Media Release by Senator the Hon Mark Arbib

Australian Government won’t take a backwards step on homelessness

The Federal Minister for Homelessness, Mark Arbib, today expressed concern about a reported backing down from the homelessness targets by the Baillieu Government.

The Victorian Government is reported as deciding ‘not to sign up to’ the Australian Government’s White Paper target to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020.

Senator Arbib said that he would seek a meeting with Minister Wendy Lovell but he warned that we could not as a nation afford to take a backwards step on homelessness.

“The Australian Government made a significant decision in 2008 to make tackling homelessness a national priority and we have a clear strategy set out in the White Paper, which received unanimous support from the states and territories, as well as the sector that works with people who are experiencing homelessness,” Senator Arbib said.

“The Victorian Government has already signed up to a target to reduce homelessness by 7% by 2013.

“I understand that they will maintain commitment and I would be deeply disappointed if they decided to withdraw that commitment.

“The White Paper targets are certainly ambitious but I think it is important that they are set high so as a nation we strive hard to achieve them.

Senator Arbib said there has been an enormous amount of momentum towards addressing homelessness over the last three years and we could not afford to take a backwards step.

“Measuring homelessness is always difficult and the Australian Bureau of Statistics has independently initiated a review into the methodology of counting the homeless,” Senator Arbib said.

“I have urged everyone interested to make a submission to the inquiry.

“It is important that we get accurate information through the Census count, but also that this data is supplemented by other data, for example, from Supported Accommodation organisations and from Centrelink.”

Under the $1.1 billion National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, the Australian Government and the states and territories agreed to targets to reduce homelessness and have invested 50% per cent each to improve or create 192 homelessness services. These new or expanded services included services for women and children fleeing domestic violence and prevent young people exiting care from becoming homeless.

Since 2008, the Australian Government has increased funding to address homelessness by almost $5 billion, including building more than 10,000 new homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.