Causes of youth homelessness – bereavement

Youth Homelessness - parental bereavement

According to CREATE Foundation, there were 45,000 children and young people living in out-of-home care across Australia between June 2018 to 2019. However, this number changes every year as children and young people come in and out of the care system… you can read more here.

What is the leading cause of homelessness in young people?

According to AIWH, in 2019–20, three of the main reasons young people aged 15–24 sought assistance from specialist homelessness services were a housing crisis (17%), family and domestic violence (17%) and inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions (12%).


Another reason we might not hear about is parental bereavement. Did you know that 1 in 20 children in Australia will lose a parent by the time they’re 18?

Death of a parent can be an extremely stressful time for a child or young person even if they have the support of the other parent. What if they don’t – who takes care of the children? Usually it would be settled by the court in consultation with family but in the event there is nobody able or willing to, then the child would be placed in out of home care and the agency would try to find a suitable foster family.

When the bereavement happens with a young person they may come to Burdekin, where we offer wraparound, therapeutic care for the child or young person.

We recently listened to Dr Justin Coulson’s Happy Families podcast with his guest speaker Kristy Thomas, Co-Founder of Feel the Magic and the topic of Helping Kids Cope With Grief. Kristy says’ Feel the Magic was borne out of her own and her husbands bereavement and lack of resources in Australia.

Feel the Magic hold virtual and face-to-face camps teaching emotional literacy, coping strategies, tools to self-regulate and self soothe and they also get to meet others who are going through the same thing. Anxiety, dysregulation, overwhelm, isolation, withdrawal and risk-taking behaviours. A child who has had a significant bereavement before the age of 18 is six times more likely to die by suicide. Have a listen. Helping Kids Cope With Grief

Demand for our services continues to grow

Youth Homelessness and Family Support Services

The Burdekin Association exists to support young people towards a better-quality life. Many of us have found ourselves in this job because we love the idea of helping others and advocating for our most vulnerable people in society. We have a huge amount of job satisfaction – we get to help children and young people have a better life but it is a tough job at times too.

Our workload is high as we strive to meet our continued growth but we are highly motivated. We do not want to let one single young person down; young people come to us and have often been let down multiple times prior to finding us. We continue to run our organisation well and operate within our means. However, the increase in demand for our services means an increase in costs with no associated change in revenue. The solution is simple, we require increased funding and are constantly fundraising. Our CEO, Justene recently took to Facebook to say this.

It’s been both an inspiring yet exhausting last few years. We provide homes for children and young people all over the eastern Sydney region from Avalon in the North to Ramsgate in the South. In the space of 4 years we now care for 10 times or 1000% more children and young people. We don’t want to increase however whilst their are children and young people who need a safe home we will strive to ensure that everyone of them has one.

We want to make sure everyone of these children and young people have access to the same opportunities as there peers. We are now struggling to do this.

Our fundraising/philanthropic and donations that we receive go straight back into ensuring our children and young people have the absolute best and extra care we can possibly provide as well as holidays, access to our bespoke education program, mental health support, formal dresses/tickets, soccer shoes, sports fees, gym fees, apprenticeship tools, driving lessons…everything and anything that they need (balanced with what they want!). With our growth we need more funds to give all our children and young people all that they deserve.

What can you do…I would love it if you could run your own one off or yearly third party fundraiser at work, in the community, your family, your school or club. I will run (well walk), swim (slowly), dance and do pretty much anything I can to assist in your efforts.

If you are interested in running an event for us please reach out. Thank you for any support you can provide. Justene CEO.

Your help, small or large, is immensely appreciated and vital to our continued success. There are many ways in which you can support us. One opportunity is sleeping over at Freshwater on Friday March 17th for Home Sweet 2023 or sponsoring our team to sleepover. Grab your comfy gear, friends, family or colleagues and come and join us for a fun, community event to raise much needed funds and awareness for homelessness.

Our pages: Get involved, Community Fundraising and Support Us, all have information on practical ways that you can support our work.

As part of our commitment to continuous improvement we are in the process of collating data from our surveys of our young people and employees. This will enable us to see what we are doing right and what we need to improve. We look forward to sharing this information with you soon.

NSW makes it 21!

NSW Makes it 21

The NSW government has announced universal extended care to 21 years for young people in state care (from February 2023). We are thrilled to have played a small part in this.

Campaigning across the country for the leaving care age to be lifted from 18 to 21 years of age has been significant. Many States have committed to further support for young people and over the weekend 5/6 November 2022 NSW joined the other State and Territories by committing to extending the supports currently in place for up to 18 year old to up to 21 years old young people.  This age extension of 3 years will make a direct difference to young people in foster care and we look forward to making this work for our young people.

We would like to recognise Alex who is one of our young people and thank him and all the young people involved in the campaign for speaking up. We couldn’t have done it without you.

‘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’.

Justene Gordon, CEO, The Burdekin Association


The Home Stretch campaign, launched in 2015 advocating for the leaving care arrangements for young people in State care to be extended from 18 to 21 nationally. With NSW’s commitment, Home Stretch is the most significant child welfare reform in a generation, now supported in every Australian state or territory.


