Fears for homeless Aboriginal Victorians as federal funding for homelessness services set to expire
A nationwide funding shortfall for homelessness services worth $65 million is set to deal a blow to the Aboriginal homelessness sector in Victoria.
Since 2012, the Federal Government has supplemented homelessness funding in partnership with States and Territories to cover wage costs associated with the Equal Remuneration Order, this funding, worth $65 million, will expire in June this year. In Victoria alone, the cut will cost homelessness services $23.5 million in 2023-24, which will mean an estimated 200 Victorian homelessness staff will lose their jobs.
In the last few years, out of all states and territories, Victoria has recorded the highest rates of Aboriginal people seeking homelessness assistance with more than 17 per cent of the Victorian Aboriginal population seeking homelessness assistance each year.
The Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum (VAHHF) is backing calls from 200 homelessness services across Australia imploring the Federal Government to plug the funding hole and put a stop to the potential loss of 650 support workers, who are desperately needed as the state’s homelessness and housing crisis continues to worsen. Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum Chairperson Darren Smith said without the continued support of Commonwealth wage subsidies, homeless Aboriginal Victorians would suffer.
“Aboriginal Victorians are chronically overrepresented in homelessness services across the state – this is the legacy of colonisation and dispossession in Australia. If you are an Aboriginal person you are 10 times more likely to experience homelessness compared to any other population group in Australia,” Mr Smith said.
“We ask the Federal Government to recognise that tackling Aboriginal homelessness is central to closing the gap for First Nations people.
“There are already more than 6000 Aboriginal households waiting for social housing in Victoria. Stripping funding from the homelessness sector will only drive more Aboriginal people into crisis.”
For the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector, funding will be lost across 13 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
“This means there will be a loss of many trained, culturally safe homelessness staff,” Mr Smith said.
“One of the keys to addressing the ongoing housing crisis – which we know disproportionately impacts Aboriginal people in Victoria – is to make sure we have enough workers on the ground.”
In 2020, the Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum launched Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort: Every Aboriginal Person Has a Home, which laid out a framework for all levels of government to improve Aboriginal housing and homelessness outcomes in the state. Making sure Aboriginal organisations can employ Aboriginal staff is a key part of the framework’s first principle of Aboriginal self-determination, a Commonwealth funding cut in this space would be a step backwards for the sector.
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