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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.

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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.

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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.