NSW government media release: Support for care leavers in NSW makes history

Home Stretch media release: NSW Government commitment locks in most significant child welfare reform in a generation


Natasha Maclaren-Jones MLC made this historic announcement, congratulations to all involved including the NSW OOHC sector and everyone – especially the young people – who have advocated for this reform. Together, we did it! We #madeit21! Congratulations also to the Chair of Home Stretch and CEO of Anglicare Victoria Paul McDonald for his tireless work.

Left to right – Paul McDonald, Natasha Maclaren-Jones MLC, Liz Knight and Mohita Kapoor attending the announcement.

Media coverage:

Read other posts from Burdekin about this campaign:

Make it 21


With the QLD Government recent announcement of their commitment to funding the needs of vulnerable young people in care up to age 21, the CREATE Foundation is now urging the NSW Government to follow suit. Amplify the Voice of Care Leavers NSW – it’s time to make it 21.

NSW young people currently are the only cohort of young people in Australia without adequate support to 21, other states and territories now have lifted the age from 18 to 21 already. This means that children and young people in care begin their preparation for leaving at just 15.

CREATE 2009 Survey

Findings from a 2009 survey conducted by the CREATE foundation on care leavers demonstrated that:

  • 35% were homeless in the first year of leaving care;
  • 46% of boys were involved in the juvenile justice system;
  • 29% were unemployed;


The Home Stretch is a national campaign, formed to seek change to the current leaving care arrangements for young people in state care.

New research shows the NSW Government will more than triple their return on investment for every dollar spent on keeping young people in care until they are 21, saving NSW taxpayers $222 million over the next 10 years.

Analysis by Deloitte commissioned by Home Stretch Campaign NSW Source.

Telethon Kids Institute

The Telethon Kids Institute’s Developmental Pathways and Social Policy team was commissioned by the Department of Communities to investigate outcomes for children who had experienced out-of-home care, up until 23 years of age. The team found young people who had been in care were a highly vulnerable and disadvantaged group, at high risk of negative outcomes such as mental health disorders, justice involvement, and incomplete education. Source.

CREATE Foundation urges the Perrottet Government to listen to, and try to understand the issues that young care leavers face, and support young people till they reach the age of 21, regardless of if they are in foster, kinship or residential care. 

What can you do?

Using the hashtag #itsyourturnNSW #makeit21, share and post about the campaign and help young people transitioning from care to adulthood have their voices heard.

  • Follow CREATE Foundation on our social media channels and join the conversation. Help us share the message. It’s time for a change. #itsyourturnNSW #makeit21
  • Share a video message with them online or to marketing@create.org.au – they want to hear your views and promote them to key decision-makers.
  • Use CREATE social media posts and share them to your social feeds using #itsyourturnNSW #makeit21 @CREATEfnd

More details about the campaign can be found here along with marketing resources and their Advocacy Promo Kit.

We think young people deserve better and we think that NSW can do better.

Home Stretch


The Home Stretch is a national campaign formed to seek change to the current leaving care arrangements for young people in care with the aim to extend the leaving care age from 18 to 21 years of age. Based on our experience, we agree with the organisers and other signaturees that the Out-of-Home Care system should support vulnerable youth until they’re 21.

Why now?

It is time things change in line with society’s expectations of what a young person should achieve, in particular, the level of education and training expected in order to be independent and earn enough money to support their own household.

The 2009 survey conducted by the CREATE foundation on care leavers (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2010) demonstrated that:

  • 35% were homeless in the first year of leaving care;
  • 46% of boys were involved in the juvenile justice system;
  • 29% were unemployed;

Furthermore, a study by the Care Leavers Australia Network (2008) reported that:

  • 41% were pregnant during their adolescence;
  • 43% – 65% of care leavers have poor mental health outcomes (including depression, Anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks and sleep disorders).

Taken from the Home Stretch website, you can read more here.

We think they deserve better, we think we can do better

Over 80% of young Australians aged 18 to 21 live at home with their families, do you believe a young person should be kicked out of home at the age of 18? We don’t – these are vulnerable young people who have no family support, emotional or financial, to fall back on. These young people have often been moved to different homes multiple times throughout their lives and then cut off on their 18th birthday.

The Commissioner’s report on leaving care found that one third of young people become homeless within 3 years of leaving care, half require mental health services and 70% live below the poverty line.

The cost of extending the age to 21

Deloitte Access Economics conducted a report on the socioeconomic costs and benefits of extending care exit from the age of 18 to the age of 21 in Victoria for Anglicare Victoria. This report found that the return on investment was almost 2:1, that is for every $1 invested in the program there is an expected return of $1.84 in either savings or increased income.

You can read more about the Deloitte Report here.

Victoria has already extended the age of leaving care to 21, WA has piloted a program, NSW, QLD, NT, WA are hopefully next.

More than 19,000 children in NSW were in care in 2018-2019 (AIHW)

Paul McDonald is the CEO of Anglicare Victoria, is the Chair of Home Stretch will be speaking at the National Youth Homelessness Conference, which will also feature our very own patron Professor Brian Burdekin, AO.

What can you do?

Sign the pledge and share the campaign on social media, send to family and friends to sign too. Use the hashtags #homestretch #makeit21

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.