It was established in 2017 as part of a major reform of the Western Australian public sector.
Everything we do is about people, place and home.
People reflects our focus on the needs and aspirations of the people we serve. We support people to be the best they can be, and to live a good and meaningful life, a life with opportunity.
Place relates to a collective sense of self and how and where people connect to the world around them.
Home is more than a building: it has a deep, emotional meaning. While home is different for everyone, it should provide both physical and emotional security.
The Department has defined its purpose as follows:
Collaborating to create pathways that enable individual, family and community wellbeing.
Collaborating is about using the unique capabilities of our clients, their family, friends and networks, other agencies, and the community and private sectors. We combine their efforts with our own for greater collective impact.
Our strengths-based approach supports people and communities to grow, and ultimately, to thrive. By providing pathways to change and supporting people along their journey, we ‘do with’ rather than ‘do to’ or ‘do for’. Our overall aim
is to empower people to make their own choices and take responsibility for their own lives.
What we do has far-reaching impacts across all aspects of society. Supporting wellbeing can mean many things including ensuring children are safe, helping people access a home, or creating diverse and inclusive communities.
We understand that doing what is right is not always what is easy. And that to achieve something new, we must be willing to do what we have never done before.
We treat everyone with dignity and fairness. We recognise contribution and value diversity.
We extend ourselves to understand other people’s perspectives and experiences; to ‘walk in their shoes’. We communicate and act in a respectful way that makes sense to others.
We are individually accountable and collectively responsible. We own our actions and see them through for the best possible outcome.
We say what we mean and act accordingly. We are honest in our dealings and use of resources. We keep our promises and act with integrity.
We support our colleagues, individuals and the community to be the best they can be.
We support many Western Australians, with a strong focus on some of the most vulnerable members of our society. We do so under the powers and requirements of various Acts of the Parliament of Western Australia, and in delivering the policies and commitments of the Premier and our Ministers.
Our diverse activities include intensive responses such as the protection of children, preventative responses such as housing assistance and disability support, and enabling activities such as urban development and providing community grants.
We shape the human services system and provider market to ensure that people’s needs are met by our services and those we commission. We regulate and support early childhood education and care to ensure child safety. We use our assets to support our outcomes, and create or recreate communities that meet the needs of all.
In all things, we focus on five interconnected outcome areas:
Communities has a unique set of challenges, and with them some exceptional opportunities. We have been asked to transform how human services are designed for and delivered to some of the most vulnerable people in Western Australia.
A transformation of this scale and depth will affect all staff in one way or another. It requires courage and a major commitment of organisational effort and leadership attention. Amid change, we must maintain an unrelenting focus on the wellbeing of children in our care, safety of our tenants and interests of people with disability.
National and global forces affect what we do. The cyclical nature of the State’s economy—and the knock-on effect for migration and population—creates challenges for housing affordability, workforce retention and service needs.
The ‘boom-bust’ cycle and ‘two-speed economy’ increase the difference between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and reinforce disadvantage and poverty.
Some challenges stem from scale. We serve an area larger than Western Europe, including some of the most remote communities in Australia. Throughout the State, our staff operate at the local level: at the kitchen table with individuals and families; in streets where we are a landlord; in isolated settlements where staff can be involved in everything from family support to economic development to housing, power and water provision.
Other challenges arise from our inherent business risks. Many of these risks involve potential harm to people: to our staff in the performance of their duties; to children in our care, or attending a day care we regulate; to tenants in our properties; to people with disability whom we support; to women in abusive relationships. Some risks extend to whole communities, such as the remote settlements in which we provide power and water. Other risks are less tangible, such as the risk of a data breach or cyberattack, or a severe downturn in the job or housing market.
But our biggest challenges arise from depth: of trauma, exclusion and poverty. These problems are often intergenerational, highlighted by Royal Commissions, coronial inquests and Parliamentary inquiries, and witnessed daily by frontline staff. They manifest in alcohol abuse, drug addiction, isolation, homelessness, and family and domestic violence, and disproportionately affect Aboriginal Western Australians. Families impacted by them often have complex issues traversing the health, justice, housing and welfare systems. But holistic responses remain hampered by silos between and within the three tiers of government, and community and private sectors.
We know the people we serve need a better way to navigate and access multiple services, often simultaneously. Better service coordination is part of the solution but isn’t ‘the answer’. Often our services treat the symptom not the cause. Earlier support and intervention, strengths-based solutions and capacity-building for families and communities can help break the cycle and reduce long-term harm. We cannot resolve the causes of demand for all services on our own, and we must work with others to connect people to education and employment pathways. This work includes partnerships with government agencies (across all tiers), communities, and the not-for-profit and private sectors to develop collective responses that are culturally secure, socially inclusive, and allow people to lead their best lives.
While the challenges are considerable, we are uniquely placed to tackle them, and lead system change through our multiple roles and relationships. The opportunities arising from our organisational scale, depth and reach are significant. Both challenge and opportunity require us to transform, collaborate and innovate.
To meet these challenges and opportunities, we will focus our efforts in three areas. Each area will be guided by strategic directions and supported by strategic initiatives.
1.1 New service delivery models that create flexible ways for people to identify and access the support they need, when and where they need it.
1.2 Systems and information sharing within and across agencies that enable us to better respond to individual and family needs.
1.3 Initiatives and policy responses that have a greater emphasis on prevention, earlier intervention and strengths.
1.4 Services that are co-designed with and for the people we serve.
1.5 People are better supported to navigate the human services system.
1.6 The human services system better supports the people we serve.
2.1 Local engagement and circumstances shape our actions.
2.2 District Leadership Groups across the State that are empowered and equipped to deliver on local priorities.
2.3 Our regions make decisions and deliver supports that make sense for that region.
2.4 Our staff understand the dynamics of the places in which they work.
2.5 Local people and entities have the capacity to determine, design and deliver the supports they need.
2.6 Community development and collective impact approaches are commonplace.
3.1 Passionate, high-performing leaders transform our agency and the human services system.
3.2 Our values guide our decisions and actions, every time, and create cultural security and inclusion.
3.3 Expenditure that delivers high-impact results for the people and communities we serve.
3.4 Property development and asset management that respond to people’s circumstances, enable thriving and connected communities, and support our economic viability.
3.5 A skilled, committed and diverse workforce that makes a big difference for the people and communities we serve.
3.6 An effective, efficient and responsive agency that is supported by an integrated set of business systems, and an appropriate governance and performance framework.