Hon. Mick de Brenni MP, Minister for Housing and Public Works, Sport and Digital Technology
Thursday 15th of March 2018 - Check against delivery
Launch of the Queensland edition of Parity magazine
Let me begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather today, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples.
And I would like to thank Uncle Desmond Sandy and Derek Sandy for welcoming us to country.
I pay my respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.
I commit to working with and listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to achieve full reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
And I want to acknowledge that working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address homelessness is a key part of reconciliation:
Both physical homelessness, and the spiritual homelessness that comes from being separated from country and kin.
I would also like to acknowledge:
Parity magazine launch
Thank you everyone for inviting me to officially launch the special Queensland edition of Parity magazine - and it’s good to finally hold a copy.
I think most of you would know that the edition was delayed due to the 2017 State Election.
I fundamentally believe that Labor was returned to office because it is a party genuinely interested in the philosophies of this magazine’s name sake:
Equality of individual character and equality of opportunities.
You already know what today’s news headlines are telling us, they are not highlighting anything new.
But it is a stark reminder that Government needs to partner with you now.
So it’s a privilege to be appointed by the Premier as Minister for Housing and Public Works.
I continue to believe the portfolio should be titled Housing and Homelessness rather than Housing alone.
I feel fortunate to be able to continue the work the Palaszczuk Government has achieved in the housing and homelessness sector during our first term.
As part of my contribution to Parity and the homelessness sector I will talk about certainty and stability.
In reflecting on these principles it’s worth noting that your current Minister is the longest serving Minister for the sector since Karen Struthers’ commission in 2009.
This is not by chance.
Labor shares your values.
A primary role of government is to safeguard the welfare of its most vulnerable.
Former United States Vice-President, Senator for Minnesota Hubert Humphrey said in 1977:
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
In Queensland in 2018, Humphrey’s words still ring true.
Access to safe, secure and sustainable housing – a place to call home – is a basic right of all Queenslanders.
Incidentally, in Minnesota the number of people experiencing homelessness is at least 7,600 on any given night compared to over 21,000 Queenslanders considered homeless.
Governments across the world must continue to work to address homelessness.
Not just to address homelessness once people are experiencing it, but also to support those at risk of experiencing or overcoming the issues that lead to homelessness.
I also believe government has a role in assisting people experiencing homelessness to live with dignity.
That’s why our Government, in our first term developed the state’s first 10 year $1.8 billion Queensland Housing Strategy.
In the same way our consulation on the Queensland Housing Strategy encouraged significant policy direction:
Parity makes a valuable contribution to the national discussion of policy and service innovations for addressing homelessness in Australia.
It examines all aspects, including its causes and consequences, policies, programs and services that prevent, respond to and end homelessness.
I commend Parity on shining a light on the incredible work that you in this sector achieve.
Its so important that I showcase this wherever and whenever I can.
On that basis I would like to acknowledge and congratulate editor Noel Murray and his team on an insightful overview of Queensland’s homelessness, and what’s needed to ensure we are doing all we can to help.
I would also like to thank those who contributed from the Department of Housing and Public Works, and the co-sponsors who made this edition possible.
I understand that everyone who is here today will receive a copy of this issue.
I encourage you to take the time to sit down and read through the magazine.
But more importantly, place it on your coffee table at home.
Or leave a copy in your favourite café, like mine, St Coco Café in Daisy Hill, or maybe Hope Street Café South Brisbane or 3rd Space Café Fortitude Valley.
Some articles are inspiring, some enlightening, but all contribute to a much-needed conversation.
Today is about coming together and sharing ideas and knowledge.
And more importantly it’s about forging new, and strengthening old relationships, I hope will result in collaborations across the sector.
Because it’s through strong partnerships with the sector that we will develop truly contemporary services.
Progress of the Housing Strategy
As you will read in my foreword to the magazine, Queensland is no stranger to homelessness.
As I said earlier, ABS data released yesterday shows that homelessness has increased in Queensland by 14% in the 5 years from 2011.
We all know where our homeless friends are.
We find them here in inner Brisbane, Cairns and outback Queensland.
And more than 50% of homelessness experienced in Queensland is related to severe overcrowding.
Of course the statistics are concerning, but what they do is highlight the importance of the work that all of you do every day.
There are a number of truths around homelessness.
We know that homelessness can happen to anybody, and there are some populations who are especially vulnerable.
53% are aged 34 years and under.
A fifth are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, and a fifth are older people.
Just as there’s no single pathway into homelessness, there’s no single pathway out of it.
Pathways out of homelessness must respond to individual needs and circumstances to be effective.
More homes are important.
Our Housing Strategy will support urban renewal, new jobs, provide affordable housing and drive innovation over the next decade.
But we know our approach must be more than bricks and mortar.
