Statement by Senator the Hon Mark Arbib

COAG Select Council on Homelessness

The newly-formed Select Council on Homelessness met for the first time this week and reaffirmed the commitment of all Australian Governments to reduce homelessness in our communities.

Australian Governments are investing $1.1 billion in initiatives under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

Ministers today confirmed the roll out of homelessness initiatives, their three reform tasks and the outcomes to be achieved by the Select Council on Homelessness by December 2013. They also discussed and endorsed, in principle, the plan of work required to achieve these reform tasks.

The three reform tasks are:

  • Oversee the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to ensure it achieves a maximum reduction in homelessness;
  • Drive effective implementation of COAG’s reform agenda for homelessness through collaboration to address common structural impediments; and
  • Determine what works or is leading practice in reducing homelessness to inform future priorities, strategic directions and partnerships between the Australian, State and Territory governments.

The Select Council also discussed progress made by individual jurisdictions in responding to homelessness under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

In 2010-11:

  • More than 180 new initiatives were implemented and assistance was provided in more than 170,000 instances to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness;
  • States and territories have engaged in sector reform and/or service integration to provide a framework that supports quality outcomes for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness; and
  • There has been considerable sector and community engagement by state and territory governments in the planning and implementation of services across the country.

There has been a strong emphasis on the following key initiatives:

  • Street to Home initiatives across Australia provided assertive outreach support, including intensive case management, on 48,594 occasions to people who are experiencing chronic homelessness (rough sleepers) to secure and maintain stable housing; and
  • Tenancy support, advocacy, case management, financial counselling and referral services has been provided in 54,905 instances to help private and public tenants sustain tenancies.

Progress under the A Place to Call Home initiative continues to deliver solid outcomes and current projections indicate that the national target of 600 dwellings will be met by 30 June 2013.  This is a joint initiative by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to build new homes that provide permanent accommodation and wrap around support services.

Ministers acknowledged that efforts were continuing and agreed to maximise the contribution of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to reducing homelessness by June 2013.

The Australian Government noted where projects are delayed, continued funding under the National Partnership Agreement will be contingent on Implementation Plans being revised to include remedial action and setting or re-phasing of targets.

The Select Council has been established by COAG to provide a dedicated focus on homelessness as a key issue of national significance requiring its own Council to drive reforms.

The Select Council will meet again in March 2012.