The federal election campaign has raised issues like marriage, paid parental leave, cracking down on people smugglers, and managing the federal budget. What there fails to have been is a serious discussion on the state of poverty and homelessness across our nation.Read more
The ACL places a strong emphasis on changing the state of poverty and justice in Australia through public policy; as Christians, we are called to be "generous to the poor" (Proverbs 19:17) and to "give to the needy" (Luke 12:33).
This week, the Pastor of a church in Sydney's Kings Cross urged the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to focus more on the needs of the unemployed and homeless during this election campaign. In an interview with ABC News' Sally Sara, he says the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless and asylum seekers, are being dehumanised by the level of fear in the current political debate, and that more and more, we are becoming a country with no heart.
Also this week, welfare group St Vincent de Paul Society demanded an anti-poverty strategy for Australia in the election campaign. Its CEO Dr John Falzon said that nearly 13 per cent of the population was living in poverty, including more than half a million children. The group has called on both sides of politics to commit to meeting the Homelessness White Paper target of halving all homelessness by 2020.
According to Homelessness Australia, there are over 105,000 homeless people in the country. That means that on any given night, 1 in 200 people have no home to go to. The rate of homelessness is also on the rise; the 2011 Census showed that in five years, the rate of homelessness increased by eight per cent. This is caused by a number of reasons, including a chronic shortage of affordable and available rental housing, domestic and family violence, and financial crisis.
ACL's Katherine Spackman recently interviewed Mission Australia's CEO Toby Hall about the need for political parties to address the issue of homelessness in Australia. Mr Hall said that both sides of politics have been weak on the issues; Kevin Rudd has loosely made comments about halving the poverty rate in Australia by 2020 but this has not been backed by any policy or money, and there has been very little focus on it by the Coalition. Mission Australia is asking both sides to partner together to provide the necessary resources and affordable housing to combat poverty and homelessness on our streets.
In the lead up to the federal election, the ACL sent a questionnaire to political parties designed to educate voters of party positions on issues of particular importance to Christians. Follow this link to find out their answers to the homelessness question.
Toby Hall is the CEO of Mission Australia. In this interview with the ACL’s Katherine Spackman he talks about Mission Australia’s election statement and particularly in relation to welfare reform and homelessness.Read more
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed the announcement by the federal Labor Government that it will provide emergency funding for the Queensland Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS).
The announcement means that the Service, which provides assistance and advice to 80,000 Queensland households each year, will be able to continue helping vulnerable tenants after Premier Campbell Newman announced that the State Government was withdrawing all funding.
“This important service assists some of society’s most vulnerable families right across the state,” ACL Queensland Director Wendy Francis said.
“Some budget cuts may be necessary to address Queensland’s economic woes but TAAS provides an essential service which actually saves the government money in the long run by keeping people in private residences and reducing the need for public housing,” she said.
The ACL commends the role played by Federal Labor Member for Blair Shayne Neumann in securing the funding.
“Mr Neumann recognises the importance of this service in preventing homelessness and federal Labor is to be commended for ensuring it can continue,” Ms Francis said.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The Australian Christian Lobby today released NT Labor’s written response to a policy questionnaire ahead of this week’s Northern Territory election.
ACL’s policy questionnaire sought all parties’ views on a range of issues of concern to the Christian constituency ahead of Saturday’s election. Only the Labor Party responded.
Labor’s response has been published on the ACL’s election website www.ntvotes.org.au along with audio from Terry Mills’ recent address to Christians and church leaders in Darwin, which Chief Minister Paul Henderson did not attend.
ACL’s Managing Director Jim Wallace said while he was glad Labor had replied, the content of their answers was disappointing. “Many Christians will be attracted to Labor’s positions on some social justice issues like homelessness and indigenous affairs,” Mr Wallace said.
“However their position on a number of important social issues leaves a lot to be desired.
“Labor’s position on issues such as human trafficking, same-sex marriage, adoption and surrogacy, as well as human rights will disappoint many Christians.
“Win or lose, I hope after Saturday’s election the Labor Party will try harder to engage with and earn the support of the Christian constituency.”
Mr Wallace said ACL was also disappointed that the Country Liberal Party has not yet provided a response to this questionnaire, however acknowledged Terry Mills for making the time recently to address Christians at a forum organised by ACL.
The Australian Christian Lobby is a non-party partisan organisation seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics. During election campaigns, ACL seeks to help inform and activate Christians that they may vote for candidates and parties who will advance a more moral, just and compassionate society.
Labor’s response to ACL’s policy questionnaire and an audio recording of Terry Mills’ address to Christians can be found at www.ntvotes.org.au.
The report by the Wesley Mission, More than a bed: Sydney’s homeless families speak out is the culmination of a study of 50 homeless families.
It is estimated that families make up between a quarter and one-third of Australia’s homeless population. A mother with children accounts for more than half of all homeless families.
The Wesley report reveals a range of alarming details about the nature of family homelessness. Four in ten families cited domestic violence as the reason for their homelessness, almost double the next most cited cause, relationship breakdown or divorce.
Worryingly, the report found a strong intergenerational link to homelessness, with over half of adults in the 50 homeless families surveyed reporting they had been homeless as children.
It also found that new homeless families, in particular, do not know where to go for assistance.
In response, the CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev Dr Keith Garner has suggested an ‘11-point plan’ to help homeless families through increased community and public housing and ‘a more flexible system that is user-friendly for families applying for accommodation’, among others.
To download an electronic copy of the report please click here. The Wesley Mission’s media release can be found here, and a news report from The Sydney Morning Herald is available here.
Mr Hall, in an article featured in the Canberra Times and Newcastle Herald (neither online), writes that, “Australia’s 105,000 homeless population deserve to know what Labor and the Coalition will do to take the homelessness strategy forward over the next three years and beyond.”
“They deserve to know if their future Prime Minister will become a champion in the fight against homelessness or let it slide down their list of priorities.
“We need the next government to make a fresh commitment – all the way to the top – to seeing this matter through.”
There has also been considerable media coverage on the issue of homelessness in the last few days to mark National Homeless Week in an attempt to draw more attention to the desperate and shameful scourge of Australian homelessness, and to focus the minds of our leaders to this often unseen issue.
You can read recent commentary on this issue by clicking the following links:
The human face of homelessness
Homelessness has a female face
Policy on 'national obscenity' of homelessness a rare triumph
At election time, it is often very easy to vote for a candidate or party that meets our own needs, but the way in which the lowly and vulnerable are treated should figure prominently in our thinking. Homelessness is one of several key “Points of Difference” policies highlighted at our election website, www.australiavotes.org.au. Visit the site to see how each of the parties would respond to this crisis.