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leigh muirhead and karen lyon reid at the 2021 annual forum

Wrap Up: The 2021 Annual Forum on Women & Homelessness – Seize the Momentum

By | Blog, Homelessness

The Lady Musgrave Trust 2021 Annual Forum was proudly brought to you by our sponsors Queensland Government, North Harbour, Watson & Associates, Keystone Private, Lovewell Cafe, Lucid Media and The Content Division.

We’ve just wrapped up our 13th Annual Forum on Women and Homelessness and it was a huge success! After our original plans to host this year’s Forum during Homelessness Week were postponed due to lockdown, we decided to take the whole Forum online for the second year in a row.

This year’s theme was “Seize the Momentum”, which focused on building and maintaining the momentum over the past 18 months for women’s voices to be heard and for expedited solutions to end homelessness.

Hosting the Forum once again was the brilliant Leigh Muirhead, alongside our CEO Karen Lyon Reid and an impressive lineup of speakers from many organisations in the homelessness sector, who all pivoted to bring us their presentations online.

For the hundreds of registrants who signed up to watch the Forum live online, we hope you enjoyed the sessions and found the content valuable (let us know here).

If you missed it, below is a summary of the speaker’s presentations and findings. You can click on the links at the end of each paragraph to watch individual segments, or view the entire Forum recording in full below.

A special welcome

We kicked off the Annual Forum with an opening message from The Honourable Leeanne Enoch MP, Minister for Communities & Housing, who outlined the Action Plan from the Palaszczuk Government to boost housing supply and improve coordination in the delivery of services.

“Far too many Queensland women and their children are at risk of homelessness, and we need new solutions to alleviate this need, especially with the new challenges of COVID-19.

“With an increasing number of older women at an increased risk of homeless, the Palaszczuk Government is committed to ensuring all women, regardless of age, can access housing assistance if they need it.”

Watch The Hon. Minster Leeane Enoch’s full message

Where to go to get support

Karen Lyon Reid, CEO of The Lady Musgrave Trust, provided an update on The Handy Guide for Homeless Women, which is our directory of information and services for women in need. These guides are distributed daily by sector workers and volunteers and will soon be digitalised, making it even easier for people to access this information.

Jump online now to pre-order the 2021/2022 Handy Guide for Brisbane and Regional Queensland, with shipping commencing in October 2021.

Copies of The Handy Guide for Older Women, which was launched at last year’s Annual Forum, are still available to order. You can also sign up for our Housing Journey For Older Women Workshops for women over 55 who are looking for innovative housing solutions.

Watch the update from Karen Lyon Reid

The scale of Queensland’s housing crisis

Our first speaker was Aimee McVeigh, CEO of QCOSS (Queensland Council of Social Service), who spoke about the scale of the housing crisis in Queensland, the response to homelessness as a direct result of COVID-19, rental reforms and what the outcomes for women look like, and how economic downturns present opportunities for stimulus in a way that creates social benefits for generations to come.

“Queensland is absolutely in the thick of a housing crisis. We have over 50,000 people on our housing register. If those people came together and formed a town, it would be the fifth biggest town in Queensland.”

Aimee also introduced The Town Of Nowhere campaign, “Queensland’s 5th largest town that you never want to visit.”

Crucially, Aimee shared a number of indicators that we have reasons to be optimistic and that it is possible to address housing and homelessness issues for women in Queensland, Australia and around the world.

Watch Aimee McVeigh’s full presentation

The road home: creating a community for connection, inclusion and welcome for new arrivals in Queensland

Our next speaker was Christine Castley from Multicultural Australia, a non-for-profit that provides support to the thousands of refugees settling into Queensland every year. Christine spoke about the significant journey these people face and the accommodation and settlement support that is provided to them on arrival.

“Homelessness is a significant issue for any person who experiences it, but for refugees and migrants in particular, there is often a significance of secure housing.”

Christine spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on refugees, students and migrants, and shared three case studies of instances where Multicultural Australia have stepped in to assist refugee families.

“To have a safe and stable place of their own represents much more to a refugee than to someone who has never known such a loss of home, community and country.”

Watch Christine Castley’s full presentation

The leading housing innovations across Canada

Next we heard from Anne-Marie Robert from the Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation who spoke about Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy (NHS) – a ten year, $70+ billion plan to reduce homelessness for Canadians in need.

Under the NHS, public, private and not-profit sectors will come together with the aim to create affordable, stable and livable communities through a mixture of loan and grant funding. The goal is to ensure Canadians across the country have access to housing that meets their needs and is affordable.

One of the priority projects highlights the link between women with experiences of violence, housing instability and homelessness, and the disparity between how these services actually operate, often resulting in turnaways.

