• Northern Territory kids participate in Darwin's annual couch surfing competition at Parliament House in Darwin. (AAP)Source: AAP
Couch surfing is one way to sleep easier for the nearly 4000 youngsters left homeless each night in the Northern Territory, but for a dozen kids from a remote Indigenous community it's a vehicle to victory.
6 Apr 2017 - 2:06 PM  UPDATED 6 Apr 2017 - 2:32 PM

The teenagers have travelled 300km from Gunbalanya in West Arnhem Land to race in Darwin's annual couch surfing competition.

More than 20 teams from schools and clubs have decked out their couches with wheels and paint for the event outside Parliament House.

It has been organised by Anglicare NT to draw attention to the plight of youth homelessness.

The Territory homelessness rate is about 15 times higher than the national average and young people make up a huge proportion.

But being homeless isn't just sleeping rough - severely overcrowded housing in remote areas forces many children to couch surf just to get some rest.

Brendon Minkulk and his teammates had to fly from Gunbalanya because monsoonal rains isolate the Top End community during the wet season.

The 15-year-old said they wanted to raise the profile of the issue, and hopefully win the race too.

"It needs more government investment," he said.

"I'm a little nervous. Hopefully we win."

Amber Ballard is racing with her LGBTIQ youth group in a white couch emblazoned with rainbow flags, glitter and feathers.

"We're going to win. Just look at our couch. It's fabulous and it's the fastest," she said.

The 15-year-old says many young people from the queer community struggle with homelessness because their families don't accept them for who they are.

"It's depressing," she said.

"The more awareness we raise the better chance we have to solve it."

Anglicare NT's Gemma Wood said kids don't just need accommodation, they need support to address complex issues to break the cycle issues including family violence, addiction and mental illness.

"Young people transitioning from out of home care, young people involved in the youth justice system and young families have a right to access safe and affordable accommodation," she said.

"We are calling for the NT government to develop a plan on youth homelessness."

The NT government has promised to invest $1.1 billion in remote Indigenous housing over 10 years.

Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss said Labor was working on a homelessness strategy due out later in the year but conceded the government needed to do more.

"It's vital to education, mental health and employment outcomes, so we are working actively to address this issue," she said.


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