WWDA Submission to the National Evaluation of the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program IV 2003/2004

SAAP is a support program assisting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, through a range of support and supported accommodation services. It is an important part of Australia’s overall response to homelessness and of the broader social safety net designed to prevent disadvantage in the community. The overall aim of SAAP, as set down in the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act, is to provide transitional supported accommodation and a range of related support services, in order to help people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness to achieve the maximum possible degree of self-reliance and independence. Within this aim the goals are to: resolve crisis; re-establish family links where appropriate; and, re-establish the capacity of clients to live independently of SAAP.

SAAP IV contains four strategic themes which have been committed to by the Commonwealth and all States and Territories:

  • client-focused service delivery – which includes testing new and flexible service delivery models, enhancing and promoting existing good practice, and strengthening client capacity to live independently of SAAP,
  • integration and collaboration between SAAP and other service systems, – recognising the complexity of factors affecting pathways to homelessness, and the need to establish links with other human service delivery agencies,
  • increasing performance, knowledge and skills, to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of service for clients, and
  • working together, so that the Commonwealth and the States and Territories will work in partnership with communities to enhance the capacity for SAAP to respond to homelessness.

SAAP IV was evaluated in late 2003 – early 2004. The purpose of the evaluation was to examine the progress and effectiveness of SAAP IV and to advise on the future directions of the program. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) developed a submission to the National Evaluation Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP IV), and this is WWDA’s Submission to that Evaluation.

This Submission was researched and written by Samantha Salvaneschi, for Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Copyright WWDA 2003.


Women With Disabilities Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that is constituted and driven by women with disabilities, who are its members, managers and Committee of Management. It is making a Submission to the National Evaluation of the Supported Accommodation IV, because women with disabilities disproportionately experience breaches of their human right to adequate housing.

The evidence for this also shows that the housing rights contraventions spawn violations of many other human rights of women with disabilities. The Submission demonstrates how SAAP contributes to both the prevention and infliction of these violations. It then reveals how the Commonwealth must reform SAAP to stop breaking human right law. These reforms include ones that strengthen components of SAAP and replace others.

Where the Submission recommends reforms, it clearly explains why they are practicable, cost-effective ones that are morally and legally required.

Acknowledgements and Disclaimer

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) gratefully acknowledges the support it received in 2003 from the Global Fund For Women and the expertise it receives daily from women with disabilities. Without these contributions, the policy advocacy of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) – such as this Submission – would not be possible. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Inc. is a member-driven, independent body with no affiliations with any political party. Its members, Executive Officer and Committee of Management members are all women with disabilities. They have identified adequate housing as one of the organisations policy priorities for 2003 to 2008.


The following is a portion of Squeaker’s Mate, one of the short stories written by the great Australian author Barbara Baynton. The full story may be found in her anthology, Bush Studies, published in 1902.

The woman carried the bag with the axe and maul and wedges; the man had the billy. ‘Squeaker’s mate’, the men called her, and these agreed that she was the best long-haired mate that ever stepped in petticoats…..

Nine prospective posts and maybe sixteen rails–she calculated this yellow gum would yield.

“Come on.” She was waiting with the greased saw.

“It’s nigh tucker-time,” he said, and when she dissented, he exclaimed, with sudden energy, “There’s another bee!..you go on….an’ I’ll track ‘im.”

With a shivering groan the tree fell, and as she sprang aside, a thick worm-eaten branch snapped at a joint and silently she went down under it…

Always her dog……patiently waiting for her to be up and about again. That would be soon, she told her complaining mate.

“Yer won’t. Yer back’s broke,” said Squeaker laconically.

“.. the doctor says yer won’t never work no more, an’ I can’t be cookin’ an’ workin’ an’ doin’ everythin’!”

He muttered something about “sellin’ out”, but she firmly refused to think of such a monstrous proposal.

For a few days he worked a little; not much–he never did. It was she who always lifted the heavy end of the log, and carried the tools…

She wearily watched him idling his time; reminded him that the wire lying near the fence would rust..and when she got up in a day or so, she would help strain and fasten it. At first he pretended he had done it, later said he wasn’t goin’ t’ go wirin’ or nothin’ else by ‘imself if every other man on the place did.

Sometimes he whistled while she spoke, often swore, generally went out, and..dull as he was, he found the “Go and bite yerself like a snake”, would instantly silence her..

There were months to run before all the Government conditions of residence, etc., in connection with the selection, would be fulfilled..she thought.. he was trying to sell out, and she would not go…..

This Submission is dedicated to the author of Squeaker’s Mate, the late Barbara Baynton. It is also dedicated to all those women with disabilities, who like the eponymous Squeaker’s Mate, strive for a home with secure tenure, where they can pursue their chosen good life, free from assault, ridicule and other abuses.


CEDAW – Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women

CESCR – United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

CROC – Convention on the Rights of the Child

HRC – United Nations Human Rights Committee

ICCPR – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

ICERD – International Covenant on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination

ICESCR – International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

SAAP – Supported Accommodation Assistance Program

UDHR – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UN – The United Nations

WWDA – Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Inc.

The method in this Submission

This Submission comments on Terms of Reference 1, 7 and 9 of the National Evaluation of the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program IV.

In response to Term 1, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has analysed the extent to which the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program IV is meeting its commitment to protect the human rights of women with disabilities and others who are, or are at risk of becoming, homeless. This analysis juxtaposes the lives of these people with the SAAP aims espoused by the Commonwealth in the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994 (Cth).

The juxtaposition is a disturbingly jarring one. The Submission evidences that many women with disabilities and others are forced to fight against multiple and compounding violations of their human rights. Most pertinently, it demonstrates that they frequently experience these violations because of the Commonwealth’s breach of their human right to adequate housing, and vice versa. Accordingly, in answer to Term 7 WWDA suggests that SAAP data reports address more the position of women with disabilities and the compliance of SAAP funding, policy and service-delivery with domestic and international human rights law.

In the same vein, WWDA responds to Term 9 by proposing practicable measures that Commonwealth-State/Territory governments could jointly administer to protect the rights of women with disabilities and others who are, or are likely to become, homeless.

In summary, WWDA recommends that the National Evaluation concentrate on how Commonwealth-State/Territory arrangements can and should comprehensively redress:

  • the dearth of adequate, affordable housing across Australia, particularly for groups that are systematically denied their human rights, such as women with disabilities.
  • the causes and effects of routine abuses of the human rights of people who are, or who are on the brink of becoming, homeless, because of the abuse and neglect of successive Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.
  • the lack of quantitative and qualitative data on SAAP responsiveness to women with disabilities and compliance with human rights law.

Why Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is making this Submission

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women living with disabilities in Australia. Its members, management committee and staff are women with disabilities. (More information about WWDA is provided in Appendix 1).

Further, one of WWDA’s policy priorities for 2003 to 2008 is housing. This is because housing is one of the policy matters that WWDA members most frequently raise in various WWDA forums. These include the email discussion group; the Management Committee meetings; the perennial flow of telephone calls and letters to the WWDA Office; and WWDA-hosted workshops and consultations on violence, telecommunication services and other matters.

Through these avenues, members and others can see that the lack of systematic homelessness prevention is a fundamental driver and outcome of some of Australia’s ‘public policy problems’. In so saying, they report that crisis and emergency accommodation is a critical part of these measures.

Many of the members and their supporters are unaware that the Supported Accommodation Program (SAAP) administers these accommodation services. However, WWDA Executive hears complaints about services that the Executive knows are SAAP ones. This is not only because of the markedly devolved and decentralised nature of WWDA forums. It is mostly because women with disabilities are disproportionately at risk of homelessness to a very high degree.

