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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11833

Ms VAMVAKINOU (8:02 PM) —I rise tonight to speak on the very important social issue of homelessness and I want to begin by congratulating the member for Lindsay for bringing the issue of homelessness to this chamber. It is hard to talk about homelessness without talking about a denial of the opportunities afforded to most Australians—opportunities which exist on the premise that a person is living in the comfort and security of a stable home. On any given night up to 105,000 of our fellow Australians are homeless, divorced of the connection to all that was once theirs and, from it, losing all opportunities that would otherwise be available to them. With a lack of a point of stability, it is difficult for homeless people not only to obtain and keep a job but also to participate in many other of life’s aspects.

If we are going to change the landscape of opportunity for the homeless across Australia, we as a government need to create supported and sustainable living arrangements and social housing programs to accommodate our most vulnerable citizens. We need to ensure that, as Australia moves forward into a progressive future, it does so in the company of all its citizens. That is why I am encouraged by the federal government’s National Affordable Housing Agreement as well as the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness—which aim to do just that. From these key initiatives, specialist housing services are made available and new initiatives, programs and services to tackle issues of social inclusion and housing affordability are created.

These initiatives reflect the fact that the Rudd Labor government is not just about building bricks but is as much about tackling the effects of homelessness and its root causes. These are key measures that build a solid framework from which the government’s white paper on homelessness, entitled The road home, is brought to fruition and key initiatives are rolled out to meet its objective of halving the rate of homelessness by 2020. By identifying interim targets, the government has ensured that this will occur in an environment of transparency and accountability.

I would like to acknowledge here today the important work that community based organisations undertake in the field of homelessness. Having worked closely with the Reverend David Peake of E Qubed, which is part of the Anglicare Australia-wide network, I have come to learn firsthand of the local initiatives being put forward to address what is described as the ‘web of disadvantage’. The proposals put forward by David Peake, through his E Qubed project, aimed at building a social enterprise centre, are designed to address the disproportionately high rate of disadvantage in Broadmeadows and surrounding areas. They aim to tackle the staggering figures shown in the 2007 Dropping off the edge report authored by Professor Tony Vinson, which maps the distribution of social disadvantage throughout Australia. In this report, Professor Vinson cites Broadmeadows as the most disadvantaged community in Victoria.

David notes that, of the young people involved in the programs he has attended to over the last 30 years, roughly 30 per cent were considered homeless. It was the homeless youth who carried most of the problems, bringing with them issues to do with domestic violence, substance abuse and, amongst other things, issues of self-harm. As problems accumulate and issues to do with social exclusion are compounded, young females who are homeless are particularly at risk, with David estimating that roughly 20 per cent were victims of child sex abuse. What this demonstrates is that homelessness is an issue which is not confined to a particular demographic and that it requires a wide range of responses. David’s experience over the last three decades speaks volumes. When you have a situation where there is acute disadvantage within an already disadvantaged sector of society, it is really difficult to try to arrive at a level at which these people are able to fully participate in that society.

In the Australian context it is home which serves as a basis for all other opportunities afforded to us all. E Qubed aims to create a stable environment from which to run its programs. It is, as David notes, what a home should be in terms of developing attitudes. It aims to provide a framework from which issues such as multigenerational unemployment and the lack of ambitious thinking are addressed within an environment reflective of the stability of a home. As David notes:

Housing targets will only be effective if they are complemented with other support programs—it is primarily an issue of social inclusion.

That is why I welcome the federal government’s social inclusion agenda and the creation of new initiatives, programs and services to tackle issues of social inclusion surrounding the efforts aimed at tackling homelessness. Such a multifaceted approach will help Australia tackle this key question and will serve as an encouragement to people like David who have long been trying to grapple with this complex social problem.