Call for homeless to be involved in policy

By Staff Writer

The Australian Human Rights Commission has called for more involvement of homeless people in developing policies and laws.

 In a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into homelessness legislation President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Cathy Branson QC said improvements should be made to the way government agencies and service providers engage with people who are homeless and there should be increased protections against evictions. 

“All of us have the right to live with dignity, including people who are homeless,” Branson said. 
"Changes can be made to existing policy and legislation that will help to protect the dignity and life outcomes for people who are homeless. 
"Currently, our system does not seem to deal adequately with the hard fact that from homelessness comes a range of other challenges," Branson said. 

"Homelessness can lead to a lack of safety and security and can make it difficult to find and keep a job. 
“Being homeless can also lead to health problems through a lack of access to basic facilities such as showering and appropriate sleeping arrangements,” she said. 

Branson said homelessness legislation should promote human rights as a key objective. She said it should also contain clear targets and ways of measuring whether Australia is achieving these targets, and should ensure that people who are homeless are actively involved in decisions affecting them.

She said residential tenancy laws and public space laws need to be re-assessed in terms of their negative impact on people who are homeless.

“It is an Australian Government responsibility to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable housing, with adequate space and access to essential services,” Branson said. “We can do better for people who are homeless in Australia.

“Ensuring human rights standards are included in our homelessness legislation is an important safety net for us all.”

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