This is compellingly borne out by official SAAP reports, as well as those of Government and non-government researchers. For instance, the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness notes that:

People with disabilities are highly vulnerable to homelessness and are more likely to experience poverty, abuse and social isolation than the broader community. Programs established to support people with disabilities are often limited in the range of services they provide and do not necessarily address the needs of those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Homelessness services are often not able to provide the level of support needed by people with disabilities due to inadequate funding and training.

People with disabilities who are eligible for public housing often face longer than usual waits for suitable properties to become available.

Women, and people with disabilities are more likely to experience homelessness not only because they have lower incomes, but also because they experience more discrimination in the housing market (2001).

How this Submission uses certain concepts

The concept of disability traditionally implies a focus on the person with a disability lacking the full spectrum of abilities that are supposed to be possessed by every human (Chiriboga, Ottenbacher and Haber, 1999). Consensus has now shifted to a more social model of disability (Ustan, 1997). In this model, a disability is experienced as disabling partially or wholly because of features of the natural and built environment and the political, economic and other structures of the private and public spheres (Brandt and Pope, 1997).

Within this paper, ‘accessibility’ refers to the degree of openness of housing or care services, programs and facilities, to the entry of people in equitable ways that preserve their independence and dignity (Dunn, 1996).

The human right to adequate housing is specified in many international legal human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several human rights treaties ratified by Australia, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights Of the Child (CROC) and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR).

However, the treaty that most centrally provides for the right to adequate housing is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 11(1) of this Covenant recognises the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself (sic) and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has defined this right in two documents. These are the General Comment 4: Adequate Housing and General Comment 7: Forced Evictions.

General Comments 4 and 7 constitute the most authoritative interpretations of Article 11(1). In them the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) prescribes that the right to adequate housing is to be interpreted broadly and applied to every human person, irrespective of their gender, family or other status to mean the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.

The Comments also mandate that certain indicia are to be taken into account, in an assessment of whether housing is ‘adequate’. These are:

  • all persons, including those in emergency accommodation, should possess a degree of security of tenure that guarantees legal protection against harassment, forced eviction and other threats.
  • all persons should have sustainable access to resources that are necessary for health and well-being, including safe drinking water, heating, lighting, sanitation, washing facilities and refuse disposal.
  • all persons should be paying housing costs that are not so high as to threaten their other basic needs.
  • all persons should have housing with sufficient room and protection from cold, heat rain and threats to health.
  • all persons should have housing in a location that allows access to employment, health-care, schools and other facilities essential to health and well-being.
  • all persons should have housing that is constructed in diverse ways that enable people to express their cultural identities.
  • all persons belonging to socio-economically disadvantaged groups – including people who are elderly, ill and/or disabled – should be afforded priority consideration by governments in housing law and policy.

How SAAP is defined in law

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994 (Cth) (the SAAP Act) enables the Commonwealth to grant the States and Territories finances to administer a program of transitional supported accommodation and related services. This Program has come to be known as the Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program (SAAP). It is dedicated to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The SAAP Act Preamble provides that:

  • the Commonwealth Parliament recognises the need to redress poverty and social inequalities.
  • Australia seeks to protect the universal human rights of all of its citizens, including people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Australian law regarding people who are homeless should emphasise the importance of their individual needs and their right to non-discrimination and equality.
  • people who are homeless constitute one of the most powerless and marginalised populations.
  • SAAP aims to empower people experiencing homelessness.

The Act notes that:

The Parliament intends to ensure that people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are given opportunities to redress their circumstances and that their universal human rights are not prejudiced by the manner in which services are provided to them.

The Act stipulates that Commonwealth-State/Territory Agreements should be the basis for operationalising these rights by:

establishing the means by which the civil, political, economic and social rights of people who are homeless may be preserved and protected by service providers (SAAP Act, 1994, Article 8b).

These aspirations are reflected in Section 5 of the Act, which declares that SAAP must, inter alia:

  • deliver accommodation of a supported and transitional kind, as well as related services, to people experiencing homelessness.
  • assist people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, to achieve maximum self-reliance and independence.
  • promote and protect the dignity of people who are homeless.
  • ensure that people who are homeless are empowered to fully participate in the social, cultural, economic and political aspects of society.
  • encourage innovation in service provision to people who are homeless.
  • help people who are homeless to obtain long-term, secure and affordable housing.

Section 7 of the Act recognises the relationship between reaching these goals and enabling people experiencing homelessness to access:

  • employment;
  • education and training;
  • health services (including mental health services);
  • disability and rehabilitation services;
  • income support;
  • adequate housing; and
  • other fundamental resources for health and well-being.

Why SAAP is of dire importance to women with disabilities

Women with disabilities are, from the government record, one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Australia. There are 3.6 million people in Australia with a disability, making up 19% of the total population. The proportion of males and females with a disability is similar (around 9.5% each) although it varies across age groups. (More information about the status of women with disabilities in Australia is provided in Appendix 2).

In a 1992 survey, SAAP service providers reported that thirteen per cent of their clients had a history of psychiatric illness and eleven per cent had either a physical or intellectual disability (SAAP, 1999). The proportion of single women in SAAP services on disability income support is twenty-five per cent. The predominant types of disability among SAAP service users are psychiatric disability, developmental disability and acquired brain injury. Nearly all people accommodated by SAAP services in inner city areas have a significant level of disability (Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness, 2001).

In April 1995, National Shelter published The Cost of Housing Report. This Report addresses the connections between poverty and the ratio spent on housing costs to gross income. The Report shows that, on average, single women pay more than any other group – 35.8 percent of their gross income – on private rent. As private home-buyers, they pay 37.7 percent of their gross income, again the highest level, and single women pay the highest percentage of that gross income as public housing rent. This is hardly surprising, given the corpus of research showing that women, and single women parents, are the ones most affected by poverty, that they are less likely to own homes, and spend more of their gross income on housing-related costs, such as rent, mortgage repayments, and maintenance.

The Cost of Housing Report provides no statistics specifically on women with disabilities. However, it is well documented that women with disabilities pay for the costs that their disabilities incur only because decision-makers have not factored in that humans have disabilities. Watson, in her report “…we do without…” (1995) details a range of these costs. They include modifications to make houses accessible, health care and attendant care bills and the purchase of other accommodation support services. Without these modifications and services, many people would suffer a grave deterioration in their quality of life and level of independence.

As Gething (1999) underlines, disability-related costs account for a large proportion of income that could otherwise be saved or invested to attain security of tenure. The lack of alternative accommodation for women with disabilities makes security of tenure crucial to them. Issues such as physical accessibility of housing and the neighbourhood, discrimination by landlords, lack of accessible housing and proximity to disability services make it very difficult for women with disabilities to move house, even if their current housing is inadequate.

Suitable location is particularly important for women with disabilities. The lack of accessible transport means that they may need to live very close to work, shops and schools. They may also need to live close to disability or health services. Outer suburbs are simply not feasible for many women with disabilities (Cusack, 1992; Wilson and Scott, 1995).

Cooper (1993) eloquently explains why policy and program administrators must truly factor these additional costs into their decisions. She notes:

If people have the same level of income, but its real value is reduced by costs which they require to do the ordinary activities which human beings do, then the group with the extra costs is disadvantaged.

Also some women live with more severe disabilities than others. Such severity reduces choice among limited accommodation options and increased likelihood of premature entry into cared accommodation (Brooks, Davidson, Kendig and Reynolds, 1998). Lack of accommodation and care choices are compounded by unemployment, because most in this group rely on income support. This reliance precludes them from purchasing housing in the private sector.

