Page 2663 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 7 August 2013

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homelessness sector are well aware of the fact that the changes that have come about were set in train many years ago. In 2009 there was a change to the commonwealth funding formulas for the ACT. That set in train a process that would see the ACT lose $5.9 million in funding in the homelessness and housing sector by 2015. That was decided in 2009.

That implementation is now rolling out. The sector have been aware of it for some time. This is not a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. In fact those cuts are driven by changes to commonwealth funding, and I think we should be very honest and very clear about that. That does not make them any less difficult. I am well aware of how challenging they are for the community. But the ACT government has, in addition to that, decided to provide the specific service that has been recognised to be highly successful in many other places in making a significant difference. Intertwining the two is an inaccurate reflection of what is actually happening in the homelessness sector.

The theme for this year’s Homeless Persons Week is the “hidden homeless”. The reason for that is that most people have an image of homelessness as being about older people sleeping rough on the streets. But for many Canberrans, that is not the whole story, and I know that this issue needs campaigns such as the one currently promoted by Homelessness Australia to bring the real story to the attention of the broader community.

The reality is that there is an ever-growing population of Canberrans who are couch surfing or staying with friends, with no long-term housing options, and we need adequate and compassionate responses for these people. We also need true tripartisan support if we are ever to really tackle the very difficult challenges that are faced.

I believe Common Ground represents just that—an opportunity for government, philanthropists and the community sector to work together to provide, firstly, a home and, secondly, the services needed to break the cycle of homelessness for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

From the mean streets of New York to most states in Australia and now, or soon, here in Canberra, Common Ground is a proven and effective model of responding to homelessness. Common Ground is also a key item in the parliamentary agreement between the ACT Greens and Labor and could not have progressed as far as it has without the support of both parties. But perhaps more important, and as other speakers have touched on today, has been the support and tireless passion of the Common Ground Canberra board. The board has been an incredibly effective force in Canberra in recent years. I recently had to smile when I heard that a staff member of a federal member of parliament asked whether, now that the project is funded, the board would stop calling him every other day asking if there was anything they could do to help.

There has been that absolute persistence and commitment. In particular I would like to recognise the passion and commitment of Liz Dawson, a member of the Common Ground board, who was recently awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her tireless work in providing assistance to homeless individuals and families. Ms Dawson’s incredible energy on this has inspired other members to join the board and

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