Media Release: Friday, August 14, 2009

Federal and State Governments need to bring a sharper policy focus to bear on the root causes of homelessness – particularly family violence and relationship breakdown – if Australia is to achieve a long-term solution to this distressing problem, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.

In a submission lodged today with the parliamentary inquiry into homelessness legislation, ACL said much good work was focussed on curing homelessness but not enough on prevention. The Government’s White Paper, The Road Home, says that the most common causes of homelessness are domestic violence and family breakdown. ACL said that attention needs to be paid to preventing the onset of these problems in order for real progress to be made.

“The White Paper makes it clear that there is a family and relationship breakdown crisis that is fuelling Australia’s homelessness crisis,” ACL spokeswoman Michelle Pearse said today.

“While the White Paper rightly identifies the pathways into homelessness and a strategy to break these cycles, the focus for prevention is mainly on services that assist with the external issues families face. ACL believes these initiatives should be supplemented by measures aimed at preventing family violence and relationship breakdown in the first place.”

In its submission ACL calls for homelessness legislation to include funding for programs designed to promote domestic harmony and stable relationships including, for example, premarriage counselling, mediation services, and television advertising campaigns to promote healthy families. ACL also recommends that the Government forms policy that ‘incentivizes’ the marriage relationship, thereby further strengthening the family unit.

ACL also identified a number of other ways that the current homelessness legislation and service delivery could be strengthened, including:

• Ensuring legislation is sufficiently flexible so as to allow for the needs of each individual homeless person to be assessed according to their specific situation, allowing tailored solutions to be developed where necessary;

• Enshrining in the legislation the principle that a homeless person has not been helped until they are in sustainable long-term accommodation; and

• Amending the legislation to allow for greater service integration and a continuum of support for homeless people.

“The Federal Government has shown a strong commitment to addressing the issue of homelessness and has already begun to provide funding and to work with State governments on the issue. The principles ACL recommends would help to increase the scope of homelessness legislation to achieve a long-term sustainable solution to a crisis that afflicts far too many Australians,” Mrs Pearse said.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan