Speaking Notes for launch of Mission Australia’s Michael Project
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I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
Thank you Leonie (Green, NSW State Director) for your introduction.
It is always one of the great honours of my position to be able to support a positive organisation like Mission Australia, and to be here today to launch the Michael Project.
Of course we would not be here without Anna Buduls’ significant contribution to the project and I would like to acknowledge and thank her for that.
I would also, while I have the opportunity, like to thank her for all her work on the Government’s Homelessness Green and White Papers, her assistance has been invaluable.
The Michael Project
The Michael Project will support homeless men, a sometimes forgotten section of our society.
It aims to improve the social inclusion of homeless men through enhanced, timely and integrated homeless service delivery.
Through this service the men will see increases in health, wellbeing and social and economic participation.
It will improve access to stable, secure and long term accommodation for the men.
I am looking forward to watching this project grow and I will be following it closely.
Homelessness is everyone’s responsibility – and to substantially reduce homelessness requires a whole of community effort.
The Michael Project is an outstanding example of how the corporate sector, charities and philanthropists can work together to substantially reduce homelessness.
I have been saying for some time that on any given night there are more than 100,000 homeless people in Australia – and that will not be news to anyone here today.
You would also know that, unfortunately, there are signs homelessness across the country maybe getting worse.
To reverse the situation, all levels of Government, business, and community organisations such as Mission Australia need to work together.
In January we announced that we would develop a new approach to reduce homelessness over the next decade.
The Green Paper was the first step, which aimed to promote discussion by putting forward principles, targets and concrete options for reform.
The causes of homelessness are complex; the effects of homelessness are debilitating and the costs of homelessness to individuals, families and the community are huge.
Homeless Australians lose opportunities to be part of their families, their community and the economy.
They miss out on things the rest of us take for granted – a good education, decent health care and a secure place to call home.
Our response to homelessness needs to be improved.
The truth is that we are not having enough impact on the lives of homeless Australians.
To make our new approach work we need national commitment and strong leadership.
Reducing homelessness must be a shared responsibility.
We need to work harder to prevent homelessness and this means intervening earlier.
It means improving the crisis and emergency response and working this in better with mainstream health, education, justice and employment services.
Only this will stop the cycle of homelessness.
Our new approach to homelessness looks beyond providing a bed and a hot meal.
It offers homeless Australians new opportunities to be part of the community.
These will be the same opportunities as other Australians – training, finding work, health care and help to build social networks.
Responses to homelessness
Our current response to homelessness is shared between specialist crisis services and mainstream services.
Charities, churches, philanthropic organisations and the business community also play a role.
Australia’s primary response is delivered through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program, or SAAP.
The long-term housing, employment and education outcomes for SAAP clients are poor.
There is a lack of integration and coordination between crisis services like SAAP and broader mainstream services.
Our mainstream health, welfare and employment programs do not routinely support people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Policies, procedures and systems may inadvertently contribute to or increase homelessness.
Models of innovation, good practice and evidence-based policy
There are many examples of programs in Australia and overseas, which achieve good outcomes for people who are homeless.
We should be looking to these programs and building on what works well.
Though the Government will not adopt overseas models uncritically, Australian policy development will be informed by the best of overseas experience and analysis.
In fostering a culture of policy innovation, we should trial new approaches and policy options through innovative pilot studies – such as the Michael Project.
Some of the best, most effective, programs are not yet available on a national scale, they are working in local areas helping local people and they need to be expanded.
An element of the Government’s agenda for addressing homelessness is to ensure a robust, evidence-based policy making process.
To reduce homelessness over the long term we need a more efficient and affordable housing market and a better service system which achieves outcomes, in addition to housing.
Contact with crisis response services needs to offer a gateway into safe, appropriate accommodation, and a pathway to social and economic participation.
Both mainstream and homelessness-specific services have to play a role in a comprehensive homelessness response.
Policy innovation and evidence-based policy making is at the heart of being a reformist government.
Innovation can help us deliver better policy and better outcomes for the whole community.
Thank you again for inviting me to be part of this event and I would now like to officially launch the Michael Project.