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Address at the launch of Hanover Family Accomodation Centre, Melbourne

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THURSDAY, 11 AUGUST 1994, MELBOURNE. //oy? It gives'-'me great pleasure to open the Hanover Family Accommodation Centre today.

The development of leading edge services to support families is very important in this, the International Year of the Family.

This service, here in the old fire station, is not only an example of a leading edge family service but is also a striking example of what can be done to transform an old building into a model medium- density development.

This in itself sends out an important signal - that families in crisis are entitled to the same quality of accommodation enj'oyed by other members of the community.

In the past, we have often neglected the needs of families in trouble, focusing instead on the individual often after family break-up has occurred.

Where families have sought help, services have struggled to place them in suitable accommodation so that the family can remain together.

Families who lose their homes lose one of the most important foundations of family life.

A home is central to shelter, to safety and to our sense of belonging.

It is so important to a family's ability to provide opportunities for their children.

What is important about this service is that it offers a home-like environment for families who are without a home.

The family can stay together, continue to function as a unit and maintain the privacy and autonomy that they previously enjoyed.

In this setting, they will also enjoy the support of having Hanover close by and people who can work with them to help sort out the problems.

In effect, Hanover provides a base upon which we can provide child care, labour market assistance, education and health care.

The Federal Government is one hundred percent behind this kind of development.

We are aiming to transform services to homeless people in our cities and to promote a more positive image and understanding of homelessness in the community.

I am introducing new legislation into Parliament later this year that will set a framework for services to homeless people which maximise their dignity, independence and rights.

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Although we have made good progress with this approach for people with a disability, for indigenous Australians and for the long-term, unemployed, we have not focused on people who are homeless.

People who are homeless still suffer from discrimination and misunderstanding.

This can make it almost impossible for them to break out of the cycle; to get a job and start to live independently.

At the Federal level, we are particularly interested in looking closely at the concept of rights and housing.

We need to develop policies which provide a pathway for people who are homeless to decent housing.

Some of that will be in the private rental sector, in public housing, in community housing and for others in home ownership.

We need to see supported accommodation as a stepping stone and not as an end in itself, and it must be linked to these other forms of tenure.

This means that the SAAP and CAP Programs will need to be brought in line with overall housing policies and programs.

At the same time, SAAP needs to develop stronger links with other support services so that the provision of housing and support can be tailored to suit people's needs.

My point is that we need to stop thinking about homelessness as simply a welfare issue.

It is an issue for housing, for employment and for urban development.

The Federal Government is committed to transforming the very conservative approach to homelessless of the past.

We are saying that not only do people who are homeless have a right to a decent quality of housing, labour market assistance, healthcare and childcare - they also have the right to live in communities, as part of communities.

I welcome the location of this centre in South Melbourne and the understanding that has been demonstrated by the local community.

I recently launched Alan Jordan's book Homelessness in an Australian City, which gives a very good overview of the major changes Australia has gone through along the path to reform.

We still have a very long way to go.

I am very supportive of bringing together the non-Government sector at the national level so that it works with the Federal Government to provide a voice for reform, and indeed for people who are homeless, over the next decade.

This is the approach the Federal Government took in the disability area in the 1980s and it has really made a difference to the lives of people with a disability.

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A national coalition against homelessness could be a very powerful force in reform across the sectors.

The role of employment, education and training is particularly important in this context.

With the White Paper reforms it is very important that people who are homeless and who are eligible for the Job Compact or for other new initiatives find their way to these programs and benefit from them.

I am very supportive of the work being done here in Victoria to ensure that that in fact happens.

Reform in the area of homelessness has usually been led by individuals and organisations with a real vision for social justice and a determination to have the needs of one of the most disadvantaged groups recognised by governments and the community.

I would like to recognise the dedication and contribution ma'de by Hanover to reform in this area.

This new Family Accommodation Centre will set a precedent and a standard for accommodation for families of the highest quality.

It gives me great pleasure to declare the Centre officially open.