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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27806" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo courtesy of SBS.[/caption]

Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University

The New South Wales state government has passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city.

In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:
"… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law."
As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.
Further reading: Ban on sleeping rough does nothing to fix the problems of homelessness

Real problem is lack of affordable housing

In contrast to her Melbourne counterpart, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had been adopting a more human-rights-based approach to resolving the challenges presented by the Martin Place camp. After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:
"You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit."
It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues. The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services. In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis. Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement. This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.
Further reading: Suburbanising the centre: the government’s anti-urban agenda for Sydney

We should be uncomfortable

It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable. Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account. In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest. It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed? As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:
"A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched. "We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society."
Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership. The ConversationHomelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society. Cristy Clark, Lecturer in Law, Southern Cross University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Clearing homeless camps will make the problem worse [post_excerpt] => "You can’t solve homelessness without housing." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => clearing-homeless-camps-will-make-problem-worse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:22:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:22:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27804 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26087 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-01-27 10:49:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-26 23:49:34 [post_content] =>     By James Petty, University of Melbourne Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has announced a plan to ban sleeping rough in the city. He did so last week amid significant pressure from both Victoria Police and the media. When Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton called on the State Government to extend police powers, Doyle at first seemed to reject the idea. But he later said he would propose a new bylaw to the city council. Ashton and Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi have claimed that the people living on Flinders St, in Melbourne’s CBD, are not really homeless. They say new laws and powers are needed to “clean up the city”. Critics from the homelessness and community sectors argue this would effectively criminalise being homeless.   Read more here. This story first appeared in Melbourne University's Pursuit and was co-published with The Conversation.  [post_title] => Homeless: Why making it a crime won't fix the problem [post_excerpt] => Being punitive is more expensive in the long term. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => melbourne-homeless-ban [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-27 10:49:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 23:49:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26087 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25675 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-11-28 16:41:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-28 05:41:05 [post_content] =>   Gold Coast, Australia - April 25, 2010: Two elderly, unidentified, Australian military veterans wearing suits adorned with service medals make a speech at an ANZAC Day memorial service. This image focuses on body language and medals, no faces are visible.   State and territory governments and the federal government have agreed to work together to collect better data on areas such as veterans’ suicide, homelessness and incarceration rates and to press for a new military service question on the next Census. Veterans’ Affairs ministers from every state and territory have agreed to co-ordinate their efforts to give governments more accurate and meaningful data about veterans’ lives after they leave the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and transition to civilian life. A recent parliamentary inquiry by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee highlighted the current paucity of data on ex-service men and women. The Committee’s report, due on March 30 2017, is likely to recommend better data collection about the lives of veterans in order to track trends and to better target support services. It is likely that rates of suicide and poor mental health among veterans is under-reported. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) told Government News last week that it did not have a complete picture of suicides among veterans. “While Defence records all incidences of suspected or confirmed suicide among current serving members of the ADF, DVA does not have a complete picture of suicides in the ex-serving population. This is because DVA only becomes officially aware of a death by suicide of a veteran if a claim for compensation is lodged by a dependant in respect of the death of a veteran.  In this case, a cause of death must be investigated to establish a relationship with service," said the DVA. Data improvements agreed by the ministers:
  • Ask for a military service-related question in the next Census
  • Developing standardised military service history indicators to use in data collections for suicide and homelessness
  • To meet with state-based and national ex-service organisations to discuss better coordinating efforts addressing homelessness and other services
  • NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia currently collect data on veteran incarceration; other states and territories will investigate following suit
  • NSW and Victoria to share information on their veterans’ homelessness programs
  • State and territory governments to provide information on their services as part of every ADF transition session for those leaving the military
  • Commonwealth to advise states and territories when ADF personnel are medically-discharged to help plan support services
  • Commonwealth to ensure all medically-discharged veterans have a Medicare card when they leave the ADF
The federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said the first ever meeting of Veterans’ Affairs Ministers had underscored their joint commitment “to re-double our efforts tackling the challenges faced by our veterans".  “All levels of government are providing important support and services to our veterans that recognise their service and sacrifice but we have to ensure we are coordinating our efforts,” Mr Tehan said. “Our veterans will benefit from a more unified approach as a result of getting all the relevant ministers together in one room to better coordinate services and gather important data.”   [post_title] => State governments to co-ordinate veterans' data [post_excerpt] => Military service question on Census? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25675 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-29 10:45:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-28 23:45:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25675 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25303 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2016-10-18 10:06:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-17 23:06:28 [post_content] =>

Melbourne Australia - February 13, 2016: People sleep in front of Westpack bank in downtown Melbourne Australia.

