Social Justice and Community Development

Spend any time around community organisations, community services, educational facilities, health facilities and government agencies you will stumble across the term Social Justice Principles. But what exactly are they and how do they work with Community Development?

A google search for Social Justice Principles shows 350,000,000 entries around the term social justice principles. Additionally, there is a wealth of academic discussion around the terms but let’s try and put it into simple chunks of information to make the term user friendly.

At its most rudimentary level Social Justice is bound up in justice and rights, particularly human rights. It is about seeing where inequality lies, where discrimination is present, where there is disadvantage and seeking to change the situation so that these things are removed and people treated in a fair and just manner. This type of intervention is about social change. Making change to create a fairer society where inequality and injustice is eliminated. To put it on the most basic level Social Justice Principles are about fairness.

Central to community development practice are social justice principles. They represent core values in the work of creating social change through Community building and development. The focus of community development practice is to achieve social justice by working alongside communities or supporting the local community as the community takes the lead in making change.

So, exactly what are these principles?

Social Justice is concerned with ensuring all people are entitled to, and receive, fair and impartial treatment. These principles could include a number of items but most can be summarised as follows:

  • Equity: There should be fairness in the distribution of resources, particularly for those in need.
  • Equality:  All people should be treated equally with dignity, respect and free from any form of discrimination;
  • Access: The right of people to have reasonable and safe access to facilities, open space, programs, services, resources and information. This includes the right of independent and dignified access;
  • Participation:  All people should have the maximum opportunity to genuinely participate actively in civic and community life;
  • Inclusion: working in partnership with the community, all levels of government, key agencies and the private sector to build an inclusive, cohesive and strong community
  • Diversity: recognise and value the contribution of the community’s diverse population and respect the right of people to an inclusive community. Opportunities should be provided for positive participation to accommodate linguistic, cultural and religious diversity.

Without having social justice as a base there can be no real and lasting community building or community development.

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