The research and development of social policy in Western Australia will receive a boost through the direct involvement of the State's four universities.
Family and Community Development Minister Eric Ripper said today the universities were represented on the newly-formed Western Australian Consortium for Social Policy Research.
The board of management of the consortium included representatives from the University of WA, Curtin University of Technology, Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University.
Other representatives were from the Australian Association of Social Workers, the Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS) and the Department for Community Development.
Mr Ripper said the consortium's role was to research and disseminate information on social issues, and to build a specific social welfare knowledge base for WA.
It would also support and evaluate existing social policy initiates, help ensure the optimum use of resources through research, and work to improve public understanding of social issues.
"There needs to be the widest possible debate on social problems, and social policy must be based on sound understanding and research rather than prejudice and stereotypes," the Minister said.
"In the past our universities could have contributed much more to the public debate on issues of major public concern such as juvenile crime. The formation of this consortium will, I hope, mean a much higher public profile for expert views and research on important social policy issues."
The consortium was launched this evening by the acting director general of the Department for Community Development, Mr Mike Daube, at the University of Western Australia.
Mr Ripper said he applauded the initiative of the Department for Community Development and the social welfare field in establishing the group.
The State Government was contributing $20,000 to establish the consortium, on the basis that this would be matched by the universities.
The consortium would have a key role in pooling information and increasing its accessibility to all players in the social welfare industry, including smaller groups which did not have independent research capacity.
"One of the keys to taking action to solve social problems is a co-operative partnership approach, across the community," Mr Ripper said.
"There must be active collaboration and links between the academic community, social work practitioners, Government service providers, Government and non-Government agencies.
"The formation of this consortium is an important step in boosting this partnership and collaboration."
Mr Ripper said this community-based partnership approach was the key to the current restructuring of welfare services in WA, and was underpinned in the State Government's $179 million Social Advantage package.