Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Minister opens 7th National Homelessness Conference

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor today opened Homelessness Australia’s seventh National Homelessness Conference in Melbourne.

Mr O’Connor said the three-day conference was an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences, debate approaches and look ahead to addressing the future needs of the homelessness sector and the vulnerable people it assists.

“There is no single reason why people become homeless,” Mr O’Connor said.

“People can be leading perfectly normal lives one year and then find themselves suddenly homeless due to unforeseen circumstances such as an accident, serious illness, retrenchment or relationship breakdown.

“Too many Australians do not have a safe, stable home.

“The Australian Government has made homelessness a national reform priority and is committed to halving the rate of homelessness and providing accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020.

“Sponsoring this conference is part of our commitment to working with community partners to understand the causes of homelessness and how to most effectively respond to this key social issue.

“The conference allows us to delve further into issues facing people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and to share and learn from experts across the country and internationally.”

Mr O’Connor used the conference to launch new Government-funded research, Finding Work: Homelessness and Employment, which was conducted by the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University and Hanover Research Services.

He later visited the Hanover site in South Melbourne with Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby to talk to staff and clients about their experiences. Hanover South Melbourne provides accommodation and support for families experiencing homelessness or housing stress and has a specialist in-house employment service.

“Employment services can play an important role in assisting job seekers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to stabilise their lives and improve their economic security,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We know that homelessness can be a long term barrier to employment and this research identifies specific problems, such as the lack of a fixed address or accessible phone number, getting the right clothes for interviews and providing work histories.

“The report also draws our attention to social barriers that homeless people face in accessing employment, and some ways in which the services that are provided to them could be improved.

“It provides us with the stepping stones to look at new and innovative policies to address the themes developed in the research.

“It is part of the evidence base the Government is developing through the National Homelessness Research Agenda, which will allow for the growth and improvement of our homelessness services.”

The Government has invested $154 million in tailored assistance to homeless jobseekers as part of the $5.9 billion Job Services Australia program.

Job Services Australia can also pay for crisis accommodation and rent assistance for homeless job seekers who are living in a squat, sleeping in a car or have nowhere to stay under a 12-month trial.

Since the start of JSA in mid-2009, almost 150,000 job placements have been recorded for homeless job seekers with 29,400 of these for homeless youth.

In addition, the Government’s new Wage Connect program has seen more than 1,200 placements for people who are homeless since the start of the year.

The research can be accessed at