Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Draft Homelessness Bill Released for Comment

The Gillard Government has released draft legislation which will provide greater recognition of the needs of people who are homeless or sleeping rough, one of the recommendations of the White Paper on Homelessness.

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor today called for comment on the exposure draft of the Homelessness Bill, which sets out the Government’s strategies to tackle homelessness.

The Bill will replace the old Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994, under which the Commonwealth Government provided grants to the States and Territories to fund homelessness services. With funding now dealt with under new centralised agreements, a new Bill is needed.

“All Australians deserve a safe, secure place to call home and the Gillard Government is committed to tackling the complex challenges that homelessness poses,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The Government has made tackling homelessness a major priority and is committed to meeting the ambitious targets we set out in our White Paper.

“Since 2008 we have invested almost $5 billion to tackle this challenge, with a commitment to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020.

“The introduction of this legislation will meet another of our commitments and the legislation will underpin the national response to homelessness.”

The matter of proposed homelessness legislation was referred to a House of Representatives Committee. The Committee made 15 recommendations, nine of which related specifically to the legislation. The Government will soon table its response to the report in Parliament. These recommendations have been incorporated into the draft Bill to the extent possible within the constraints of the Australian Constitution.

Many submissions to the Inquiry called for a ‘rights based’ approach to the legislation. However, the Commonwealth has no express Constitutional power to comprehensively regulate on housing or homelessness. As such, the draft Bill aims to capture the Commonwealth’s goals and objectives but cannot impose any obligations or confer any rights.

The draft Bill seeks to:

  • establish a clear definition of homelessness;
  • set out the Government’s views on how people who are homeless should be treated and supported;
  • reaffirm the Government’s commitment to work cooperatively with State and Territory governments, the not-for-profit and the for-profit sectors to reduce homelessness; and
  • recognise the importance of strategies to reduce homelessness, including early intervention and prevention, appropriate accommodation options, and ongoing service and support.

It will complement existing homelessness measures including the work already underway with State and Territory Ministers to develop a National Quality Framework (NQF) for homelessness services. The NQF will achieve better outcomes for people who are homeless by improving the quality and integration of services they receive.

“When combined with the legislation, the new framework will make it clear that homeless people should have the same opportunities, rights and choices as other Australians,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Without a secure home, people struggle to find and keep jobs or stay in training or education, or to keep their kids in school.

“In a wealthy country like Australia, it is unacceptable that mothers and their children are sleeping in cars overnight.

“This legislation is another important step in tackling homelessness, and I encourage everyone with an interest in this important issue to read the draft Bill and provide me with their feedback as we work towards our ambitious goals.”

Submissions are invited until 3 August 2012.

To view the draft Homelessness Bill and provide comment visit: