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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 18 March 2010) . . Page.. 1154 ..

which used to have the biggest in the world, averaged a mere 201 square metres, while in the United Kingdom the average is only 76 square metres. Addressing the size of housing is one way of addressing affordability and thus homelessness.

There are a lot of other issues outside the ACT government’s control, particularly our tax system, negative gearing and capital gains. (Time expired.)

MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.19): The ACT government has a longstanding commitment to provide support to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The ACT has the lowest percentage of homelessness population experiencing primary homelessness, that is, sleeping rough, at 5.7 per cent, compared to a national average of 15.6 per cent. This is a result that our community should be proud of but it does not disguise the fact there are still people in need.

We should also be proud of the fact that, while across Australia it is estimated that only about 30 per cent of homeless people actually receive a service from a homelessness service, in the ACT 50 per cent of homeless people receive a service. Of course, herein lies the problem: there are honest people who are flying under the radar who need our assistance and have never even presented for assistance to a service.

Under the national affordable housing agreement, the ACT and Australian governments combined to provide over $18 million per year to address homelessness and both governments say we need to do more. In December 2008 the Australian government white paper on homelessness, The road home, announced the bold goal to halve overall homelessness by 2020. This is a commendable commitment but I think it is deplorable that the federal opposition leader has recently seen fit to backflip on an all-party agreement to this commendable target. Let there be no doubt that targets will require a shift in mentality from providing a high-quality crisis response to intervening early and acting to prevent homelessness.

A man who is quite wise has recently provided me with a comment: homelessness should not be confused with houselessness; it is as much a state of mind as it is a state of circumstance. That goes to the need for early intervention and prevention. That is the effort that we will put in and it requires a whole of community effort and effective partnership between services such as schools, hospitals, Centrelink and specialist homelessness services.

The Australian and ACT governments have jointly invested an additional $20 million over five years in the national partnership agreement on homelessness to implement new approaches. The initiative will shift efforts towards preventing both the systemic and individual causes of homelessness and supporting people to access and sustain long-term housing options. The initiatives will directly target the needs of vulnerable groups, especially children, young people, young families, rough sleepers, people exiting custody, people experiencing mental health issues and those subjected to domestic violence.

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