The limited resources available because of community services funding caps, limit the provision of service and flexibility of service options regardless of high levels of unmet demand (Kalisch, 2000). This means carers have to pick up the tab, including carers who have disabilities. Women are nearly three times more likely than men to be primary carers in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1998). The immediate and longer-term costs of caring are usually the emotional and physical decline of carers and financial costs of lost income and opportunities for advancement and promotion (Watson and Mears, 1996).

What Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) knows to be very important about SAAP

SAAP Is A Valuable And Necessary Program For Everyone

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is critical to the health and well-being of Australians. It is direly needed by those groups that are disproportionately at risk of homelessness (Keys and Young 1998). Keys Young (1998, p. 78) reported that there was widely held acceptance that refuges were an absolutely essential service for women experiencing domestic violence and that they play a vital role in providing places of safety for women in crisis situations.

SAAP Is A Response To Fall-Out From Political Economic Decisions Made By Dominant Groups

It may seem redundant to say it is imperative that administrators of ‘the SAAP system’ comprehend homelessness as overwhelmingly caused by political economic systems, not people who find themselves homeless (Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness, 2001). However, it seems increasingly necessary to remind government and non-government architects of policies and programs.

Many of the ‘high and the low’ in Australia have supported decisions that were evidently bound to severely disenfranchise certain groups of citizens. These groups include women with disabilities and others who were already gravely disadvantaged by decades of decision-makers ignoring their rights. After supporting regressive measures, many Australians have washed their hands of remedying the harms of these measures on their fellows (see, generally, ACOSS website www.acoss.org.au).

There can be no improving SAAP, unless the press and the three arms of government refuse the lie that homelessness is caused, or at least, exacerbated by lack of state provisions for the poor. There is a raft of evidence indicating that unless there are such basic provisions, societies cannot attain stability, good governance and economic growth (see, generally, ACOSS website www.acoss.org.au). This evidence is well accepted by conservative, reformist and radical economists, sociologists, health planners and others.

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Disabilities Who Are Elders

When this Submission uses the term ‘elder’ it is deploying the same definition as that used in SAAP. In SAAP, someone seeking or receiving services is an elder, if they are aged fifty years and over and they have lived in chronic transience, unless the person is Indigenous. In that case, the person is regarded as an elder, if she is forty-five years of age or older. This exception is due to Indigenous people generally experiencing poorer health outcomes. This is because a person tends to prematurely age when they have lived with chronic homelessness for long periods.

According to the latest SAAP statistics, almost half of the SAAP ‘support periods’ for elders were for elders who were in receipt of Disability Support Pension at the commencement of their period(s) of support (Wright-Howie 2002).

About eleven percent of older SAAP clients stated that they required assistance, because they had recently arrived in the area, whereas eight percent of younger people provided this reason. Older male clients appear to have lived the most transiently of all SAAP clients. Both women and men elders tended to nominate financial difficulties as the major reason they seek SAAP assistance. Further, psychiatric illness seems to have been more prevalent among both men and women elders, than among younger SAAP clients.

However, while forty percent of the women elders stated domestic violence was the main reason they sought out SAAP assistance, none of the men elders offered this reason. Instead, they said they required help because of their financial and/or substance abuse problems.

Older homeless people are less likely to access traditional homelessness programs such as SAAP and more likely to approach services offering mainstream programs such as Home and Community Care (HACC).

Formally speaking, HACC services do not exclude elders who are homeless. However, there is some evidence that some organisations find elders who are homeless unfitting for HACC services. This evidence suggests that HACC services are ill-prepared to meet the needs of elders who are homeless because:

  • they have long waiting lists of potential clients.
  • they serve clients on an appointment-basis only.
  • they lack specialist services for elders who are homeless.
  • they are often staffed by people who lack a sophisticated understanding of homelessness.
  • they are often under-resourced and this dearth of resources exacerbated by the HACC output based funding system.
  • the reluctance of staff to assist people who they consider to be exhibiting challenging behaviours, intoxication and/or poor hygiene.
  • the beliefs of staff that such people who are homeless pose occupational health and safety concerns.
  • they presume that each client will have a fixed, permanent address.
  • the silence of HACC purchaser-provider contracts about any requirement to serve people who are homeless.
  • the reticence by some older people who are homeless to trust community organisations and accept care and assistance.

Now more than ever, Australian elders live alone and, therefore, without the assistance that they might receive from a spouse or adult child. As compared to men, significant numbers of women aged sixty-five years and older live by themselves. This is because they live longer than men and tend to marry older men. In the over-eighty age group, fifty-four percent of men lived with (a) family member(s), while only sixteen percent of women did. Further, fifty-five percent of women, as compared to twenty-percent of men, were residing alone (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1997).

People aged sixty-five years and older makeup twelve percent of the population in Australia. In Australia by the year 2051, over a quarter of the total population will be aged 65 years or older (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996). The baby boomers, born around the late 1940s, are now entering their 50s. Within ten years, this large group of people will be approaching old age. Medical advances are allowing a growing proportion of older people to survive to the oldest-old category (eighty years of age and more) (McCafferty, 1994).

Ageing and disability are positively, linearly correlated. For example, disability rises from four percent of children 0-4 years to eighty-four percent of those aged eighty-five and over (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1998). Further, advances in technology, medical care and community support mean that more people with longstanding disabilities who once would have died before reaching late adulthood, now have a life expectancy that approximates that of the general population (Gething, 1999; Office of Disability, 1999).

This means that persons who became disabled early in life are ageing and ageing faster. For instance, chronic health problems typically associated with older age tend to surface earlier and have worse consequences (Burns, Batavia, Smith and DeJong, 1990; Kahler, 1998). Additionally, this group has a much greater chance of re-hospitalisation than the general population, with some US studies reporting re-hospitalisation rates as great as forty percent within the first year of discharge (Burns et al., 1990).

Many people in younger generations have been part of the deinstitutionalisation process and already have high support needs. Consequently, it can be expected that many would resist reinstitutionalisation solely on the basis of advanced age (Kahler, 1998; Morgan, 1996).

Consequently, it is imperative that the Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program strives to induce policy-makers, program administrators and front-line staff to:

  • recognise that older people who are homeless often age prematurely and thus basing SAAP services on chronological definitions of age is likely to impact in unjust ways on people who are chronologically young but experience the needs of an older person.
  • focus on the factors that keep them hidden from mainstream aged care and support.
  • providing access to stable and affordable housing and care options that are linked to appropriate supports.
  • addressing physical and mental health and well-being.
  • reducing the level of preventable illness and injury they experience.
  • developing community services that recognises the marginalisation of older homeless people and assists them to integrate into community services.
  • achieving a planned and coordinated approach to policy and program development and implementation across tiers of government and across government and non-government services.

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Young Women With Disabilities

One of the official SAAP aims to reduce homelessness among young people (McIntosh and Phillips, 2000). Recent research shows that young people aged between fifteen and twenty-five years continue to access SAAP services at a greater rate than other age groups (Commonwealth Department of Family and Children’s Services, 2003).

However, Keys and Young (1998) found that many women with disabilities were deterred from accessing refuges, because they believed that some refuges’ practices were discriminatory, especially towards women with psychiatric disabilities and young women.

WWDA believes that there are many serious concerns about SAAP services for young women:

  • who are indigenous.
  • who are of a non-English speaking background.
  • who are of a minority sexuality or gender.
  • who live with a psychiatric disability.
  • who have an intellectual disability.
  • who have a physical or sensory disability.
  • who rely on attendant carers.
  • who live in a disadvantaged locale.(see below sections in that order of groups).

