Page 650 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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women in the ACT. It should be remembered that women are the people who primarily care for children.

I will go through some of the factors that the centre defines as being the risk factors for marginalisation and isolation of women in the ACT. The first one is homelessness. I guess nothing is more marginalising than being homeless. In the ACT, as we know—and at that stage they only had the 2001 census data—1,094 people experienced secondary homelessness, accounting for 89 per cent of total ACT homelessness. Fifty-three per cent of the people who accessed SAAP services were women, and 47 per cent of the people who stayed with friends or relatives were women. Taking this into account, it is estimated that 532, or 48.6 per cent, of the total homeless population in the ACT are women experiencing secondary homelessness. I expect that that figure has gone up, because we know anecdotally that there are a lot of families who cannot afford to rent, or certainly to buy, a home in the ACT.

The second major risk factor is poverty. There is no surprise here, and the United Nations figure of 70 per cent of the world’s poor being women could perhaps be applied to the ACT. We do not know, as we do not have the data, but we do know that ACT women are more likely to head the low-income households that we have than men, and that women are significantly less likely to head a household in any other quintile. So if it is a woman-headed household, it is likely to be in the lowest socioeconomic group in regard to income.

This is important. One of the main reasons that they experience poverty is because of their employment status, it is often because of their parental status and it also has a lot to do with their educational status. That is why we need to consider the needs of those who are the most socioeconomically disadvantaged when we make decisions that affect public education. It is my belief, and I have stated it many times, that these considerations were not taken into account in the decision about closing schools.

We know that people with alcohol and other drug dependencies are at risk of marginalisation and isolation. We know that often, because of the illegality of their activities, there is a double isolation. Mental health issues are, by their very nature, isolating. With respect to the work that Sarah Maslen has had to do in order to compile this report, it is quite shameful that the data and the statistics that she had to find were all over the place.

Around 50 per cent of services provided by ACT Mental Health users are women, and 80 per cent are aged between 18 and 65 years. We know that disability is another risk factor. We know that, believe it or not, being a parent is a risk factor for isolation, loneliness and marginalisation in the community, especially as more and more parents who do not go out to work are at home on their own, in practically empty streets, because they are going against the norm.

We need far more community development programs in our suburbs to take in these people. Often, they are not the most educated people and they are not people who know where to go and look for services. We have to go looking for them. There are issues of age. I have been told by COTA that the incidence of couch surfing amongst our elderly has increased exponentially. How shameful is that! A lot of those people are women because women live longer than men.

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