Briefing paper

Social inclusion and social citizenship: towards a truly inclusive society

Social isolation Community participation Citizenship Australia


Since taking office in December 2007, the Rudd Government has made social inclusion a key theme in its approach to social policy.

This paper suggests that the concept of social inclusion lacks a clear definition and coherent theoretical core.

The term social inclusion is conceptually problematic in that it limits its scope to threshold issues and presents those being included as passive objects of policy, rather than as active participants in society.

The concept of social inclusion is thus unlikely to provide a useful framework for driving social policy, without some modification or clarification.

With its emphasis on participation, social inclusion bears some resemblance to the concept of social citizenship, though without the crucial focus on such participation as being a right—as is the case with citizenship.

Locating social inclusion within a revised and more contemporary citizenship framework would most likely strengthen it as a concept. It would do so by reframing the concept in terms of the various rights and duties necessary for full citizenship, and creating a more active and participatory approach to social arrangements than can currently be found in the concept of social inclusion.

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