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Indigenous Women With Disabilities

Indigenous women and men have long devised and implemented effective initiatives and systems to stop the trauma of colonisation processes being passed down from one generation to another. They have established and sustained primary health care services; employment support schemes; refuges for women and children; rape crisis centres; maternal health services; early childhood education programs; drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities; and so on.

However, in 2003, the year after the fifth anniversary of the Sea of Hands, unemployment for indigenous Australians is four times higher than for other Australians. The Australian Bureau of Statistics publication, Experimental Statistics: Labour force characteristics of Indigenous Australians (ABS Cat.6287) indicates that the rate was a staggering twenty-three percent in February 2003. Further, infant mortality rates are three times higher than that for non-Indigenous Australians and life expectancy nearly twenty years lower.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, in its Report, Bringing Them Home (1997), recommended that the Federal Government apologise to the Stolen Generations. This recommendation received deep and wide approbation from Aboriginal people and their supporters. No apology has been forthcoming from the national government, despite repeated calls for one from the National Reconciliation Council, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, church leaders and other.

The Prime Minister has insisted on ‘practical reconciliation’ alone, even though many communities have held ‘sorry’ ceremonies, reconciliation marches, and memorials for those who were harmed by the forced removal of children.

Given this, it is hardly surprising that the Prime Minister’s ‘practical reconciliation’ has not translated into significant investments in adequate housing and housing support for Aboriginal people. This is so, notwithstanding that adequate housing is one of the highest predictors of health and well-being and Aboriginal people, on average, experience the lowest levels of health and well-being and housing, against any official benchmark.

In comparison to non-Indigenous clients of SAAP, Indigenous clients are more likely to be female, in particular women escaping domestic violence; more likely to be users of crisis/short-term accommodation services; and more likely to use SAAP services for a shorter period of time.

Research conducted in Western Australia found that Indigenous women were more likely to use refuges as respite from violence rather than transition (Blagg et al. 1999). Research conducted in Northern Territory also points out a number of cultural differences in use of and response to refuges or shelters by Indigenous women (McPeake 1999). Indigenous women expressed concern that the services would be ‘feminist’, ‘man-hating’ or ‘run by lesbians’ and the lack of culturally appropriate staff (Keys Young 1998).

As the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness stresses (2001), there must be comprehensive improvements to the appropriateness and volume of SAAP and related services for Indigenous people.

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Disabilities Who Are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)

Research indicates that �migr�s to Australia who hail from places beyond the English- speaking world generally experience a lower incidence of disability than any other group of Australians. Yet, within this population of immigrants, there are different levels of disability experienced by people within different ethnic minorities. For instance, Greek, Italian and other European women experience high rates of disability relative to the rest of the Australian population (Ageing and Disability Department of NSW, 1996; Kendig and Russell, 1998; Mathers, 1994).

Researchers have conducted little investigation of the uptake of housing and care services by disabled people from non-English speaking backgrounds. However, there is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that these people are under- represented in the populations using these services (Chan and Quine, 1997; Cranny and Associates, 1998; Plunket and Quine, 1996).

Research by Keys and Young (1998) identified a range of reasons why women did not access refuges. These included the failure of some refuges to be culturally inclusive in terms of staffing, the advertising/marketing of their service, their service-delivery approach and the development of skills in dealing with issues relating to special needs of particular women (Keys Young 1998, pp. 78-80). This research also showed that many women from non-English speaking backgrounds were concerned that refuges are ‘feminist’, ‘man-hating’ or ‘run by lesbians’ (Keys Young 1998).

The Keys Young (1998, p. 78) found that a range of service-providers nominated women with a disability and women from non-English speaking backgrounds, as groups they thought were less likely to use existing domestic violence crisis and related services. Again, unpaid carers do what ‘formal’ services do not do, particularly women carers (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1998).

WWDA is concerned that the SAAP national administrators seem to have not seriously attempted to remedy this deficit of SAAP information to CALD women. A multi-lingual communications campaign that is well-researched and broadcast through a range of media is long overdue. The National Domestic Violence Forum recommended such a campaign in 1996.

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Disabilities Of Minority Genders And Sexualities

With the release of Our Homeless Children (The Burdekin Report) in 1989, a report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s National Inquiry into Homeless Children documented the experiences of homeless young people. The report provided a greater understanding and acknowledgment of this social issue (as demonstrated in Irwin, Winter, Gregoric and Watts, 1995; Irwin, Winter and Gregoric, 1997; Chamberlain and Mackenzie, 1998; Myers, Mallett, Rossiter and Rosenthal 2003; and House of Representative Standing Committee on Community Affairs, 1995).

To date there has been little research conducted on homelessness among young people with minority sexualities and genders. One was carried out in Sydney, namely, As Long As I’ve Got My Doona (Irwin, Winter, Gregoric, Watts, 1995) and another in the United Kingdom called ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’: Homelessness Amongst Lesbian and Gay Youth (O’Conner and Molloy, 2001).

Both revealed the experiences of homelessness among young people who identified as lesbian, gay and bisexual. A critical, epistemological flaw in these studies was that they departed from the premise that young people identify only as heterosexual or gay or lesbian or bisexual. Yet a swathe of research in the liberal arts and public health as well as autobiographical pieces suggest that people – including young people – experience their sexuality and gender in modes that transcend these narrow, orthodox categories of identity.

To begin with, many people who have sexual relations with people who share their gender do not regard themselves in their own minds, let alone to the world, as a ‘gay’ or homosexual’ or ‘lesbian’ or ‘dyke’. Further, many do but only within themselves and, often, with much ambivalence, if not self-loathing (Savine-Williams cited in Davies 1996).

Our society is generally presented in heterosexual terms, however it is estimated that one in ten people identify with diverse sexuality and gender expression (Farnan, 2001). Sexuality can be understood as three related continuums; namely, sexual orientation, sexual behaviour and sexual identity where human sexuality is recognised as fluid, diverse and complex (Mackenzie, 2003, Farnan, 2001, Savine-Williams cited in Davies 1996, Remafedi, Farrow and Deisher, 1991).

The Standing Committee on Community Affairs in 1995 made five recommendations to the National SAAP Coordination and Development Committee on services for young people with minority sexualities and/or genders.

The first recommendation was that research funds must be made available to gather data on homeless young people with diverse sexuality and gender expression (Australian Parliament House of Representative Standing Committee on Community Affairs, 1995).

The second was that at least one specialist SAAP service be established in each major capital city for young people who identify as same-sex attracted. Third, that all SAAP services provide training to staff on issues relating to the sexuality of young people. Fourth, that SAAP service address those issues associated with the safety of young people who identify as members of a minority sexuality or gender (Australian Parliament House of Representative Standing Committee on Community Affairs, 1995).

The final recommendation was that SAAP staff be trained in adolescent mediation and family therapy services and young people’s sexuality (Australian Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee on Community Affairs, 1995).

WWDA notes that the second recommendation is not being implemented. WWDA also noted that it is extremely difficult to find any evidence of whether or not the other recommendations are being implemented, apart from the SAAP-funded study, Closets of (Y)SAAP (Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services, 2003).

That it is not evident to WWDA – after scouring SAAP State, Territory and National Reports and Evaluations – that anything, apart from one study, is redressing the inaccessibility of SAAP services to people of minority sexualities and genders is extremely concerning. This is especially because research bears out that young people had experienced both perceived and actual queerphobia from clients and staff while accessing SAAP agencies and accommodation and related services. Further, it showed that this queerphobia often deterred them from accessing the services they needed. Consequently, they slept on the streets, in squats, abandoned buildings, stairwells and doorways (Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services, 2003). This research also concluded that SAAP workers are often unequipped to address homophobia from other residents and unaware of sexual health issues (2003).

