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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8244

Mr LYONS (Bass) (21:45): I endorse the comments of the previous speaker. In disability it should not be about how you obtain the disability; it is about how we should look after the vulnerable.

I rise tonight to discuss a very important issue in society today: homelessness. The recent National Homeless Persons Week is a timely reminder that homelessness in Australia is real. Many people are without a home and are not lucky enough to have a warm, safe and welcoming place to stay. It is estimated that 105,000 Australians are homeless on any given night. According to Homelessness Australia:

Each day nearly one in every 200 Australians is homeless, without safe, secure or affordable housing.

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program Act 1994 defines a homeless person as a person who does not have safe access to secure, adequate housing. This includes housing that may be damaging their health, threatening their safety, marginalising the person, in threatening circumstances or without security of tenure. A person is also considered homeless if he or she is living in accommodation provided by a SAAP agency or some other form of emergency accommodation.

I recently joined with Senator Helen Polley to accompany a local support group, City Mission, on their late-night run in Launceston to provide food for those on the street. I was amazed at the number of people who came to the van for a hot drink or something to eat. What I found particularly concerning was the number of young people who were on the street. Youth made up the majority of the people who came to us for a chat. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate City Mission in Launceston on the fantastic work that they do in supporting the homeless and, in some cases, the substance affected, population of Launceston.

I would also like to congratulate the students of St Patrick's College who are willing to give up their time late on a Friday night and into Saturday morning to volunteer their help to serve the hot drinks and food. It is heartening to see young people getting involved with those less fortunate than themselves in our local community.

According to Homelessness Australia, 23 per cent of Australia's homeless are children—an amazing statistic—and, of every 42 children under the age of four, one has experienced homelessness. These figures are astounding and very saddening. Homelessness may be the result of a range of factors, some of which include poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, family breakdown, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling or a lack of suitable available housing. As Homelessness Australia explains, homelessness results in social and economic costs not only to the individual but also to families and communities. I quote:

Homelessness means that every day almost one in every 200 Australians lives without their most fundamental human rights as they are often excluded from participation in a range of social, cultural and recreational activities because of their circumstances.

Homelessness is real. Too often people try to ignore it and turn their heads. These people need support.

The Labor government is offering support. The Australian Labor government is committed to supporting the homeless in our population. There has been an additional $5 billion directed to homelessness since 2008. A national plan of action on homelessness is in place which is set to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020 and offer support accommodation to those who seek it. This is being done through supported accommodation packages and other support programs and services. Thousands of new houses have been built for the homeless. In addition to this, the Labor government is delivering about 80,000 affordable and social housing dwellings. Additional services for the homeless have also been rolled out across the country. I have attended the opening of some of these accommodation places. People are just so grateful. It is amazing. One woman said, 'I have never been in a house that has been mine.' It is a very sad statement, but she is extremely happy.

The Labor government is committed to providing services for the people in need and to provide the services required to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place. Homelessness is all around us, but we need to do what we can to offer support and the services required for these vulnerable people so that they have the opportunity to create a future. (Time expired)