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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 18 March 2010) . . Page.. 1151 ..

broader social impacts for the community in general, including better health, education and employment outcomes for tenants. It will provide a stable base for tenants, and from that base other agencies can provide assistance to resolve the many other issues that people might need help with.

The ACT is well positioned for reform, with demonstrated capacity through “Breaking the cycle”, the ACT homelessness strategy; changes to public housing under the Housing Assistance Act 2007 and the revised public housing rental assistance program; and the ACT government’s affordable housing action plan, phase II.

We need to be practical and serious if we are to get on top of homelessness. Words are fine, but we need action. Within finite resources, we need to concentrate on what we can do, and we need to do it well. We have truly reformed our public housing system to better respond to those most in need in the Canberra community, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

I want to congratulate the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services, particularly Sandra Lambert, Maureen Sheehan and their officers, for the innovative reforms that they have done over the years. I want to also congratulate those community service providers who came and had participation in the ministerial forums. In the discussions and the summits they said what we needed to do to reform the sector. Of the reforms that were talked about in those summits, I think 90 per cent have been delivered, and they have been delivered in partnership between the government and the community sector. Right now we have got just a little bit further to go to tackle both ends of the housing continuum that I described earlier.

I will go back to the very beginning. When a person becomes homeless, and I have experienced this, it is the deepest feeling of despair a person can ever imagine. The black hole is huge. And at the bottom of that black hole is a black dot. We need to make sure that nobody falls into that black hole.

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (4.09): I wish to thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, for introducing this topic to discuss today. Ms Bresnan has already talked about many of the direct issues facing homeless people in Canberra today. I do not intend to double up on that, although I will make brief mention of a demographic group that is not always considered but is one that is dear to my heart. I refer to older people, especially women a little older than I, who often have been part of a relationship breakup. They no longer are part owner of a matrimonial home and they have found themselves comparatively late in their lives with potentially not much employment prospects and few assets.

I have a number of friends who are in this situation and who are looking at a wait of many years before they could hope for public housing and the prospect, when they stop working, of not having any possibility of paying for private rental. I think homelessness can occur in all groups in our society and we need to consider it for all those groups.

What I will spend more time on in my talk today is housing affordability, which obviously is a considerable contributor to homelessness. If you cannot afford to buy

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