State and Federal Governments must develop service delivery models and implement other strategies to reduce heterosexist and queerphobic service delivery. SAAP workers must be trained to recognise queerphobia and its effects and demonstrate sensitivity to homeless people with minority sexualities and genders (Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services, 2003).

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Psychiatric Disabilities

In 1992, SAAP service providers reported thirteen per cent of their clients had a psychiatric disability (SAAP, 1999). Much has been researched and written on the housing needs of people with psychiatric disabilities. Notwithstanding this, the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Homelessness publication, Working Towards a National Homelessness Strategy (2001) has identified that Australia has much improvement to do in this regard.

WWDA commends to the evaluators the analysis and recommendations of Astrid Reynolds and Susan Inglis (Ecumenical Housing Inc.) (2001): Effective Programme Linkages – An examination of current knowledge with a particular emphasis on people with mental illness Work-in-Progress Report, prepared and published by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Swinburne-Monash Research Centre, Melbourne.

Further, this group is hardly ever included in decision-making about state programs, including SAAP. There are many overseas examples of this that national, state and territory SAAP policy-makers and service deliverers can fruitfully use to inform their attempts (see, for example, Allen and Granger, 1997; Deegan, 1992; Curtis, Montague, McCabe, Caron, Harp, 1991; Chamberlain, 1990; Campbell and Schraiber, 1989).

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Intellectual Disabilities

In 1992, SAAP service providers reported that eleven per cent of their clients had either a physical or intellectual disability (SAAP, 1999). Rigorous and methodologically sound research has shown that thirty-nine to sixty-eight percent of girls with developmental disabilities are sexually assaulted before their eighteenth birthday (Roeher Institute, 1988).

Further, this group is hardly ever included in decision-making about state programs, including SAAP. There are many overseas examples of this that national, state and territory SAAP policy-makers and service deliverers can fruitfully use to inform their attempts (see, for example, Mount, 1990). WWDA can find very little evidence that SAAP has properly attended to housing choices for this group.

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Physical And Sensory Disabilities

Lack of access to assistive aids can prevent women with disabilities from using a SAAP service. It may not be necessary for each service to carry all types of such aids. Equipment ‘pools’ should be developed so that services within geographic areas can share the resources. TTY telephones should be installed in all SAAP services and referral agencies.

SAAP agencies and accommodation are physically inaccessible to some women with physical and sensory disabilities. The gravity of this deficit becomes clear, when it is considered that accessible housing is simply not available on the private market to the degree required. It is beyond the means of most women with disabilities to make these modifications, should a private landlord allow such alterations. Further, a lack of security of tenure means that they may have to make modifications every time they are forced to move (AHURI, 2002; WWDA, 2002).

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Disabilities Who Rely On Attendant Carers

The lack of personal care available in SAAP services, such as refuges, can prevent women with disabilities from accessing them. This can be a result of services not knowing what support services are available. It can also be due to service policies – requiring clients to be ‘self-managing’ or not allowing care agencies to provide services in accommodation, such as refuges, for security reasons. Formal networks and service agreements with personal care services need to be developed. SAAP service policies should be reviewed and amended as necessary (WWDA, 2002).

SAAP Must Be Properly Extended To Women With Disabilities In Disadvantaged Locales

Many urban corridors of poverty have become devastated by the decades-old death of the Reserve Bank’s commitment to full employment. Many people of this generation who would like to work will never work. Often their parents and sometimes their male grandparents were not fully employed in the labour market either, as much as they desired this. This is the tragedy of various economic shifts that have occurred throughout the Western world, since the early 1970s.

Sudden and sustained mass unemployment has resulted from the closures and privatisations of processing and manufacturing plants and port and other ancillary services in the industrial suburbs of urban cities and in industry-dominated regional ones (see Argy, 2003).

In rural and regional farming areas, Australians’ quality of life has also seriously deteriorated. A great toll has been exacted by decades of down-turns in agricultural commodity markets; increases in micro-economic and free trade reforms; under-investment in rural and regional public infrastructure; and, until relatively recently, poor land and water management (Argy, 2003).

Apart from the illness deriving from financial stresses, there have also been so-called ‘clusters’ of people contracting cancer and other auto-immune diseases. These clusters have principally been around heavy metal mines, benzene-emitting smoke stacks and fields sprayed with pesticides. This is in areas with a lack of health care and other support services (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1998). This and other suffering has been shouldered by the carers in these deprived communities. These carers are overwhelmingly women (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Refuges are still very inaccessible to rural women, due to the distances that they must travel to reach refuges and, often, with inadequate transport infrastructure (WESNET 2000).

Another review in 1993 highlighted the need for SAAP to have an even broader vision than provision of shelter and support and identified the need for the program to respond to the factors causing homelessness rather than continuing to react to the crisis (Casey et al. 1996, p. 275). It was recognised that women and children escaping domestic and family violence have a wide range of needs and require access to:

  • stable and secure income;
  • training, education and employment opportunities;
  • health services;
  • disability and rehabilitation programs;
  • children’s support services;
  • legal advice and assistance;
  • individual and family counselling and mediation; and
  • long term secure and affordable accommodation (Casey et al. 1996, p. 275).

SAAP Information Must Be Properly Extended To All Women With Disabilities

There is very little information on SAAP services that reaches women with disabilities. Research undertaken by Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has found that many women with disabilities are unaware that services exist, or how to reach them. The Keys Young (1998, p. 49-52) study showed that although domestic violence services are publicised, some women were still not aware of them. Women in isolated situations, particularly rural and remote areas, migrant women who spoke little or no English and women with a disability, appeared to be least aware of services and how to access them.

This is very alarming, when it is remembered that approximately fifty percent of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime (Sobsey 1988) fifty percent of women with disabilities have been sexually abused as children; and thirty-nine to sixty-eight percent of girls with developmental disabilities will be so assaulted before their eighteenth birthday (Roeher Institute, 1988).

A communications campaign on what SAAP services do and how, when, where and why should be developed specifically to reach women with disabilities, women in rural and remote areas and CALD women. The National Domestic Violence Forum recommended this in 1996.

Researchers who have examined the types of assistance sought by women have generally used the categories ‘informal’ or ‘formal’ assistance. Informal includes friends, relatives and women’s self-help groups and formal includes social service organisations, doctors, hospitals, police, religious organisations and shelters.

Most of this research indicates that about half of any given sample of women experiencing domestic violence have turned to their family and friends for assistance. Women who have reported receiving help from relatives or friends have rated it as very important to being able to leave their partners (Sullivan et al. 1994, p. 3).

Hill and Stamey (1990, p. 311) argue that moving from ‘housed’ to ‘homeless’ is a process whereby people move from a self-sufficient home/house, to living with friends, relatives, or in government, temporary housing, to the streets.

WWDA regards it as wise for any communication campaign to be targeted at influencing not only women enduring domestic violence, but these others to whom they turn.

SAAP Must Comply With International Human Rights Law

The Commonwealth Government’s obligation to provide emergency and supported accommodation for homeless people needs to be understood as an incident of the international human right to adequate housing. That is, it must be recognised as a part of the Government’s minimum core obligation, under international human rights law, to ensure ‘basic housing’. This obligation cannot be derogated from except in the most exceptional of circumstances. None of such circumstances obtain in Australia.

The Australian Commonwealth Government has not directly incorporated this right to adequate housing into Australian law. Instead, it provides various programs, on which it relies for the protection of aspects of the right. SAAP is one of these Programs.

However, SAAP cannot be so relied upon. It fails to implement the right in three fundamental ways.