This story first appeared in Melbourne University's Pursuit

By Eoin Hahessy, University of Melbourne

“I sit here from 7.30 in the morning to 8 at night and make sometimes between 7 to 8 dollars. Other times, other homeless people who know I can’t chase them steal my money.’’The words of Graham, 42, who suffers from cerebral palsy and has been living on the streets of Melbourne for 18 months. Melbourne, voted the world’s most liveable city for six consecutive years, has seen an extraordinary rise in homelessness recently with a 74 per cent increase in the street count in the last two years. Melbourne is a confident and wealthy city. Niche coffee houses clamber for attention in a city where the choice of weekend brunch destination is fervently discussed. Yet the lingering shadow of homelessness creeps further upon its streets. Take a walk along Swanston Street, the main artery that dissects Melbourne, and the increase in the homeless is glaringly evident. Cheryl, 26, has been homeless for more than a year, on and off. Her hands tremble as we speak; her boyfriend was physically abusive that morning. “We had a huge row and he hit me,’’ she says, clutching a cigarette that gives relief from both the cold and the anguish she is in. Statistics are flung at us, arrows seeking our attention. But when you pause and reflect on Melbourne and Australia’s homeless challenge, those statistics illustrate an issue that receives scant public debate. At least 105,000 people are homeless in Australia. Around 44 per cent are women, often in circumstances involving domestic violence. There are nearly 18,000 children without homes, most under the age of 12. Indigenous Australians, who comprise around 2.5 per cent of the general population, make up a quarter of the homeless population. Every developed nation in the world grapples with the challenge of homelessness, but in recent years the homeless problem in Melbourne has become acute.

WHAT IS DRIVING THE HOMELESS RATE IN MELBOURNE?

“There is some great research that shows having a healthy supply of affordable housing has a protective effect. Those people more vulnerable to homelessness are less likely to become homeless when there is affordable housing,’’ says Deb Batterham, a researcher at Launch Housing, an organisation that under various labels has been working with the homeless in Melbourne for more than 75 years. “Metropolitan Melbourne continues to register very low levels of rental affordability,’’ the Victorian State Government’s most recently quarterly rental report states dryly. As Melbourne’s appetite for designer homes and luxury apartments grows larger, the ground that affordable housing should occupy becomes simply ‘prized real estate’. An ever-smaller pool of affordable housing is one of the reasons behind this complex challenge. Other experts concur and also point to the rising cost of living for those on unemployment benefits. “About 57 per cent of low-income households in metropolitan Melbourne are paying over 30 per cent of their income on rent, with almost a third paying over 50 per cent on rent,’’ says Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne, Carolyn Whitzman. “That is a choice between paying your rent and feeding yourself.’’

LACK OF HOUSING

But what about Australia and the wider homeless rate across this boundless continent? Professor Whitzman points again to the lack of affordable housing. “Across Australia there is a shortage of 122,000 affordable houses. Australia has experienced a real stop-start attitude to national urban policy. When you have got 25 per cent of households that simply cannot afford housing in the major cities, where the jobs and services are, then you have a dysfunctional housing system.” Professor Whitzman sees the problem of homelessness lying in this wider Australian policy towards the housing market. “There’s been a rapid decline in affordable housing rental stock from 1996 to 2011 and again, it’s not as though there isn’t money there; there has been a rapidly increasing amount of money put by the Commonwealth Government into negative gearing and capital gains and as a recent report by the Grattan Institute has shown, the majority of that $11 billion that goes per annum out of capital gains tax and negative gearing, goes to the richest 10 per cent of the population.”

WHAT CAN MELBOURNE AND AUSTRALIA LEARN FROM OTHER COUNTRIES?