“There is a well-evidenced link between experiences of violence, housing instability and homelessness for women – but the homelessness-serving sector and domestic violence sector often operate separately. How can we better support cross-sectoral responses to housing needs for women, including women who have experienced or are at risk of violence?”

Watch Anne-Marie’s Robert’s full presentation

The first Canadian community to eradicate chronic homelessness

Next, Dr. Alina Turner from HelpSeeker spoke about the impact technology has on housing and homelessness, and introduced the Medicine Hat project, which became the first city in Canada to end chronic homelessness.

Medicine Hat, a city in Alberta, is big enough to have a homelessness challenge, but small enough that they could experiment with innovative solutions.

“Medicine Hat has been a beacon of hope for Canada, it has shown us that [ending homelessness] can be done, but it’s an ongoing project. It’s not an “ending homelessness and we’re done”.

The phases of work included creating the space to innovate, formalising a systems approach and having a vision beyond an end to homelessness.

“When we started this we didn’t know what exactly we were getting into. We started with housing first, then came systems planning. We can house people, but if all those underlying root causes and challenges aren’t disrupted, then we’re really just spinning wheels. We also looked at people and performance indicators, service quality standards and a rights-based approach to housing. We took a data-driven approach, but we also looked beyond homelessness to address homelessness.”

Watch Dr. Alina Turner’s full presentation
Watch the Medicine Hat Systems Transformation Project Video

Scaling as an initiative, not a “cut and paste”

We were then joined in the studio by The Lady Musgrave Trust Director, Jenny Clark, who had a great discussion with Rachel Watson about housing scalability and solutions, such as the Housing Action Lab.

Rachel spoke about how to scale housing solutions to create change, asking the question “What transformative actions can we take together today to deliver the housing solutions of tomorrow?”

The Housing Action Lab applies the elements of scaling, but most importantly demonstrates the process of “spreading impact”.

“Moving the language from replication or pilots to scaling is a really important one. We need to think about [solutions] as a scaling initiative, not a “cut and paste”.

Rachel and Jenny also discussed the impact of increasing housing costs in combination with the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. What is going to be the impact of affordable housing?

“The 2032 Olympics are such an opportunity, but also a threat by way of further increasing property prices and excluding people on lower incomes from many areas that get caught up in Olympics-driven demand. It often ends up serving people on higher incomes, both in terms of increased property values as well as increasing the threshold of entry into certain local housing markets.“

Watch Jenny & Rachel’s full chat

Sharing With Friends, a co-housing initiative

Our next speaker was Susan Davies, who shared a new Queensland housing initiative called Sharing With Friends. Started by a group of Zonta members, Sharing with Friends is a co-housing model of affordable home ownership to women retiring on meager superannuation.

“Having a house, a secure place to live, where you can keep contributing to community life, you can still be connected socially, you’re not alone, I think it’s a wonderful concept and really part of my commitment to the community, which I’ve been working to build all my professional life.” – Sharing With Friends resident

Watch the full Sharing with Friends story and check out the ABC news story as well

A unique ownership structure

Our next speaker was Emma Telfer, the Director of Culture & Strategy at Assemble, a private property development group with a real focus on affordable and social housing.

Emma shared the Assemble future housing model, which is an alternative pathway to home ownership in Australia. This includes a “Build to rent to own” model, which gives residents a 5-year lease with the option to purchase upon conclusion. Residents range from first homebuyers to older single women looking to secure their financial future.

“This is an alternative pathway into home ownership for people who have been locked out for whatever reason, whether that is rising house prices or their inability to get into a position to save the extraordinary amount of money you need for a home deposit. Residents have a fixed arrangement, so they know exactly what they are working towards and are supported through a number of programs like financial coaching, bulk buying and community engagement.”

Watch the full discussion with Emma Telfer

Opportunities for women in construction

Our final speakers were from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). Operating for 25 years, NAWIC continues to advocate and close the gaps across all roles that females operate, making sure women are getting the same opportunities as men.

Sheree Taylor, the current President, and Radmila Desic, past president, discussed the employment opportunities for women in construction and trade.

“There are two factors that become a challenge and barrier for women. One is the employers themselves – the industry has not been as quick and ready to take on women, particularly around non-traditional trades. The other area is as primary caregivers – the flexibility of this industry is somewhat difficult if you’ve got young children. NAWIC is creating strategies and working with the state government to make significant changes to improve these two factors.”

Watch the full discussion with Sheree & Radmila from NAWIC

Thanks to everyone involved for making this event so successful. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

Why Christmas brings a spike in domestic violence against women

By | Blog, Homelessness

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration. Most of us look forward to the holiday season in anticipation of laughter and fun, spending quality time with family and friends. It is especially true in 2020, with COVID impacting the precious time spent with loved ones.

But unfortunately for many Queensland women and their children, Christmas is not a time of joy. It is a tragic time marked by fear and intimidation with increases in domestic and family violence (DFV).