First, it fails to provide all homeless people with a right of access to services or other assistance. The Commonwealth Parliament could provide a legal basis for this right of access by enacting legislation similar to Scotland’s Homelessness Act 2002. The Homelessness Act lays down a legal right of access to permanent, adequate housing for certain homeless people. It also declares that, in ten years time, this right will belong to all homeless people, not just the prescribed types of homeless people who it presently covers.

Second, the SAAP Program provides insufficient guarantees that its accommodation will fulfill the adequacy requirements of emergency and supported housing, under international law. One fundamental instance of this is that none of the SAAP service standards provide guarantees of accommodation that meet the standards of the legal right of access to housing.

The rights specified in the service standards are insufficient to adequately protect those human rights of which homeless people are often deprived. In many SAAP services, the clients’ rights are made conditional upon client responsibilities, which are often more numerous and weighty than the rights. Where responsibilities are not fulfilled, or there are breaches, rights are withdrawn. The effect of this is that those rights that appear to be guaranteed in the service standards are not protected.

For example, people are often evicted from SAAP services and then denied referral to another service. Thus, rather than protecting the rights of homeless people, the SAAP service standards can be used to further violate them. The CESCR has identified forced evictions as a violation of the human right to adequate housing. CESCR notes that:

evictions should not result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available.

The SAAP accountability mechanisms to enforce the right of adequate housing are also woeful. Apart from in New South Wales, service standards are enforced only by internal grievance procedures. Further, with no right to appeal to an independent administrative or judicial body and no external monitoring of the internal procedures or compliance with service standards. This enforcement falls very short of an effective remedy for housing rights violations, as stipulated by the ICESCR. Such lax enforcement of the right is also contrary to the human rights protection terms of the SAAP Act.

Third, the total SAAP budget is too small to implement the right to adequate housing to the extent mandated by Article 2(1) of the ICESCR. This Article requires each state party, Australia included, to implement the right to adequate housing by taking steps:

to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognised in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.

The Commonwealth funding allocations to SAAP preclude SAAP services from properly meeting the needs of the homeless people it serves.

For example, there is scant mention of housing and housing support services, in the Women’s Budget Statement 2003-04, announced on 13 May 2003, by Senator the Honourable Amanda Vanstone, the then Minister for Family and Community Services and the then Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. More specifically, there are two passing mentions of housing. The first is with respect to the Other Women’s Programmes funding program, which, the Budget Statement states covers:

a range of research activities including: Analysis of housing services and housing support services that are required to facilitate successful transitions, or exit pathways, out of homelessness for women.

The second reference to housing matters is under the heading Rural Women’s Outreach Project. It reads:

The Government also funds community legal services around Australia to provide legal services to women in rural and remote areas and to those who are isolated due to factors such as disability, age or domestic violence. These specialist legal services most often deal with issues of domestic violence and family law; child support; child abuse; discrimination and harassment; financial matters; housing and tenancy; property; consumer credit; and relationships.

It is only fair to characterise these housing notes as incidental ones. That they are the only points on housing in the entire Statement of Federal Budget items dedicated to women is most concerning. It is so because of the raft of up-to-date research – much of which the Commonwealth government commissioned – pointing to the magnitude and destructiveness of women missing out on adequate housing.

Considering the unrealistically low SAAP budget and that Australia is a long-standing ‘developed’ country, it is doubtful that Australia is fulfilling its ICESCR obligation to implement the right to housing maximally within its available resources.

SAAP Reporting Reforms Are Urgently Required

The SAAP National Data Collection has informed national and state and territory policy and program considerations and borne out the imperative for the three tiers of government to continue to invest in eliminating homelessness and family violence. However, the effectiveness of the National Data Collection is a function of SAAP agencies adopting consistent approaches to assessment.

WWDA urges the Evaluators to consider how the National Data Collection might be deployed to collect and report data that assists in early identification of needs for appropriate referral to specialist and generalist services and enhanced involvement of generic and specialist services; and reduced duplication of assessments of people presenting at different SAAP agencies and support services.

In this regard, WWDA hopes that the National SAAP Client Outcomes Project develops robust qualitative as well as quantitative outcome measures, including reductions in client needs during her period of support.

WWDA sees great value in the development of uniform SAAP assessment approaches common to all the States and Territories and common data categories and associated assessment tools across programs, especially mental health, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, disability rehabilitation and support, education, employment, vocational training, income support and housing services.

WWDA regards this as fundamental to the proper development of so-called ‘specialist, integrated responses’ to people whose needs span a range of program and/or departmental areas. Such responses include the Complex Clients Project in Victoria; the Management Assessment Panels in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory; and the Exceptional Clients Project in South Australia.

Each National and State/Territory SAAP evaluation, review and performance report should account for the levels of compliance of SAAP services with State and Territory and Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws and the international human right to adequate housing.

Each of these evaluations and reports should also note the extent to which the SAAP providers have systematically and comprehensively identified and corrected any actual or potential breaches of these laws. These notes should cover whether providers have developed and lodged Action Plans under applicable anti-discrimination laws, where these laws provide for such Plans. For instance, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission advises on and registers Action Plans that accord with the terms of the Act.

The SAAP Act requires a National Research Program for the purposes of informing SAAP policy, management and outcomes evaluation. The aim of this Program is to provide high quality information about homelessness, homeless people and SAAP (SAAP Data and Research Advisory Committee, 2000). This Program has recently come to offer research grants for projects that integrally involve SAAP agencies. WWDA commends the outcomes of these projects. Some of them have focused on the needs of women, although seldom the needs of women with disabilities.

WWDA considers it urgent that SAAP research grants are made available very soon to well-planned projects on the strengths and weaknesses of SAAP services vis-�-vis women with disabilities. As stated by the authors of the Working Towards a National Homelessness Strategy (2001):

We need to know more about:

  • the extent of homelessness among people with disabilities, particularly those living in abusive environments or accommodation that falls below minimum community standards.
  • the links between psychiatric disability, intellectual disability, brain injury, dementia and drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness.
  • the benefits of integrated accommodation, support and income security packages to people with a disability.
  • the impact of individualised funding arrangements on the availability and quality of support services for people with disabilities and their carers and families, particularly where the individual or family is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

This research would be far more cost-effective and useful, if it studied how women and children experience the above factors, as compared to men. This is so, because, as is widely acknowledged, societies treat women and children differently from men, including women and children with disabilities. Accordingly, different policy responses are often warranted for each group.

What Reforms Outside SAAP Will Move SAAP Upwards And Onwards

Women with disabilities are clearly an immensely diverse group of people who consequently have diverse met and unmet housing needs and aspirations. This much is known. What is not is the profile of which women with disabilities need and want what housing options. This missing intelligence is commented on in numerous research and administrative reports (National Working Party on Housing for People With Disabilities 1994; Sach and Associates 1992; Conway 1994). WWDA hopes that this may be corrected after the 2006 Census, in which, the ABS reports, there will be questions about a person’s disability status.

Further, WWDA joins other organisations (see www.afho.org.au and www.acoss.org.au)in their calls for all Australian governments to urgently work with community organisations to develop and implement a robust and sustainable National Housing Strategy.

