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SECTION SIX – Catering to All

“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Australia often prides itself on providing a ‘fair go’ for everyone. The litmus test of an inclusive society however, is how well it includes and meets the needs of different population groups, including Indigenous Australians, people with disabilities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and those who are disadvantaged by social or economic circumstances.

With Australia’s aging population, older people are also a significant and growing part of local communities, which is said to present both challenges and opportunities for local government.(57)

Support For Independent Living

For older people, as well as people with illness and disabilities, there is increasing emphasis on enabling people to live in the community or at home for longer. This has implications for the way in which housing and neighbourhoods are designed, the accessibility of community facilities as well as for the availability and delivery of various government, non-government or voluntary support services.

Pets can sometimes play an important role in assisting independent living and mobility, as illustrated in the case study relating to the organizations, BowMeow and POOPS.

Diverse Backgrounds

Pets are a great leveller, transcending racial, cultural, geographic, age and socio-economic boundaries in terms of their ownership and impact. This is evident in the exchanges between dog owners of diverse backgrounds at a local park or an animal being the catalyst for communication between timid patients and health professionals.

Societal Fringe

Pets have also been shown to bring therapeutic benefits and pleasure to many people who are not in a position to own or fully care for one on their own. The same applies to population groups who are sometimes on the societal fringe including those in prison, in healthcare facilities or nursing homes, or living in more impoverished circumstances.(58)

The case studies relating to AMRRIC, PetLinks, Delta Animal Assisted Therapy, Assistance Dogs Australia and the Human Animal Interaction Directory are excellent examples of this.

Supporting Our Communities

The benefits of pets for priority population groups is not just about a superficial ‘feel good’ effect; rather research has linked contact with pets to the prevention or reduced incidence of depression and stress and to buffering the impact of grief, traumatic events and loneliness.(19)

In a society struggling with issues of loneliness, isolation and depression, and an increasing proportion of people living alone or in fractured family situations, supporting initiatives that provide contact with pets can be seen as a real investment into the community.

As articulated by Eva Cox in her seminal Boyer lecture series on social capital, “societies rich in social capital recognise our common humanity, accept diversity and reject gross inequalities”.(6)

In their own small way, pets can in fact play a part in our expressions of humanity and care for others; and in the way in which we cater for diversity and strive for greater equality within Australian communities.

 

Catering to All Case Studies

New approach improves dog health in Indigenous communities

Pets in heathcare prove to be key motivators in recovery

Simple support steps can make a difference

Assistance animals ensure mobility and independence for people with special needs

Assistance dogs enhance quality of life for those on the outer

In home volunteer pet care programs provides elderly with independent living and stress relief

 

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