Solving Indigenous homelessness requires unique approach

By Stuart Kavanagh

A report released in Canberra on Wednesday says Aboriginal people are 15 times more likely to experience homelessness than other Australians due to racism, dispossession of land, cultural oppression and profound economic disadvantage.

The authors of Urban indigenous Homelessness: much more than housing suggest tackling the problem will require a culturally sensitive approach more aligned with Aboriginal values and focusing on safety and understanding.

The report highlights a revolving door of homelessness amongst Aboriginals across the country. It identifies poor literacy, education, criminal histories, domestic violence and a lack of sustained tenancies as chief factors behind the issue.

Authored by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from UTAS, UniSA & Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, the report was at pains to stress the importance to approach the issue from an Aboriginal perspective, rather than a western approach.

Associate Professor Deirdre Tedmanson, the lead researcher for the report, says the lack of dedicated services to combat the issue is a massive hurdle that needs to be cleared. She also doubled down on the need for understanding the cultural differences.

“Some drivers of homelessness, such as overcrowding, are common issues for Aboriginal communities and can be linked in part to complex and important kinship obligations.

“Western notions of ‘home’ and ‘homelessness’ don’t necessarily resonate the same way with Aboriginal Australians in regional and remote areas so it’s important that responses are culturally informed, culturally appropriate and culturally safe,” Assoc Prof Tedmanson says.

New policy and funding strategies with direct input from Aboriginal leaders is what is needed to improve the co-ordination of housing, homelessness and related services, according to the report.

In short, what is required is more culturally safe accessible social housing for First Nations people.

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