It is 1.30am on a Melbourne morning and on the phone from New York is Sam Tsemberis. All he wants to talk about is the homeless people that The Policy Shoppodcast spoke to. “What age is he? He has cerebral palsy and is still on the streets? Tell me more about Helen.” It’s genuine compassion from a Columbia University psychologist and founder of an organisation that has flipped conventional thinking towards the chronic, or most vulnerable, homeless in the United States. At one point at the turn of the millennium New York was spending US$40,500 a year on every homeless person with mental illness. As the Washington Post reported, that’s when Sam Tsemberis came in. Homelessness services had traditionally worked like a reward system: lose the addiction, get a home. Tsemberis and his organisation, Housing First, challenged this conventional thinking. Instead of setting criteria for homeless people to obtain a home, Housing First simply gives homeless people a roof over their heads, no questions asked. It was a simple but radical idea for policy makers looking to solve a homelessness problem in America that had steadily risen since the 1970s. One such policy maker was Philip Mangano, who became President George Bush’s ‘Homelessness Czar’ in 2002. Mangano initially thought the notion of Housing First could never work, but he studied the program and in particular a cost benefit analysis. Traditionally, homeless people are bounced around health systems, from counselling services to A&E to drug and alcohol addiction programs. It’s a ricochet that was costing the US healthcare system an average of US$150,000 per homeless person per year, whereas the Housing First approach of giving someone a home cost US$25,000. Initially a skeptic, Mangano became an ardent devotee. With this backing by the Executive Director of the United States Interagency council on Homelessness, more than 100 cities across the US would adopt Tsemberis’s Housing First model. The ambitious target was to end chronic homelessness in ten years. Five years in and a 40 per cent decrease in homelessness has been indicated. “In some of the larger studies, there was a 50 per cent reduction in the cost of inpatient services alone and a 30 per cent drop in outpatient services because remember, this is a lot about housing, but some of the people we’re housing will need clinical support. So it’s housing and services,” says Tsemberis on The Policy Shop podcast. “Housing First is a little bit misnamed. It’s housing first but it’s not housing only - it’s housing and support services.’’ In achieving success under this Housing First model in the United States, a partnership approach between all levels of government proved essential. “In some of the places that have gotten to zero, effectively it’s taken five, six, seven, eight years. It has been a partnership not only within local providers but between municipality and Country Government and Federal Government.” Ultimately Tsemberis feels that the challenge of homelessness needs political will if change is to occur, and that that political conviction will only happen when public attitudes towards those who are homeless change. “We have learned to look away, to avert our eyes, not only from the person on the street but from the entire issue. It’s a rather small, non‑voting group and so it’s up to advocates to make the case but sadly, that’s what’s happened. “The public attitude is what drives policy. For every single label that they attribute, it’s a distancing from them and us and that creates the possibility then of not having to deal with that other human being. Thinking of the poor as different than us, thinking of the poor as somehow less than us, has a long, long tradition in history.”   Eoin Hahessy is the Producer of The Policy Shop podcast which examined homelessness in its most recent episode. The Policy Shop is available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Omny and Stitcher. [post_title] => Homelessness in the world's most liveable city [post_excerpt] => New approach needed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => homelessness-worlds-liveable-city [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-18 10:45:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-17 23:45:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25303 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21756 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-10-13 15:11:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-13 04:11:52 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21757" align="alignnone" width="287"]owens and rowlands Winners are grinners: Western Sydney MPs Julie Owens and Michelle Rowland.[/caption]   Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten has revealed a minor reshuffle of Labor shadow ministry positions in the wake of previously announced retirements ahead of the next federal election. Former high profile Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has formally moved into Shadow Cabinet, taking on the shadow portfolios of Mental Health, Housing and Homelessness, and Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations. Mr Shorten said Ms Gallagher will also take on responsibility for women’s policy within the Shadow Cabinet, an area the Opposition has been keen to spotlight following the conspicuously small number of women appointed to Cabinet under the Abbott government. Also rising to Labor’s Shadow Cabinet ranks is Michelle Rowland, the member for Greenway in Sydney’s west who becomes Shadow Minister for Small Business in addition to keeping her previous role as Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. Ms Rowland’s aptitude for plain and practical speaking and her ability to cut through the jargon of complex economic and social issues, including the National Broadband Network, have seen her tipped as a frontbench contender for months as Labor tries to claw back suburban heartland. Member for Parramatta, Julie Owens, also gets additional junior shadow ministerial responsibilities becoming Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education in addition to Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business. “We are proud to welcome two new Labor women to the Shadow Cabinet in Senator Katy Gallagher and Michelle Rowland, bringing the total number to seven,” Mr Shorten said. Former Treasurer Wayne Swan’s previous chief of staff Dr Jim Chalmers has done well out of the reshuffle, being elevated to the role of Shadow Minister for Superannuation and Financial Services, Shadow Assistant Minister for Trade and Investment, Shadow Assistant Minister for Productivity and Shadow Minister for Sport. Labor has also moved to bolster its online business credibility, with Mr Shorten handing Ed Husic the role of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Digital Innovation and Startups in addition to his existing responsibilities under the shadow Treasury portfolio. Multinational technology businesses might also  be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief. Sam Dastyari, renowned for hauling corporate bosses over the coals through the Committee process, has scored the role of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Youth, Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate after successfully highlighting to minimal amounts of tax foreign-owned corporate giants pay in Australia. Mr Shorten said the reshuffle followed the retirement of “long-time Labor advocates and true representatives of Queensland, Senator Jan McLucas and Bernie Ripoll.” [post_title] => Women ascend in Shorten's Shadow Cabinet reshuffle [post_excerpt] => Women the winners in revamped Labor front bench. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => women-ascend-in-shortens-shadow-cabinet-reshuffle [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-15 17:17:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-15 06:17:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=21756 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21011 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-08-12 18:54:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-12 08:54:44 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21013" align="alignnone" width="300"]L_CentreWay Photo: City of Melbourne[/caption]     Open air public spaces and meeting places have long been a well-ventilated haven for smokers banished from office building forecourts and alfresco coffee shops. But the City of Melbourne is, like other cities,  moving to extend its clean air policy to the urban outdoors … at least during the daytime. It’s a compromise certain to arouse interest in cities across Australia. Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has said that a 12-month daytime smoking ban will apply in City Square from 6am to 8pm. Another two sites – QV Melbourne and Goldsbrough Lane – have also been endorsed as fully smoke free. But Melbourne’s Lord Mayor has had to tread a fine line between the interests of public health and comfort and the potential commercial hit that the smoking bans may have on night time businesses in City Square. “The feedback we received during consultation was very positive, although some City Square businesses felt a late-night ban might have an impact on trade,” Mayor Doyle said. “As a result we will trial a daytime ban for the next year before deciding on whether a 24-hour ban is appropriate.” Managing the impact of smoking bans on businesses – particularly important for central city councils which depend on commercial rates – requires careful consultation, engagement and negotiation. In Sydney many hospitality venues, especially bars and pubs, had a decidedly mixed reaction in July to the banning of smoking in areas where food is allowed to be consumed – as well as near entry ways like doors, and the blowback has been on non-smokers. Instead of banning smoking outright, many bars and pubs instead simply banned eating in outdoor areas to get around the rules in the hope of retaining their puffing patrons. Where on-premise smoking is banned outright, there have also been complaints from nearby neighbours about groups of patrons collectively lighting-up and spreading smoke to places that were not previously affected. In Melbourne’s case, to get the City Square daytime smoke-free zone up and running, the matter was put to a vote by the City’s Future Melbourne Committee. It’s still very much a case-by-case approach. Councillor Richard Foster, who’s the Chair of Council’s People City portfolio, says the City of Melbourne consulted widely in the months before the ban went to a vote. Surveys found that across the total three sites there was either a supportive or neutral sentiment towards smoking bans, with property owners and managers understandably enthusiastic. A fuming issue for inner city apartment dwellers on lower floors is that smoke can drift up from the street and into homes, especially when windows or doors are open. Even so, some business precincts are notably less hostile to smokers than others. “In City Square, a lower rate of 62 per cent of businesses were supportive of a ban, and we’re listening to that feedback by trialling a daytime ban only,” Councillor Foster said. For councils it can be a matter of judiciously picking to battle smoking where you can win. In the City of Sydney, where the CBD smoking issue still smoulders, the upmarket financial precinct of Martin Place was designated for a total ban with little protest from fitness and health obsessed bankers. Homeless people might feel differently about the smoking bans, especially if they are used as a pretext to move-on people sleeping rough, a tactic reports from the US indicate is a rising trend. Meanwhile, many of those detained by the government in jails in Australia’s are also being forced to quit thanks to new no-smoking regulations, the latest of which hit New South Wales this week. Despite the jail smoko bans being justified on the basis of protecting the health of Corrective Services officers in the workplace, a last minute compromise will allow staff living on jail premises to light up in their free time. [post_title] => Melbourne trials 'daytime' outdoor smoking ban to ease business withdrawals [post_excerpt] => Case-by-case approach for City Square. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => melbourne-trials-daytime-outdoor-smoking-ban-to-ease-business-withdrawals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-08-14 08:50:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-08-13 22:50:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=21011 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14707 [post_author] => 2 [post_date] => 2014-04-29 09:28:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-28 23:28:01 [post_content] => Beggar's Sign The City of Perth has proposed an ambitious plan intended to eliminate aggressive street begging by sending people looking for spare change from passers-by to seek help from existing government agencies. In an effort to resolve the longstanding issue that has confronted pedestrians for decades, the council has indicated it will now will target more some of the city’s more hostile street beggars following a string of complaints from pedestrians and businesses. Perth’s Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi is proposing the adoption of what she calls a “holistic” approach to reducing the incidence of begging in the city as authorities try to better tackle the myriad of problems that result in people camping out in public places to try and generate an income. A significant complication that is challenging the City of Perth is that the begging itself is not an illegal activity as is often the case in other capital cities – even if many local businesses, retailers, shoppers, tourists and residents would prefer to keep beggars out of sight and out of mind. Perth is drawing inspiration from a diversionary program used by the City of Melbourne that involves directing offenders to attend social, welfare and outreach agencies that can assist them in resolving their problems so that they are not forced to beg in public.. Ms Scaffidi said the council wanted to see a more co-ordinated approach to begging, through a multi-faceted combination of regulatory and support initiatives. “Our primary motivation is not to see beggars fined or otherwise penalised. The council is far more concerned for these people and their well-being,” Ms Scaffidi said. Another big problem that the City wants to address in this strategy is how to identify the reasons and motivations of beggars, which can include homelessness, addiction of mental illness. A central part of this problem is the difficulty for the public to differentiate between those who are experiencing genuine hardship and others who use begging as an extra source of income. Ms Scaffidi said the City of Perth wants to help start getting these people back to a better life “where they do not need to beg on our city streets”. She keenly pointed to the City of Melbourne’s trial of a diversionary program by the Victoria Police, Salvation Army and the Victorian Magistrates Court as a success because of the benefits that it provided to street beggars. Under the Victorian program offenders picked up by authorities for begging can opt to attend the Salvation Army and enter a case management program that provides personal counselling, employment and skills training as well as primary health care, legal and housing services. According to Ms Scaffidi, when the latest diversionary program was conducted in February/March 2014, 15 out of 24 people charged with begging have opted to engage with the Salvation Army prior to their scheduled appearance in court. She called for similar legislation that reflects the Victorian trial to be implemented in Western Australia “if meaningful action is to be taken to address the problem” because police or council rangers presently have very limited power to act without appropriate legislation. “If the government introduces legislation here, the City will convene a meeting of relevant agencies to introduce a diversion program to help deal with the issues causing begging,” she said. [post_title] => Perth vows to move aggressive beggars off the streets [post_excerpt] => The City of Perth wants to make begging in the streets a thing of the past by directing people asking for money in public to government agencies in order to help them resolve their problems. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => perth-vows-move-aggressive-beggars-streets [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-05-02 10:34:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-05-02 00:34:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=14707 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 7 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27804 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 09:12:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-09 23:12:50 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27806" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo courtesy of SBS.[/caption] Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University The New South Wales state government has passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city. In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:
"… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law."
As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.
Further reading: Ban on sleeping rough does nothing to fix the problems of homelessness

Real problem is lack of affordable housing

In contrast to her Melbourne counterpart, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had been adopting a more human-rights-based approach to resolving the challenges presented by the Martin Place camp. After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:
"You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit."
It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues. The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services. In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis. Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement. This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.
Further reading: Suburbanising the centre: the government’s anti-urban agenda for Sydney

We should be uncomfortable

It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable. Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account. In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest. It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed? As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:
"A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched. "We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society."
Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership. The ConversationHomelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society. Cristy Clark, Lecturer in Law, Southern Cross University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Clearing homeless camps will make the problem worse [post_excerpt] => "You can’t solve homelessness without housing." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => clearing-homeless-camps-will-make-problem-worse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:22:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:22:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27804 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 7 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 587dd61c04096c9c7bab5fe5bb949d9d [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

homelessness

homelessness