This Strategy must offer a suite of measures to eradicate homelessness that SAAP neither can, nor should, provide alone. WWDA, hence, makes the following Recommendations:

  • extend substantially the eligibility and entitlement of Rent Assistance payments to those spending a high proportion of their net income on private market rent.
  • increase the rates of income support, well above the current rates, which, for people receiving income support as students or unemployed persons, are set at between twenty-three and thirty-nine percent below the poverty line.
  • abolish the harsh financial penalties imposed on social security recipients for missing appointments and other administrative ‘offences’.
  • work seriously with the States and Territories to guarantee adequate legislative protection for tenants.
  • improve tax and other incentives for private investment in housing that has a low purchase or rent price.
  • allocate the funds previously spent on First Home Ownership Assistance Grants, to subsidisation of public and community housing and to individuals purchasing low-cost private housing to live in.
  • elevate dramatically the availability of free housing dedicated to people in short-, medium- and long-term accommodation crises.
  • boost significantly state and business subsidisation of low-rent and low purchase-cost housing that provides security of tenure and accessibility to transport, health and other essential infrastructure.
  • induce property developers to heavily subsidise transport, recreation and other infrastructure in areas where they develop housing estates.
  • reform negative gearing rules to raise funds for affordable housing and reduce incentives for purchasers to invest in high cost housing.

Why These Extra-SAAP Reforms Are Relevant And Warranted

WWDA considers that there is sufficient evidence bearing out that such initiatives effectively increase the supply of affordable housing situated adjacent to health, education, recreation and employment infrastructure and the provision of suitable emergency housing for those who lose access to this housing.

WWDA also believes that these measures can be realistically and sensibly provided for in the next Commonwealth Budget. The Government’s 2003-04 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement predicts ‘healthy’ economic growth and underlying cash surpluses.

Further, there would be more money in the Federal coffers, if the Government progresses its tax reforms, by setting in train measures to curb tax avoidance and unjust tax concessions. Accordingly, WWDA Recommends that the Government resolves to:

  • curb the use of private companies and trusts to avoid personal income tax.
  • reduce the tax deductions available for negatively geared investments in property and shares and introduce incentives for investment in low cost rental housing.
  • eliminate the Fringe Benefit Tax concessions for company cars and the exemption for employer provided child care.
  • reduce the tax breaks that are available to high-income earners via employer-funded share schemes by restricting Fringe Benefit Tax exemptions and abolishing the ten year tax deferral options.
  • simplify and clarify the taxation rules that apply to charitable services and introduce a tax credit for their expenses incurred administering the Goods and Services Tax.
  • phase out the Private Health Insurance Rebate and the Baby Bonus.
  • restrict eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card to people with limited financial means and further subsidise prescription medicines.

It might be remarked that many of the Recommendations in this Submission are not about preventing homelessness or bolstering SAAP, but about poverty reduction.

It would be correct to say so. Several of the Recommendations regard social security and taxation reforms; regulation of developers of residential estates; and direct public spending.

This is because these poverty reduction priorities are at the heart of making SAAP a viable Program and homelessness a museum piece.

After all, the demand for SAAP services cannot be decreased, unless there is a demolition of the structural causes of homelessness. It is well-established from researches in Australia and overseas that these causes are violence, substance abuse, psychiatric illness, lack of affordable and suitable housing, unemployment, underemployment, inadequate wages and income support and a lack of access to essential services and supports.

Concluding Notes

Many of us, at some point, will have nowhere to call home, unless the following are sufficiently mitigated and eliminated: violence; poverty; unemployment, underemployment and poorly recompensed employment; income support that fails to provide a living social wage and a dearth of other public supports.

It is hoped that this programme of reform is one that is regarded as axiomatic by the National Evaluators of SAAP IV. If it is not, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) asks the Evaluators to meditate on how international human rights law has long required Australia and other developed nation-states to rigorously implement such a programme.

Not only is it legally impermissible for the Commonwealth Government to be indifferent to the inadequate housing and other human rights breaches to which many of them are systematically and routinely subjected; it is also not morally permissible on any reading of ethical codes of the Western world and most places beyond.


Australian Bureau of Statistics (1997), 1996 Census of Population and Housing: Basic Community Profile – Australia, Cat. No. 2020.0 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Australian Bureau of Statistics (1998a) Mental Health and Wellbeing: Profile of Adults, Australia 1997, Cat. No. 4326.0 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Australian Bureau of Statistics (1998b) 1996 Census of Population and Housing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Cat. No. 2034.0 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2000a) Australian Social Trends 2000, Cat. No. 4102.0 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2000b) Population Projections, Australia, 1999-2101, Cat. No. 3222.0 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (1999) The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Cat. No. 4704.0 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics) [82]

Bartholomew, Terry (1999) A Long Way from Home: Family Homelessness in the Current Welfare Context (Waurn Ponds: Deakin University Press)

Carlisle, Jane (1996) The Housing Needs of Ex-prisoners (Heslington: Centre for Housing Policy, University of York)

Chamberlain, Chris (1999) Counting the Homeless: Implications for Policy Development, Census of Population and Housing: Occasional Paper, Cat. No. 2041.0 (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Chamberlain, Chris and Mackenzie, David (1998) Youth Homelessness: Early Intervention and Prevention (Erskineville: Australian Centre for Equity Through Education)

Department of Family and Community Services (1999a) Housing Assistance Act 1996: Annual Report 1998-99 [Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement] (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

Department of Family and Community Services (1999b) “Social Indicators for Regional Australia”, Attachment to the FaCS Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services, May 1999, unpublished (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

Department of Family and Community Services (2000) Australian Children: Circumstances and Trends, Research FaCS Sheet No. 7 (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

Doherty, Deidre et al (1999) “Single Women and Homelessness”, There’s No Place Like Home: Proceedings of the 2nd National Conference on Homelessness, Melbourne, 19-21 May 1999 (Melbourne: Council to Homeless Persons, 1999)

Ecumenical Housing Inc and Thomson Goodall Associates Pty Ltd (1999) Appropriate Responses for Homeless People Whose Needs Require a High Level and Complexity of Service Provision: Final Report (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness (1992) Outcasts on Main Street: Report of the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Serve Mental Illness, February 1992 (Washington: Interagency Council on the Homeless)

Hanover Welfare Services (1999) Drugs and Homelessness, Hanover Stats and Facts: No. 13 in a Series of Reports on Homelessness, August 1999 (Melbourne: Hanover Welfare Services)

Horn, Michael et al (1996) The Health Status of Children in Families Experiencing Homelessness: A Paper Presented at the First National Conference on Homelessness, Melbourne, 4-6 September 1996 (Melbourne: Council to Homeless Persons)

MacKenzie, David and Chamberlain, Chris (1992) “How many homeless youth?”, Youth Studies Australia Vol. 11, No. 4, December 1992 (Hobart: Australian Clearing House for Youth Studies) [83]

Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (1998) National Drug Strategic Framework 1998-99 to 2002-03: Building Partnerships, November 1998 (Canberra: Department of Health and Aged Care)

National Crime Prevention Programme (1999) Living Rough: Preventing Crime and Victimisation Among Homeless Young People, NCP Report No. 9 (Canberra: Attorney-General’s Department)

National Drug Strategy (2000) The Effectiveness of Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems: An Overview, National Drug Strategy Monograph No. 11 (Canberra: Department of Health and Aged Care)

Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (1999) Current Perspectives on Domestic Violence: A Review of National and International Literature (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

Prime Minister’s Youth Pathways Action Plan Taskforce (2001) Footprints to the Future: Report from the Prime Minister’s Youth Pathways Action Plan Taskforce (Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs)

Prosser, Bruce and Groth, Allan (1994) Reaching Out: Directions for Further Reform of Income Support and Related Programs to Assist People Experiencing Homelessness – Discussion Paper on Arrangements for Meeting the Needs of People Experiencing Homelessness, Policy Discussion Paper No. 5 (Canberra: Department of Income security)

Reference Group on Welfare Reform (2000) Participation Support for a More Equitable Society: Final Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform, August 2000 (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

SAAP Data and Research Advisory Committee (2000) Homelessness Information in Australia (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