We need to ensure that Queenslanders who are most in need are supported by a safety net.
A safety net of targeted early interventions, flexible packages of support, social housing, and genuine wraparound services.
These are the foundations for assisting our homeless friends to access pathways to safe, secure and affordable housing.
These are the foundations that meets their individual needs and aspirations.
These are the foundations that supports them to participate in economic and social life.
These are the foundations of our Housing Strategy.
Earlier this week I met some young people in Ipswich who, thanks to inCommunity, are being supported to sustain tenancies through the Supporting People In Shared Housing project, or SPiN.
The SPiN program targets young people who are transitioning from homelessness to housing, including young people who are exiting state care.
The key to this program’s success is the support by inCommunity to develop the skills needed to sustain tenancies in sharehouses.
Skills like maintaining a property and getting along with flatmates.
On average, young people stay with SPiN for around 5 or 6 months.
And when they leave, they move into private rentals in Ipswich.
This week we are governing from the regions, in Ipswich and it is a hallmark of that program that Ministers can immerse themselves into a community over an extended period and identify what’s working and what’s not.
And those things that are, expand those to other areas across the State.
Of course, we live in a federated nation.
At a State level it is my belief, and it is the position of the Palaszczuk Labor Queensland government, that we have a responsibility to provide housing.
And that’s why we fought so hard for funding security from the Federal Government.
I’d like to thank those of you who took up the fight with me, especially QCOSS and QShelter.
It’s a fight we won - in May last year the Federal Government announced their plans for a new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.
A key win in that agreement was the provision of longer term funding to the State.
And I will talk more about that funding shortly.
But it seems that with this Turnbull Government, as one fight is settled, it picks another one with the people of this nation.
The Turnbull Government has thrown out the National Partnership on Remote Housing.
And I don’t need to tell anyone in this room that housing underpins every single human need.
And nowhere has this been brought home to me as it has in the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities I’ve spent time in.
Communities like Aurukun, the Torres Straits, Hopevale and Cherbourg.
The Commonwealth has for the past half a century allocated funding specifically to remote indigenous housing to alleviate homelessness and overcrowding.
And this year, on June 30, that all ends.
Remoteness isn’t just about the distance from a major urban centre.
It’s the breadth of the gap that still exists between indigenous and non-indigenous outcomes.
And housing underpins every single one of these and more.
We’re seeing diseases like rheumatic fever in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, thanks to continued overcrowding.
The Prime Minister is making a life and death decision, and it’s a poor one.
In contrast, the Palasczuk Government will not walk away from these communities.
But we will stretch our funding to make sure we continue building.
Unless the Prime Minister reverses his decision it will mean that for every house we build in a remote community, that’s a house –
or more likely two houses –
we can’t build in Brisbane, or on the Gold Coast, or in Ipswich, or in my home city of Logan.
There are people here today who have been working with me, with LGAQ and with the Mayors of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
And I would like to particularly acknowledge Leonie Crayden and Q Shelter for being such a strong voice on this issue.
The Turnbull Government has not yet finalised its budget.
So collectively, we must all continue to call on the Prime Minister to continue the half century legacy for this funding.
Because continued funding at appropriate levels is critical to making progress on housing and homelessness, and therefore Closing the Gap.
I turn now to Partnering for Impact.
Partnering for Impact
I have heard loud and clear from you that funding certainty is a must.
You’ve told me about the need to plan and develop your services.
You’ve told me about the challenges in attracting and keeping quality staff and how hard this was with short term contracts.
Workers have told me it’s difficult to commit to or complete professional development when you’re only employed for a few months at a time on short term contracts.
Or when you have to fit study around casual shifts.
The Services Union’s key claim in their campaign for investing in quality community services was for 5 year funding contracts.
All your combined efforts is why last year, the Palaszczuk Government committed to five-year service agreements for specialist homelessness services.
I think many people here would agree that work you do is not so much a job as a vocation.
And I’m pretty sure no one here started out working in the sector lured by the promise of big bucks.
And what’s also true, is assisting someone from homelessness into sustainable accommodation requires sophistication and skill.
Those Queenslanders that you work with experiencing homelessness often don’t have many reasons to trust others.
And I acknowledge that building that trust, getting to know a client, working out what they need, and then facilitating that assistance – that all takes experience and real skill.
And both experience and skill take time to develop, and require certainty and stability to achieve.
And frankly, community sector workers deserve no less than workers in other industries – you all deserve secure tenure.
And it’s difficult to focus on service delivery when you’re not sure if you’ll have a job next week or next month.
So today, I am pleased to announce that the Palaszczuk Government will also lock in over $500 million in funding by my department over five years.
This will give existing service providers that certainty and stability through our Partnering for Impact initiative.
