Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2662 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
I applaud the government's approach to homelessness. It is clear from some of the initiatives the government is undertaking that homelessness is an area of priority. Whether they are initiatives by the former regime or whether they come out of the minds of the current government matters not to me-these initiatives are good. We can see, by the attention given to it in the budget, that homelessness is an area of concern. If any member of this place thinks it is somebody else's problem, I invite you to go with me to within a radius of 100 metres of this building, and I will show you the homes of three people. None of those are under a solid roof.
With that, I commend the report to the Assembly, Mr Speaker.
MS DUNDAS (12.02): Mr Speaker, I rise to echo Mr Hargreaves' sentiments. When the terms of reference for this inquiry were first debated, there seemed to be some specific concerns that the Assembly wanted us to look at. However, the Assembly chose a broader track. As the committee considered the issue of homeless men and their children, the issue became broader.
We looked at the needs of homeless men, and homeless men and their children. We also looked at the needs of homeless families, homeless mothers and homeless women. As Mr Hargreaves mentioned, the report into homelessness in the ACT was released by ACTCOSS over the course of this inquiry, which we found quite helpful.
We found the number of homeless people in the ACT to be quite staggering. We think we live in quite a good and privileged town here in the ACT, but there are people who are sleeping without roofs, in unsafe or incredibly crowded situations every day. That is one of the indigenous forms of homelessness which is quite prevalent in this city.
It is always sobering to be reminded of the shocking disadvantage that some people are forced to live with in this territory. It reminds us of the job we, as legislators, have to do here. One of the areas that I believe it is necessary to draw to the attention of the Assembly, in light of the inquiry, is the needs of the children. We were not looking just at homeless men, we were looking at homeless men and their children. At the moment, services in the ACT are targeted more at the grown-ups-homeless women and homeless men. Their children are a bit of an add-on.
The organisations that run shelters in the ACT are working to break down this problem, but it is something which I believe we need to take on as a priority. As we say in the report, crisis accommodation services need to be better designed to meet the needs of children, as well as their families-so the children are in a safe, supportive and stress-free environment and families do not need to be split unnecessarily. We must remember that, in these situations, what is traumatic for the parents is just as traumatic-if not more so-for children going through the developmental stages. Their schooling and their network of friends is disrupted, and they are seeing their parents in quite unhappy situations. In all of our work around homelessness and accommodation needs, we must remember the children.
Mr Speaker, looking into homelessness-specifically homeless men and their children-was a quite complicated and distressing issue. The stories we heard were, to echo Mr Hargreaves' words, horrendous and quite disturbing.