SAAP National Data Collection Agency (2000) SAAP National Data Collection: Annual Report 1999-2000, Australia (Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (1999) Appropriate Responses for People Experiencing Homelessness Whose Needs Require a High Level and Complexity of Service Provision (Canberra: Department of Family and Community Services)

Weston, Ruth and Smyth, Bruce (2000) “Financial Living Standards After Divorce – A Recent Snapshot”, Family Matters No. 55, Autumn 2000 (Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies)

Yates, Judith and Wulff, Maryann (1999) Housing Markets and Household Income Polarisation: A Metropolitan and Regional Analysis – A Paper Presented at the National Housing Conference, Sydney, 29-30 November 1999 (Sydney: New South Wales Department of Housing)


Appendix 1: About Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) was incorporated in 1995 and evolved from the National Women’s Network within Disabled People’s International Australia (DPIA), where it had been operating as an un-funded Network for some eight years. WWDA was initially established by a group of women with disabilities who felt that their needs and concerns were not being acknowledged or addressed within the broader disability sector, or the women’s sector in Australia.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. It is a federating body of individuals and networks in each State and Territory of Australia and is made up of women with disabilities and associated organisations. The national secretariat is located in Tasmania, an island State of Australia. WWDA is run by women with disabilities, for women with disabilities. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA is inclusive and does not discriminate against any disability. WWDA seeks to ensure opportunities in all walks of life for all women with disabilities. In this it aims to increase awareness of, and address issues faced by, women with disabilities in the community. WWDA seeks to ensure the advancement of education of society to the status and needs of women with disabilities in order to promote equity, reduce suffering, poverty, discrimination and exploitation of women with disabilities. WWDA is unique, in that it operates as a national disability organisation; a national women’s organisation; and a national human rights organisation.

WWDA addresses disability within a social model, which identifies the barriers and restrictions facing women with disabilities as the focus for reform.

The aim of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is to be a national voice for the needs and rights of women with disabilities and a national force to improve the lives and life chances of women with disabilities.

The objectives of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) are:

  • to actively promote the participation of women with disabilities in all aspects of social, economic, political and cultural life;
  • to advocate on issues of concern to women with disabilities in Australia; and
  • to seek to be the national representative organisation for women with disabilities in Australia by: undertaking systemic advocacy; providing policy advice; undertaking research; and providing support, information and education.

More information about Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) can be found on WWDA’s website at: www.wwda.org.au

Appendix 2: The Position Of Women With Disabilities In Australia – A Snapshot

Women with disabilities are, from the government record, one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Australia. Analysis of data available from a variety of sources, gives us the following information about women with disabilities in Australia.

    • There are 3.6 million people in Australia with a disability, making up 19% of the total population. The proportion of males and females with a disability is similar (around 9.5% each) although it varies across age groups.


    • There are 1.8 million women with disabilities in Australia. There are more women with disabilities in the older age groups, most notably those 79 years onwards.


    • Of the 1.1 million people with a profound or severe core activity restriction, 616,000 are women with disabilities (56%). Among older people with disabilities, the rates of severe and profound disability are markedly greater for females.


    • Over 57% of women with disabilities living in households need assistance to move around or go out, shower or dress, prepare meals, do housework, undertake property maintenance or paperwork, or communicate.


    • Women with disabilities are less likely to be in paid work than other women, men with disabilities or the population as a whole. Men with disabilities are almost twice as likely to have jobs than women with disabilities. In 1997-98 Commonwealth Government funded open employment services assisted over 31,000 people with disabilities in their efforts to find and maintain jobs on the open labour market. 66.6% of those assisted were men with disabilities. Annual Census of Commonwealth Government funded open employment services show that the percentage of women with disabilities being assisted by these services has continued to decline.


    • Women with disabilities’ participation rates in the labour market are lower than men with disabilities’ participation rates across all disability levels and types. Women with disabilities are less likely than men with disabilities to receive vocational rehabilitation or entry to labour market programs. Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services statistics for 1994/5 indicate only 35% of referred clients were female with women more likely to be rehabilitated to independent living (45%) than vocational goals (36%).


    • Women with disabilities earn less than their male counterparts. 51% of women with a disability earn less than $200 per week compared to 36% of men with a disability. Only 16% of women with a disability earn over $400 per week, compared to 33% of men with a disability.


    • There is a higher incidence of incapacity (10.2%) for unemployed females in Australia compared to unemployed males (7.6%). This applies consistently across all age groups. Unemployed females have a one-third greater incidence of incapacity than unemployed males. The higher incidence of incapacity for unemployed females is more pronounced for those under 50 years age, and especially for 30-39 and under 21 year olds.


    • Women with disabilities are less likely than their male counterparts to receive a senior secondary and/or tertiary education. Only 16% of all women with disabilities are likely to have any secondary education compared to 28% of men with disabilities.


    • Women with disabilities are substantially over-represented in public housing, comprising over 40% of all persons in Australia aged 15-64 in this form of tenure. Women with disabilities are less likely to own their own houses than their male counterparts.


    • Women with disabilities pay the highest level of their gross income on housing, yet are in the lowest income earning bracket. Some women with disabilities pay almost 50 per cent of their gross income on housing and housing related costs. Over 20% of women with disabilities living in public housing are dissatisfied with the service they receive from their State or Territory housing authority.


    • Women with disabilities spend more of their income on medical care and health related expenses than men with disabilities.


    • Women with disabilities have a consistently higher level of unmet need than their male counterparts across all disability levels and types. Women with disabilities are less likely to receive appropriate services than men with equivalent needs or other women. 60% of recipients of disability support services funded under the Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement are men with disabilities.


    • Women with disabilities are less likely than women without disabilities to receive appropriate health services, particularly breast and cervical cancer screening programs, bone density testing, menopause and incontinence management. In Australia, 41% of women with disabilities with core activity restriction aged 70-75 have never had a mammogram. Almost 30% of women with disabilities aged 70-75 with core activity restriction have never had a pap smear. Of those women with disabilities aged 70-75 core activity restriction who have had a pap smear, 39% have not had regular pap smears (every 2 years). These figures are likely to be much higher for women with disabilities with different disability types (eg: intellectual, cognitive, psychiatric, deaf/hearing impaired, blind/visually impaired) across all age groups.


    • Girls and women with disabilities are more likely to be unlawfully sterilised than their male counterparts. Between 1992-1997 at least 1045 girls with disabilities in Australia have been unlawfully sterilised. Comparisons with other data sources suggest that the true number is much greater, perhaps by a factor of several times.


    • Regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class, women with disabilities are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate of at least two times greater than non-disabled women. Statistics indicate that 90% of women with intellectual disabilities have been sexually abused. 68% of women with an intellectual disability will be subjected to sexual abuse before they reach 18.


    • Women with disabilities are more likely to be institutionalised than their male counterparts.


    • Women with disabilities are often forced to live in situations in which they are vulnerable to violence. They are more likely to experience violence at work than other women, men with disabilities or the population as a whole.


  • Access to telecommunications is a major area of inequity for women with disabilities in Australia. A national survey in 1999 found that 84% of women with disabilities are restricted in their access to telecommunications. 49% of women with disabilities are restricted by issues of affordability; 76% by poor design of telecommunications equipment; 20% by lack of training; 20% by lack of information; and 18% by discrimination.

(Sources: Anderson 1996; Frohmader 1998; WWDA 1998; WWDA 1999, ABS 1999, ABS 1993, AIHW 1998, AIHW 1999, AIHW 2000, Currie 1996, Brady and Grover 1997, Temby 1997, Cooper and Temby 1997, Horsley 1991, Binstead 1997, Rutnam, Martin-Murray and Smith 1999, Warburton et al 1999).