Homelessness Week and Housing

10 August 2023


This week is Homelessness Week, a week where homelessness services and community groups educate our broader community and advocate for change. This year, the theme for Homelessness Week is 'It's time to end homelessness', and I couldn't agree more. No one should be homeless in a country like Australia. I want to take a moment to pay tribute to some of the fantastic groups in my electorate of Canberra who go above and beyond to help those in our community experiencing homelessness. As a relatively well-off part of the country with high average incomes, our city is an incredibly difficult place to be poor or on a low income. In fact, the ACT has the highest rate of long-term homelessness of any jurisdiction in the nation. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, homelessness services reported over 3,800 clients across Canberra for the last financial year. Of those, about 50 per cent were families experiencing homelessness.

These figures are devastating, and they highlight the need for services like Karinya House, which I recently visited—a service that provides support, accommodation, and other supports for pregnant women, and mothers with newborns and their families. They pointed to the fact that they have many women on their waiting lists, and they can't support all of them. The Early Morning Centre is a wonderful group of people who provide food and a whole range of services and support for the community here in Canberra who are in a tough spot. Other groups such as the YWCA, St John's Care, the Salvation Army, Beryl Women, Samaritan House, MacKillop House and so many others work tirelessly every day to help those going through homelessness in our community. They deserve our deepest gratitude, but they can't do it alone. They need support from government.

Our ACT government is investing more in homelessness than ever before. I am incredibly proud that the Albanese Labor government have made housing and homelessness a central part of our priority and objective. Under the leadership of the Minister for Housing and for Homelessness, Julie Collins, we have invested $1.7 billion in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, including a boost of $67½ million in direct payments to state and territory homelessness programs. We have invested almost $92 million in addressing youth homelessness through the Reconnect program over three years. On top of that, we have raised rent assistance by 15 per cent, the biggest increase to this payment in 30 years.

Last week the Labor government re-introduced our Housing Australia Future Fund Bill. This is a bill that will revolutionise the way we think about housing in this country. It will establish a $10 billion fund that in its first five years would build 30,000 new homes—social and affordable homes—including right here in my electorate of Canberra. Of those homes, 4,000 will be specifically set aside for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence. But it doesn't stop there: this is a fund that will build homes into perpetuity. It will help address the housing needs of this country for decades to come. That's why I cannot understand why anyone in this House that is listening to their community about their housing needs would stand in the way of this critical investment. Every day of delay is cutting money that would be invested into new homes. I say to the opposition and the Greens: it's time to stop blocking and start building. This is an urgent need for Australians, including here in my community of Canberra.

This is not the only thing that we are doing, though. We have also invested an extra $2 billion to deliver thousands of new social homes across Australia. We're funding a further 10,000 affordable homes through the National Housing Accord, which will be matched by the states and territories. We're funding $2 billion in financing for community housing providers, for more social and affordable rental housing through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation. We're working with states and territories to improve renters' rights and tackle planning reform. We have already helped more than 50,000 Australians into home ownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme. This week the Albanese government announced that we will be developing a National Housing and Homelessness Plan to help more Australians access safe and affordable housing. We're collaborating with state and territory colleagues on this shared vision. But we want to do more.

The Housing Australia Future Fund is an incredible opportunity for this parliament to roll up its sleeves and start building houses. It is backed by groups such as Homelessness Australia, the Community Housing Industry Association, Master Builders, National Shelter and the Property Council. As I said, we need to stop blocking and start building.