From the CEO - August


Homelessness Week was again, an opportunity to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t, in our joint effort to understand and solve homelessness. Whilst there are many effective approaches provided through specialist homelessness services; a commitment to affordable housing growth is essential.

The week came on the back of recent Federal Government announcements around the provision of funding to address homelessness and the affordable housing crisis. From 1 July 2018, federal homelessness and housing funding has changed from a multilateral to a bilateral agreement, the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).

While we welcomed the commitment to funding homelessness services, such as ours, we are mindful of the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Released in late 2016, the figures show that more than 279,000 Australians received assistance from homeless services and 120,000 had to be turned away. Family violence is still the main reason they seek assistance (38%). Mental health issues, financial difficulties and a lack of affordable housing, are also significant drivers into homelessness.

These figures highlight how essential services like ours are. We know how important affordable housing is and for some, the provision of ongoing support as well.

McAuley House is an example of providing for that longer term need, for instance, women are provided with practical support such as meals and laundry facilities, as well as access to services such as health, legal and financial services. Our independent living skills program provides a range of personalised programs aimed at increasing a woman’s self-confidence, improving family relationships, reducing isolation, and taking part in social activities. McAuley Works assists women return to work.

All these features distinguish us from other agencies working with people who are homeless. In the six months since McAuley House opened, it has transformed the lives of residents, and shows that well-thought out services are effective.

On another note, the Fair Work Commission has decided that family violence is a significant community issue, that it disrupts workforce participation, it disproportionately affects women and it requires a workplace response.

Whilst it has not granted paid family violence leave, it has supported a period of unpaid leave, as well as access to personal/ carers leave for family violence reasons.

The result is a win and a loss for all involved in the campaign mounted by the ACTU, which McAuley Community Services for Women contributed to; our evidence was used in arguments put to the Commission. The door is still open as the Commission has said that the decision does not preclude a future finding that paid family violence leave is necessary to meet the modern awards objective. We will keep you posted.

Finally, I would like to thank our Board for their commitment to McAuley Community Service for Women. As you will read, we said farewell three members – Denis Moriarty, Kim Windsor and Netty Horton who, together have contributed 37 years of service to our work. This is no mean feat, and we thank them deeply.

We welcome four members – Rob Scenna, Bridgid Connors, Sr Christine Coughlan and Angela Scaffidi, and are pleased to announce Sonja Hood is our new Board chair.