Domestic and family violence a lead cause of homelessness in Australia
Mission Australia’s latest report Out of the shadows: Domestic and family violence, a leading cause of homelessness in Australia released April 11, calls for urgent action to improve responses to domestic and family violence to prevent people being pushed into homelessness.
Domestic and family violence is one of the main reasons women and children become homeless in Australia. More than 121,000 people experiencing domestic violence sought help from specialist homelessness services in 2017-18. Over three out of four people seeking specialist homelessness services due to domestic and family violence related issues were female.
Domestic and family violence is still a disturbingly common experience with 16% of women (1.5 million) and 5.9% of men (528,8010) having experienced violence from a partner since they were 15.
Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey said that even with national policy and media attention focus on this issue, there are still high levels of domestic and family violence in Australia.
“We need to do more to prevent, reduce and ultimately eliminate domestic and family violence if we are to have any chance of ending homelessness.
“While we know that domestic and family violence can affect anyone, overwhelmingly the statistics and what we see every day through our work show that women are far more likely to experience violence from an intimate partner than men.
“Women and children are at the greatest risk of homelessness as a result of domestic and family violence. As a society, we need to be doing more to reinforce gender equality and normalise respectful relationships to reduce instances of domestic and family violence across Australia.”
The number of people seeking help from homelessness services due to domestic and family violence has risen in recent years. Alarmingly, in the past year only 4% of those who approached a homelessness service who had experienced domestic and family violence and needed long-term housing actually received it.
Mr Toomey cautions that a severe shortage of social and affordable homes and increased levels of housing stress are tipping too many victim-survivors into unsafe and insecure living situations.
“Everyone has the right to a safe and secure home. Yet there’s very little hope of addressing homelessness if there aren’t enough social or affordable homes for individuals and families to build a settled life in when escaping domestic and family violence.
“Of course crisis and transitional housing is vital, but if there’s no long-term accommodation that is appropriate and affordable, too many people will continue to be pushed into homelessness because their home is no longer a safe place to live.”
To combat the issue, Mission Australia is calling for urgent action across the spectrum to prevent and respond to domestic and family violence and resulting homelessness. Recommendations include investment in prevention strategies, integrated services that address the needs of at-risk groups, perpetrator interventions to prevent further violence, therapeutic interventions, addressing income support inadequacies, more social and affordable housing, as well as crisis and transitional accommodation, and developing a national strategy to end homelessness.
Mr Toomey said: “We must acknowledge the enormity and reality of the problem if we are going to work towards real and lasting change.
“No one should be forced to stay in a violent home to keep a roof over their own, or their child’s head. We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch this happen time and time again.
“We must stand beside victim-survivors of domestic and family violence to advocate for much needed change. As a society it’s important we listen to, and put a spotlight on, these stories that are not always easy to hear. We need to make the tough, but essential changes needed to ensure there are a range of housing options including social and affordable homes, provide coordinated responses, improve economic security and redress gender imbalances.
“Mission Australia continues to add to the many voices calling for more universal prevention, better responses to violence and a national strategy to end homelessness that takes into account the drivers of homelessness and ensures everyone has a safe place to call home.”
Help is available for people experiencing domestic and family violence. If your life is in danger, call 000.
For 24/7 domestic violence counselling, call 1800 RESPECT.
If you are a perpetrator of violence and want to seek help, speak to your GP, a counsellor, or call Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.