Helen Poynten, Regional Manager of Relationships Australia Queensland says there are several reasons why incidents of DFV spike over the Christmas season.

“Christmas tends to be a time of more. More family visits, more food shopping, more present buying, more alcohol consumed, more spending. This season of more can exacerbate families under strain. This can lead to domestic violence in the household.”

Domestic violence describes a person being subjected to an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviour by an intimate partner or family member. This behaviour is motivated by a desire to dominate, control or oppress the other person and to cause fear. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial and sexual abuse.

Helen says DFV can be experienced by anyone in a domestic or family relationship, from any age group, financial bracket, gender partnership and any cultural group, but “some people are sadly more at risk. Most people accept that DFV is gendered violence – meaning that 70% of domestic violence is experienced by women.”

Tragically, it is younger women who are most at risk. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 13% of women aged 18–24 experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence in the past 12 months, compared with 8% of women aged 35–44 and 2% of women aged 55 years and over.

According to ANROWS, 61% of women had children in their care when the violence occurred. Yasmin Dulley, Principal at Byron Family Law, says that courts and family law solicitors generally see an increase in client reports of domestic violence around the Christmas period “as well as applications made in both State (domestic violence) and Federal Courts (parenting matters).”

“This is due to a number of factors, including tension around any terms of agreement relating to parenting matters and the practical implementation of those agreements. Conflict often arises around changeover times and locations, as well as agreement on who will have the care of the child over Christmas,” Yasmin explains.

“Our role as solicitors is to ensure that parents or carers have certainty and clarity around any agreed terms or the terms of a court order, so as to reduce additional stress and conflict.”

sad woman looking out curtains

One of the highest social risk factors of domestic violence is housing.

“Housing is a critical issue for all people who have experienced DFV, and is a major contributor to women and children’s homelessness,” says Helen. “This is why the community needs to support crisis care, including safe housing, counselling and other associated needs (like personal feminine care items, bags, etc).”

The Lady Musgrave Trust produces the Handy Guide for Homeless Women each year, a booklet that provides support services for women who are without shelter or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Family and Federal Circuit Courts have recently introduced an innovative pilot called The Lighthouse Project which Yasmin says is designed to assist families most at risk of experiencing family violence, to navigate the family law system.

“The Lighthouse Project aims to improve the safety of children and families within family law proceedings through early risk screening, early identification and management of safety concerns, assessment and triage by a specialist team and referral of high-risk cases to a dedicated court list,” explains Yasmin.

Helen says this is a social problem that everyone is responsible for ending. “A key sign of domestic violence is increased isolation of the woman removing herself from established support networks (e.g. work friends, family, neighbours) so she can’t escape the fear and intimidation.

“COVID restrictions have increased concern for women’s safety for a lot of services. There are stories of women being in awful socially isolated situations. For example, one woman’s only access to support was having a community worker in the car with her when she had a scheduled driving lesson, as this was the only time her partner let her out of his sight.

“Don’t be afraid to ask if your friend is OK. But make sure you do it safely,” she says. This includes not asking how they are going in front of the person that could be abusing them. “Choose your timing well for her. This often includes the children’s safety – be mindful of their situation, too.”

Helen adds, “There is often a lot of shame felt by women living in domestic violence. The best thing you can do is show compassion and not judge your friend. We want them to know we are here for them and willing to help.”

blurred-christmas-lights-red-bauble-foreground

This Christmas, keep your eyes and ears open to what may be happening behind closed doors near you. It takes a village to stop domestic violence and women’s homelessness before it happens.

If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic and family violence, there are many services available in Queensland that can help:

  • If it is an emergency, contact Queensland Police Service (000) for immediate response. QPS have an automatic referral to a counsellor who will support women and advise them of the support services available.
  • DV Connect (1800 811 811) is an organisation that provides crisis support and counselling, as well as a women’s refuge service assisting women and children affected by a domestic violence incident to obtain placement into crisis care.
  • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a telephone helpline for friends and family to report if someone they know is experiencing domestic violence.
  • Relationships Australia QLD (1300 364 277) is an organisation that provides relationship support and advice to individuals and families across Queensland.
  • Mensline (1800 041 612) is a national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men.
  • Immigrant Women’s Support Service (07 3846 3490) offers support to immigrant and refugee women from non-English speaking backgrounds and their children who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence.
  • Women’s Legal Service (1800 957 957) and Legal Aid QLD (1300 65 11 88) provides free legal advice and legal support services to victims of domestic violence, including in relation to applications for a domestic violence order, children’s Court matters and Family Law matters generally.

The Lady Musgrave Trust are currently in the middle of their Christmas fundraising appeal. You can help by buying a raffle ticket or making a donation.