New funding to help Sydney tackle homelessness for Indigenous Australians, older women

Funding of more than $300,000 from the City of Sydney local council has ignited hopes that it could add to the momentum for a national strategy to alleviate the country's homelessness issue.

Bundjalung woman and coordinator of Wirringa Baiya Christine Robinson

Advocates are concerned homeless groups, particularly Indigenous women, are not forgotten after lockdowns ease in Australia. Source: Supplied

The City of Sydney has allocated $310,000 in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, women and children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. 

The funds will go towards improving housing options in a bid to curb the city’s growing housing affordability issue.  

Women’s Community Shelters will receive up to $118,000 to expand its Pathways Home program to provide transitional housing for individuals, including older women. 

“Everyone deserves a home. There is a pressing need in the city for affordable rental housing for lower-income households, and this need has been intensified by the pandemic,” City of Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said. 

“Increasing the amount of affordable rental housing is an urgent priority.”

Despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounting for 3.3 per cent of the national population, they make up 20 per cent of Australians who are homeless. 

“There is no specific housing strategy for older women and there is a lack of integrated service provision,” Ms Moore said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified homelessness across the country, and state governments assisted rough sleepers by providing them with temporary accommodation.

But as states like NSW and Victoria ease lockdown restrictions, there is a fear that homeless people will be ignored once again. 

The coordinator of women’s Aboriginal legal service Wirringa Baiya, Christine Robinson, says she hopes the commitment that was shown during the pandemic isn't "lost in the equation" as "priorities begin to shift". 

Ms Robinson commended the City of Sydney for providing a more holistic approach to homelessness for women. 

Older women are increasingly at risk of homelessness with a 30 per cent rise in the issue over the past five years, but the issue remains largely ignored.   

“Many of [the older women] don’t even know where to go to start the process. They don’t know what services are out there.

"And we’re also looking at women who have come from the Stolen Generations, who don’t have access to family or community," said the Bundjalung woman.

Ms Robinson said she welcomes the funding, but added homelessness is a more profound problem that cannot be solved by one local council. 

“It’s a really good initiative, but we know that funding is not going to be enough … I think it’s just chipping away at the issue."

While recognising the solution to homelessness isn’t a "one size fits all", she is calling for a national plan that can be individualised for each state and territory.

She remains hopeful this funding has the potential to encourage other policymakers to address the housing issues in regional and rural areas, as well as other states and territories in the country. 

"Everyone should be able to have a roof over their head or have some kind of safety or shelter to protect them. It should be the same for everyone across the board wherever you’re living in the country."

Published 22 October 2021 at 8:35pm
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS News