We’ve been awarded a FutureSteps Grant!

Stanmore House, a property to be renovated using the FutureSteps grant program.

The Burdekin Association is excited to reveal that we are the recipient of a FutureSteps Grant of $89,000 to be spent on renovating one of the houses we manage for young people transitioning from out of home care to semi-independent living in Sydney. The grant will help three additional young people transition into semi-independent living through the better use of space in the property. 

What is FutureSteps?

FutureSteps is a Lendlease Social Impact Fund that’s grounded in the belief that everyone needs to call a place home. Lendlease partners with The Burdekin Association to achieve long term impact through increasing the availability of safe and appropriate housing, the number of pathways to education and employment, and participation in the community. 

The FutureSteps Social Impact Fund focuses on addressing homelessness and increasing housing supply for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness. The grants typically awarded range in amounts between $20,000 and $100,000 and one of their target groups includes young people. 

It all came about on Community Day – a day when Lendlease volunteers spend their time and skills to make a difference in the communities where they live and work. Thirty volunteers spent a day at our property doing painting, gardening, picture hanging, furniture building and much more in Stanmore. Katherine Bushell from Lendlease suggested that we apply for the FutureSteps grant. It took us one month to put it all together.

Claire Oxlade, Property and Asset Lead at The Burdekin Association

“Our tradie, Kevin, looked at our plans to reconfigure the layout of the space at the property to accommodate three more young people. He suggested that it would work,” continued Claire.  

During the grant application process, we submitted the property’s plans, renovation costings, and explained how we would reconfigure the layout of the property to create the extra space for an additional three young people in our care. For Lendlease to give us the entire grant – $89,000 – is amazing! We will be able to use the space more sensibly.

Claire Oxlade, Property and Asset Lead at The Burdekin Association

A self-contained two-bedroom unit can now be created at the front of the property. This reconfiguration will help to provide wraparound care for the young person living there – as they will remain close to staff and the other young people living in the remainder of the house, but also have space to themselves. It will potentially be perfect for a young single parent, who may need support, but also privacy and quiet.

The reconfiguration will also involve the renovation of the current staff office space and combined kitchen into a studio staff office / bedroom / kitchenette. 

“The staff at the property use the office a great deal, and renovating the current space to allow them to work and then be able to sleep overnight in a comfortable area will make such a difference,” Claire continued.

A staff bedroom upstairs at the property will then be released, to be used by an additional young person. 

The project has enthused local architect and sessional academic, Jamileh Jahangiri of Orsi Architecture Studio, who met with Burdekin staff members during a recent networking event. She has offered to provide her architectural knowledge free of charge and will project manage the renovation of the property. Jamileh will provide concept designs, design briefs and a schedule of proposed materials and finishes and furniture layouts. She is keen to see how the young residents can be involved in the renovation process – choosing paint colours, designing the layout of the rooms, and learning a bit of design along the way. 

If there are funds remaining once these renovations are complete, we hope to remove the kitchen cabinets, making the main kitchen more open plan, allowing for ‘Master Chef’ style cooking workshops to be held for the young people.

It’s so exciting. We wouldn’t normally be able to do anything like this. If we can make it more homely, well that’s my mission accomplished

Claire Oxlade, Property and Asset Lead at The Burdekin Association

What next?

The Burdekin Association is always looking for suppliers of white goods – fridges, washing machines, dryers, microwaves, air fryers and blenders, along with coffee tables, BBQs, outdoor furniture and kitchen utensils – to help our young people live comfortably in such a home. To donate a white good or to help our young people, please click here.  

Professor Brian Burdekin on ABC Radio National

Professor Brian Burdekin

Click here to listen to the radio interview.

The Burdekin Association’s Patron and Australia’s first Federal Human Rights Commissioner, Professor Brian Burdekin AO spent over 30 years advocating for the needs of children – those with disabilities and mental illness.

He led two landmark reports: ‘National Inquiry into Youth Homelessness’ in 1989 and ‘Human Rights and Mental Illness’ in 1993.

And, he delivered the opening address at the recent National Youth Homelessness Conference held in July 2023 in Melbourne.

He recently spoke with Andy Park, Presenter of the Drawing Room on Radio National about youth homelessness.

Key highlights of the radio interview:

  • More than 40,000 young Australians spend each night without a home, and 18,000 of these are under the age of 12 (according to the most recent official Australian Census estimates).
  • Professor Burdekin’s mother’s career had a dramatic influence on him and his ambitions for advocating for children with disabilities. He witnessed first-hand her experience of raising five children, attending university and being a teacher of students with disabilities.
  • He realised that as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Australia still (in the mid 1980’s) had systemic discrimination against the hundreds of thousands of children who lived with disabilities and also people with mental illnesses.
  • He was named as Australia’s first Federal Human Rights Commissioner in 1986 and described Australians’ knowledge of human rights in Australia at the time as “being appalling”. He advised that 95 per cent of Australians at the time didn’t know what human rights were about, as the government had done “nothing about informing the general public that international treaties had been signed and were binding in international law in relation to the conventions on elimination of discrimination against women and the elimination of racial discrimination.”
  • He deplored the fact that Australia was the only country of 65 common law countries that did not have a Bill of Rights in their Constitution or federal legislation.
Homeless youth

“My advice to the Federal Government (to ensure that children and young people aren’t overlooked) is to have a national housing plan, to put more money into social housing, and to develop a specific holistic plan for homeless children and young people, as their pathways into homelessness are often different. The holistic plan should include life skills training, opportunities for education and housing.”

Professor Burdekin AO, Patron of The Burdekin Association

Further key highlights of the radio interview:

  • He went on to advise that The Burdekin Association is looking after a rapidly increasing number of homeless children – children that don’t have any adult to care for them or to protect them.
  • Australia has almost the lowest rate of social housing in the world – only 3.9 per cent of available housing stock.
  • He stated that 122,000 Australians are currently homeless, of which 18,000 people are under the age of 12, and that early intervention and prevention – assisting families that are in trouble, that are stressed out, that can’t make ends meet – is more cost effective as well as more appropriate for protecting human rights.
  • Following the ‘National Inquiry into Youth Homelessness’, Professor Burdekin bought an apartment block of eight units in Forster Tuncurry, on the NSW North Coast, and worked with the Mayor of Taree and the St Vincent De Paul Society, to look after and house homeless young people and children. During the time, he learnt the necessity of keeping young people in their local area, that private businesses are often willing to help financially, and the importance of keeping children in touch with their community.
  • He emphasized that 84 per cent of children currently being assisted by The Burdekin Association have mental health problems and many homeless children have undiagnosed mental health problems.

What to do? Homelessness Conference offers solutions

The Burdekin Association, Newsletter Image, Homelessness

Did you know? The number of young Australians identified as homeless increased by 2,500 to 46,000 between 2016 and 2021 (Australian Census data). 

This was a key finding of the National Children and Youth Homelessness Conference that was held late last month in Melbourne. 

The conference brought together key people to raise awareness of the fact that the incidence of children and young people needing and seeking help from homelessness services has not reduced significantly since the Rudd government in 2008 committed to halving homelessness by 2020. 

The conference aimed to mobilise a collective commitment to develop a joint government-NGO strategy to address child and youth homelessness nationally.

Other key findings released during the Conference (and featured in the ‘It’s Time’ report by the Youth Development Agency, included: 

  • Two out of five people considered to be homeless were children or young people under 24 years of age. 
  • Around 17,646 homeless people were aged under 12.
  • Approximately 36 per cent of the young homeless people identified as First Nations people. 
The Burdekin Association, Newsletter Image, Homelessness

The report also advised that to address the causes of homelessness and reduce the impact of homelessness, services and systems need to be transformed from (mostly) crisis intervention services to prevention and early intervention approaches – a solution that would neither be simple nor quick, but more effective.

The report states: “Many young people experiencing homelessness find moving into a fully independent living situation to be difficult because they are passing through a major developmental stage in life. Homelessness has a major impact on the successful completion of secondary school, participation in post-secondary education or training, and gaining secure employment.”

“In addition to stable housing, young people need to be supported into and through education and/or employment. Linking housing with education and training supports and into employment is the best way to ensure a transition to independence and to avoid future homelessness.”

Professor Brian Burdekin AO, Patron of The Burdekin Association gave the key note address at the conference and recently wrote an Opinion Editorial article for John Menadue’s Public Policy Journal, ‘Pearls and Irritations’.

“Federal, state and local governments need to work together with community organisations to develop a specific plan to address child and youth homelessness — to prevent them continuing to experience homelessness into their adult years. Their pathways into homelessness, their vulnerability and the assistance they need, are frequently very different to adults.”

Professor Brian Burdekin AO, Patron of the Burdekin Association

“Some of the rapidly growing number of homeless children we are now looking after at the Burdekin Association in Sydney are as young as seven years old. The problems confronting these children and young people include family poverty and isolation; the scarcity of low-cost housing alternatives; failure to provide any follow-up support for children who have been wards of the state; the inadequacy or complete absence of mental health facilities in rural and regional areas (where our youth suicide rate is double that of our major cities); and failure to implement programs for family support and early intervention strategies which could assist children at risk of becoming homeless,” Professor Brian Burdekin continued.

Read Professor Brian Burdekin’s speech at the National Children & Youth Homelessness Conference here.

For help:

In an emergency, call 000

National Homelessness Week 2023

It’s time to end homelessness

It’s time again for National Homelessness Week, the annual event to raise awareness of homelessness in Australia. This year it is held from Monday 7th to Sunday 13th August with the theme – ‘It’s time to end homelessness’… We couldn’t agree more, it is high time to end homelessness and put the right measures in place to prevent it from here on.

Homelessness Week is an important opportunity to advocate for positive social change. National and local community events, media and social media activities are all taking this opportunity. Check Homelessness Australia for the latest updates including the launch of Homelessness Week 2023 focussed on the solutions needed to end First Nations homelessness.

People experiencing or at risk of homelessness face an acute housing shortage, a cost of living crisis and a rental crisis. They may also be facing the end to their out-of-home care, family violence and/or trauma (abuse/neglect), physical or mental illness, addiction, job loss and/or disability. We hear (and say) – everyone deserves a home, that it is a basic human right but so many are going without. We are seeing families and young people in crisis.

What can you do to help?

Raising awareness is good – you can do this by sharing our work on socials (see links below), have conversations with people about the issue, advocate for change – help to bring in legislation and policy change by using your vote and writing to your local MP. Sign and share this petition.

Treat your fellow humans with dignity – we have, in a way, forgotten how to look out for each other. Check on your neighbours, ask if they’re ok, if you see someone struggling help them, pay it forward, try not to judge the person next to you. Above all, organisations need funds, we can only do as much as we can by stretching every dollar.

We have an active group of supporters who help us to go the extra mile and offer wrap around services to young people beyond a safe and secure home. The need for our services has grown. We have expanded rapidly in a short period of time. While we have grown, we are providing the same level of personal care as previously, the type of care we have become known for.

Visit our community fundraising page to find lots of ideas of how you can help us secure a future for children and young people – because everyone deserves to live life to their full potential! If you would like to know ways to donate to Burdekin please visit our donation page. You might also like to consider fostering a teen or volunteering with us – however you help is always appreciated.

Home Stretch Make it 21 Campaign Update

Home Stretch Make it 21

The Home Stretch advocacy began in 2016 when 160 organisations joined forces to lobby for significant reforms for young people in out-of-home care.

At the end of 2022 the NSW government announced universal extended care to 21 years for young people in State Care from February 2023. The announcement means that every state and territory government in Australia agreed to provide vulnerable young people in foster care with support to the age of 21 years. At the time our CEO, Justene Gordon, said:

‘We thank all the young people, those with lived experience and others, who championed this effort. Ensuring young people in care have a fair, equitable, robust and real opportunity for all that life brings is what we all strive for’.

Since reform

  • States and Territories began to legislate reform to foster care to implement the age change.
  • Advocates say, the changes are too slow and much more needs to be done.

Talking about it recently in the media the Chair of the Home Stretch coalition, Paul McDonald said:

There is still a lot of work to be done. Supports for young people differ between states and they continue to have problems accessing housing. It’s time for the Australian Government to step up and help with this.”

Mr. McDonald also calls for a push for increased housing and social support for young people transitioning out of foster care.

There are also reports that the rising cost of living is exacerbating the foster carer shortage as providing care and support is getting more difficult because of the rising cost of living.

National Youth Homelessness Conference

The next National Youth Homelessness Conference takes place 24-25th July and will focus on child and youth homelessness. Organisers say, it is time that the Australian government committed to developing a national plan to address child and youth homelessness. This conference will mobilise a collective commitment to developing a joint government-NGO strategy to address child and youth homelessness nationally.

We are delighted that our Patron, Prof. Brian Burdekin AO, will deliver the opening address and our CEO, Justene Gordon, will also present at the conference.

We acknowledge the Aboriginal people of the Cadigal and Gayamaygal Clans. We acknowledge the Country on which we live, work, and gather as being Aboriginal land.

We acknowledge the lands, waterways and skies that are connected to Aboriginal people. We honour them and pay our deepest respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

We respect their rightful place within our communities, and we value their ancient cultural knowledge and practices.

Aboriginal Flag
Torres Straight Island Flag

We deeply respect that this will always be Aboriginal land and we will honour and follow the first peoples’ values in caring for the Country and for preserving their culture.

We deeply value that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the oldest living culture in the world and we will continue to work with their peoples and communities to ensure their cultures endure and remain strong.