Making Our View Heard As Election Looms

With less than 100 days to go until the Victorian election, McAuley Community Services for Women has been meeting with politicians, journalists and community groups to talk about mental health, homelessness and family violence.

Important discussions have been held between McAuley Community Services for Women CEO Jocelyn Bignold and Federal Labor MP Tim Watts as well as Colleen Hartland, Victorian Greens spokesperson for Health, Community Services, Women and Multicultural Affairs, and Ellen Sandell, Greens candidate for Melbourne.

“Our discussions have covered reforms in mental illness, community services as well as plans for the new McAuley House and the urgent need for safer housing for women,” said Ms Bignold.

“All MPs voiced concern about the new approach to delivering mental health programs in Victoria and the switch to funding larger organisations rather than specialist agencies which provide tailored services to highly vulnerable people.”

Couch surfing myths revealed

We braved the weather for two days at Federation Square during Homeless Persons’ Week in August and we learned a lot about the general perceptions of homelessness. We had many in-depth discussions with people passing by who were curious about the couch and cushion asking ‘will it always be like this?’

The majority of people we spoke with had not realised that couch surfing was a form of homelessness. There were, however, a few who did – including one young woman who had a friend staying with her.

We were delighted to welcome Sisters of Mercy from Adelaide who came specifically to wish McAuley Community Services for Women well, and we were thrilled by the response from school groups.

Submissions

McAuley Community Services for Women has developed a position on the McClure Report into Welfare Reform. Our view is that Australia’s growing income inequality has a gendered aspect, especially related to family violence. The McClure Report does not seem to recognise the link between family violence, homelessness and resulting poverty.

McAuley Community Services for Women has reinforced its belief that changes to family payments will make life for women experiencing family violence more precarious; that the Newstart Allowance is too low and causes poverty; that it is premature to change income support parameters to the Disability Support Pension; that any reform must allow sustained support that recognises the reality of women’s lives and that the review team learn more about what the community sector is doing to assist women remain in the workforce.

We have called on the panel to look at the broader issue of housing in the next stage of the reform process.

In our submission to the Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Victoria, McAuley Community Services for Women has made a range of recommendations. These include the need to increase the level of funding to respond to the increased reporting of family violence; family violence training should be funded federally and rolled out to mainstream services such as GPs and Lawyers; further analysis of safe-at-home policy initiatives should be funded to look at housing affordability and the actual safety of women choosing to return home.