Page 1508 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 6 April 2011

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theme “Hide and Seek: the hidden nature of youth homelessness”, to reflect the fact that many young people who are homeless are couch surfing. In fact, only a small proportion of young people who are homeless are sleeping rough.

The theme for Youth Homelessness Matters Day 2011 links to the Australian Bureau of Statistics campaign for the census 2011, “What about me?” It is important that the message goes out at census time that if you are homeless it is important to answer “none” to the question on the census form about your usual address. This includes those who are couch surfing, and that is staying temporarily with friends or relatives or at a friend’s parent’s home.

While the theme Hide and Seek aims to highlight the strategies we need to use nationally to reduce homelessness as identified in the report The road home: a national approach to reducing homelessness and that homelessness is everyone’s responsibility, it is important to recognise that the national agenda has a very strong focus on rough sleeping. Rough sleeping, of course, is primary homelessness and is often the only visible part of youth homelessness. Yet this does not recognise the majority of homeless young people who generally experience what we call secondary homelessness. This means young people who are likely to be in school, who are sleeping on friends’ couches and moving from friend to friend; a young person in a youth shelter who is on income support; or a young person who is in an apprenticeship or traineeship who is living in a tent.

It must also be recognised that there are some groups of young people that face particular challenges due to cultural or social factors, such as Indigenous young people who are living in substandard or overcrowded conditions; culturally or linguistically diverse young people who may have language difficulties, learning new cultural norms and the need to understand different political and social systems; lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender young people; and young people leaving out-of-home care.

However, research has identified that if young people are not properly supported when they first experience homelessness, they have a higher chance of becoming homeless in their adult lives. For this reason I want to highlight that homeless young people are often not the stereotypical street person and need appropriate supports to be put in place earlier rather than later. Support is much more than just the bricks and mortar of a house or accommodation. It is about living skills, relationships, health, hygiene, wellbeing, education, family, interdependence on others and a raft of other skills that enable us to function within our own communities.

The ACT needs to maintain a presence in the discussions on the national agenda to ensure that we are able to continue to improve on the work being done to reduce youth homelessness across Australia and also in our community, here in Canberra.

There are a number of different reforms and changes going on in the youth sector. There is review on modernising youth housing and homelessness services in the ACT; the youth and family service delivery framework; the Bimberi internal review; the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre Human Rights Commission inquiry and the “Towards a diversionary framework” discussion paper. I want to know whether these are linked;

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