The Partnering for Impact initiative demonstrates our commitment to working with you to promote a shared vision and commitment to reduce homelessness in Queensland.
Hard work ahead
However, having said that, it remains the reality that despite our best efforts, too many Queenslanders experience homelessness and housing instability.
Almost half of all people who accessed a homelessness service in 2016-17 were under the age of 25.
We know homelessness can have a long-term impact on the lives of young people:
Setting them on a trajectory towards disengagement in education, reduced levels of wellbeing and persistent homelessness in adulthood.
Domestic and family violence remains a major cause of homelessness for women and children.
Older women are emerging as one of the fastest growing groups experiencing homelessness, with many having no previous history of housing instability.
We are far from ‘Closing the Gap’ in homelessness.
More than 1/3 of people who access homelessness services are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.
Of all states, Queensland has the highest proportion of people going into crisis accommodation as opposed to more sustainable service models.
Some of our most vulnerable continue to be turned away from services because their needs are too complex.
Or they can’t pay rent because they have no income.
So it goes then without saying that homelessness is a complex issue influenced by many factors outside the control of all of us here in this room.
So we must then have a honest conversation and ask:
Partnering for Impact is designed to create the conditions for us to have this conversation, and reflect on how we can improve and strengthen our service system through partnerships.
Today, I invite you to work with me to develop Queensland’s first homelessness Compact.
A Compact that establishes a partnership framework where we can move forward together:
To improve service delivery, to expand the capabilities of the sector, and ensure we deliver person centred housing responses.
A Compact that helps us hone where we need to focus on, to do things better, delivering outcomes for clients – not outputs for measurement’s sake.
For example, it’s often been the case that services have had to log and report on service delivery outputs, like the number of occasions of client contact in a year.
If those client contacts involve the same person presenting multiple times, are we really doing the best for that person that we can?
Instead, I want to support you to achieve real outcomes.
By focusing service delivery on being more targeted, better integrated and truly person centred, I think we can have better outcomes.
Today is the next step in hearing your views on how we can move forward together.
To lay out the thread of a partnership.
In developing our Compact I am initiatiating a conversation with a range of peak bodies and sector organisations that reflect the diversity of the sector.
Later today we will get their views on how we move forward together.
For example we will strengthen our partnership with the Queensland Youth Housing Coalition to ensure that we get our settings right for young people.
We recognise that affordable housing is essential to providing pathways out of homelessness.
Also, we will continue to work QShelter to ensure that we have an integrated approach across our homelessness and housing system, acknowledging that we are working with the same clients.
Our compact recognises that a key resource of the homelessness sector is its workforce.
So we will work with QCOSS to ensure that people, who are the backbone of our frontline, have the conditions to achieve those better outcomes.
A partnernership with the Community Services Industry Alliance will develop a joint vision to get the logic of our investment right.
We will double down on our relationship to strengthen our responses to vulnerable women and children.
In the disability space, engagement with the disability sector during this key time of change is critical.
And we will work with the Queensland Mental Health Commission -
to make sure that we are supporting the significant number of people who are navigating their way through homelessness while also dealing with mental health issues.
But to enable the development of this Compact, our first order of this relationship, we must establish the certainty and stability.
And to do that my first task is to provide each specialist homelessness service a five-year contract from July 2018.
So you can focus on innovation, rather than worrying about planning and retaining your workers.
Youth to Work policy
We discussed earlier, pathways out of homelessness, but there are other housing pathways to follow.
Social housing is an important step along the housing continuum, because it provides a safe, secure and stable platform.
And until now, our housing system has had inbuilt disincentives.
We have one of the most targeted housing systems in Australia, ensuring that housing is allocated first to those most in need.
So, to qualify for social housing, a household’s income must be below a certain level.
But the catch is that, until now, if a child growing up in social housing gets a job and starts to earn money, their income is included in the household income.
The result can be that their family no longer qualifies.
It’s hard to believe when you think about it.
Teenagers having to choose between having a job and having a home with their family.
That’s why I am proud of our new Youth to Work initiative.
It means that young people under 25 can go out and get a job and earn a living, but their money won’t be counted toward their household’s rent calculation.
Because your first job should be a stepping stone to something bigger, not a millstone around your neck.
An example of where we work smarter not harder.
So I might just conclude with some final words, and doing so might revisit my foreword in this year’s magazine.
In it I wrote that I’m pleased to be a Housing Minister that builds hundreds of millions of dollars of new housing — but I know for sure that’s not enough.
All of us, everyone here, is just a freak occurrence, a twist of fate away from being homeless.
I try never to forget that.
And if we continue to move in the right direction, to use every tool at our disposal and use empathy as our guide, we can help our homeless friends, and have a more just and fair society.
Because this journey of ours is a journey that will never be complete, which makes it even more important that we walk together.