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Immediate action needed to address increasing homelessness, says AASW on World Homeless Day

Published: 10 October 2018

On World Homeless Day, the AASW calls on all Australian governments to take meaningful action to assure that every Australian is afforded the basic human right to affordable, safe and secure housing, including addressing the needs of vulnerable women who are affected by family violence, and older women.

AASW National President Christine Craik said, “The rates of homelessness are a national emergency and the vulnerability of many people, including women and children affected by family violence, needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Lack of affordable housing and inadequate services continue to put women and children at risk, impacts on mental health and wellbeing, and means too many people are unable to participate in their communities.

“Social workers on the front lines of service delivery witness the ever-increasing number of women and children needing supports to escape situations of abuse. Inadequate access to housing is not only forcing families into homelessness, in many cases it’s a barrier to leaving violence,” she said.

“Better services is only part of the issue as we need system wide reform that places much greater emphasis on removing the perpetrator and enabling women and children to remain in their homes and connected to their social supports, including friends, family and schools.

“For example, while we welcome in principle the recent federal proposal for family violence leave, the fact that it is unpaid and for only 5 days does little to support victims to leave violent situations. Measures like this continue to highlight a welfare and judicial system that does not understand the dynamics of family violence and the links to homelessness,” said Ms Craik.

In addition, the needs of older women are too often overlooked in homelessness discussions and responses. The number of older women experiencing homelessness has risen by 31 per cent since 2011 with ABS figures show that superannuation balances for women aged 55 to 64 were on average 37 per cent lower than those for men.

“Older women often have less access benefits such as superannuation as a result of raising children, and caring for family members, which has removed them from the workforce. With an ageing population, this will only continue to increase and we need immediate action.”

As we move towards a Federal Election, we need national leadership on this issue and as the AASW, along with many other groups, has argued this begins with a desperately needed national homelessness strategy.

The AASW represents over 11,000 professional social workers in Australia who are committed to working with communities and individuals to promote wellbeing, human rights and social justice. Many practise directly with, and advocate for, housing rights, welfare, and women experiencing family violence. Read the AASW’s position statements about homelessness.

Christine Craik is available for interview.

Media contact
Angela Yin
Communications Lead
P 03 9320 1005 M 0413 532 954

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers