Incoming Government must support a fairer and more caring society

Jan Barham, the Greens’ spokesperson for the North Coast, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, Ageing, Disabilty and Community Services, has called on the re-elected Coalition Government to adopt a more caring and strategic approach with a priority focus on housing and community services for areas of high vulnerability and disadvantage such as the North Coast.

“The high levels of people who are unemployed, aged, have a disability and receiving income and parenting support payments is an indication of the disadvantage and vulnerability in our region. The risk is that if priorities don’t change with the next government we will see a continuation of vulnerability that can result in intergenerational disadvantage. Without changes there could be more people living in poverty and excluded from full participation in society,” said Ms Barham.

“There must be a focus on investing in communities to deliver fairness and improved opportunity to participate in all aspects of life. It’s time to look at the needs of this community and prepare for the future, with a more caring and compassionate approach.

“In this election campaign the Greens prioritised a boost in social housing with funding of $4.5 billion to build 20,000 homes over 4 years. With some of the longest waiting lists in NSW, there should be a significant increase on the north coast. The lack of affordable housing is threatening the health and wellbeing of the community and putting many at risk of homelessness, especially the young, the elderly and Aboriginal community members.

“Many older people living in caravan parks are facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction, with no other options available. NSW needs new legislation to provide the security and affordability required for our valued older citizens living in parks and villages.”

The Greens are also calling for secondary dwellings grants to assist property owners to build for the aged and disabled.

“We need to deliver appropriately designed and dedicated housing to allow people to stay living in community rather than being forced to move away from their neighbours and families. Funding support at a local level would grow the stock of housing needed and retain community cohesion,” said Ms Barham.

Ms Barham noted that with an ageing population, the NDIS, domestic violence, child protection concerns and a significant Aboriginal population, the region needs additional workers in the community services area to address and prevent risk for the most vulnerable in our community.

“Some of the disadvantage experienced in the region could be overcome with a greater investment in early intervention services and additional workers. The community service sector is in need of additional staff and the Greens are calling for a training financial assistance scheme to encourage and support more people entering the caring workforce. The need for increased Aboriginal specialist services is crucial and would create much needed employment opportunities as well as culturally appropriate services,” said Ms Barham.

Taxis are the main form of transport for some residents who have significant disabilities to allow them to access medical, health and work opportunities.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has not been increased for 16 years and this is grossly unfair. An increase in this vital service would benefit inclusion for those who are otherwise disadvantaged, especially in the regions,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also warned that recent funding cuts by the Federal Government to parent and youth services have shown a lack of foresight and investment in the future, which the NSW Government must work to rectify.

“The Greens call on the State Government to lobby against the Federal Government funding cuts to important programs that support young people at risk and that provide skills for the transition to adulthood and independent living, and to make up for any shortfall in federal funding as they have done for pensioner concessions. The funding cuts to important programs that support new parents are a dangerous move that puts child welfare at risk, and which will end up creating additional social harms and put pressure on state services in child protection, juvenile justice and other sectors,” said Ms Barham.

“It’s time to overcome the history of the major parties ignoring the needs of the regions. While North Coast seats were a major focus in this election and coal seam gas was an especially crucial issue, the wellbeing of North Coast communities has been off the radar for too long.

“Without a commitment to social infrastructure investment for the region, there will be continuing disadvantage. The true test of a progressive society is how well we care for those in need and plan for the future wellbeing of all of our residents.

“The Greens are committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our society. I will be focusing on these issues when Parliament resumes, hopefully with two new North Coast Greens members in the Legislative Assembly to echo the focus for the region’s communities,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Planning for a more caring community

  1. Investment in social housing – announced $4.5 billion to deliver 20,000 new homes in NSW over 4 years
  2. Financial grants for the delivery of appropriately designed secondary dwellings for older and disabled people – $20,000 per property
  3. Care Workforce Strategy – grants to assist people in training in the community sector – aged, disability and child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  4. Residential Parks protection – legislation to secure the rights of people living in residential parks against high fees and eviction
  5. Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme – increase funding that has been stagnant for 16 years
  6. Youth programs – return funding to crucial youth programs that have been cut by federal government eg. Links to Learning, Youth Connections and REALskills – approx. $700,000 for region

NSW must match federal homelessness funding and target services to meet urgent needs

The Greens have called on all parties in NSW to commit to matching the Federal Government’s two-year additional funding allocation to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and to ensure the funds will be allocated to address areas of greatest need and fill service gaps resulting from last year’s reforms to the homelessness sector.

Jan Barham, the Greens’ Housing and Homelessness spokesperson, said: “Homelessness is a priority issue that deserves more than a 2 year continuation of funding.

“Addressing and preventing homelessness needs a 10 year cooperative plan across all levels of government, but the Federal Government’s commitment at least provides some continuity for a sector that was facing uncertainty about the future of many services.

“We now need urgent clarification as to whether the next NSW Government will match the funds as required in the partnership model and where those funds will be spent.

“We cannot have a repeat of the previous one-year extension, when it took until early February 2015 for the NSW and Federal Governments to announce their plan for the allocation of funds for a financial year that had begun in July of 2014.

“A review of the state government’s allocation model must identify areas of need and a focus on regions and populations where there are gaps in services,” said Ms Barham.

“Last year we saw the chaotic process with the Going Home, Staying Home funding allocations that saw dramatic changes to service provision for homelessness, including the loss of services and closure of some refuges. What has resulted is an overall loss of funding to some regions such as the far north coast, with the loss of some $2.5million that provided key homelessness services to support people which were seen as highly effective, including the Accommodation Project and the Tenancy Support program.”

“The Federal Government’s announcement is an opportunity for NSW to see commitments to address the problems and challenges that have arisen. We need targeted investment in programs that support some of the most vulnerable people including those who are fleeing family violence, young people and many of our older community members.

“As well as addressing the crisis of homelessness, we need all parties to allocate government funding to boosting the availability of housing and relieving housing affordability pressures. The Greens have detailed our $20billion infrastructure package, which includes a $4.5billion investment to deliver 20,000 social and affordable housing properties over two years.

“The Greens have continued to press the NSW and Federal governments to work out a long-term, effective agreement to provide certainty for the homelessness sector and develop the services and capacity required to begin reducing the numbers of people who are facing homelessness.

“All parties should immediately commit to implement the two-year funding extension and to urgently review and improve the funding allocation to ensure the best possible delivery of homelessness services to the vulnerable people who need support,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Greens announce Aboriginal Policy Initiative

On National Close the Gap Day, Greens MP and Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Jan Barham has announced the Greens’ initiatives to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in NSW.

“The Greens policy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People acknowledges the failings of Government to address the devastating conditions in many areas for Aboriginal people,” said Ms Barham.

Photo of Aboriginal people with quote about Aboriginal policy

Key elements of the policy include:

  • a NSW Premier’s report on outcomes for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples,
  • a $250 million investment in Aboriginal housing to deliver around 1,000 homes,
  • a plan and protocols to clear the backlog of 26,000 Aboriginal land claims,
  • strategies for Aboriginal employment & training, including child welfare & tourism,
  • lowering the eligibility age for the Seniors Card to 45 years for Aboriginal people, and
  • a NSW Parliamentary inquiry into reparations for the Stolen Generations

Ms Barham said: “NSW can take the lead and prepare a state based annual report on a broader set of Closing the Gap indicators to ensure that the funding and policies that are in place are delivering outcomes.”

Last year Greens MLC Jan Barham presented a motion to the Parliament for the establishment of an inquiry into Stolen Generations reparations. In Tasmania, legislation has been enacted to provide for compensation and there is a similar bill before the South Australian Parliament.

“The history of removal of Aboriginal people from their families and country in NSW still affects the lives of many, and an inquiry to report and consider appropriate reparations could deliver a framework for genuine redress.”

“The health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is of major concern with life expectancy identified as between 10 and 17 years less than the general population. The Greens have called for eligibility to the NSW Seniors Card to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the age of 45 years, to enable earlier opportunities for access to health and transport services.

“The health and wellbeing of people is determined strongly by their ability to access safe and stable housing. The Greens have acknowledged that there needs to be a major injection of funding to facilitate more housing and reduce the increasing issue of homelessness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Contact: Jan Barham – 0447 853 891

Media release [PDF]

The Greens NSW Aboriginal Policy Initiative

Greens Parliamentary Motions and Stolen Generations Inquiry Proposed Terms of Reference

Baird Government runs and hides instead of tackling the housing crisis

Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham MLC, has slammed the Coalition Government’s refusal to provide a response to the Parliamentary inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing until after the NSW election.

“The Select Committee inquiry that was established by the Greens delivered its final report last September. The Baird Government had almost six months to consider the report and provide its response. Instead of responding a week before the due date, they’ve waited until the last minute to announce they’ll hide behind the caretaker provisions,” Ms Barham said.

“The inquiry’s 41 recommendations, most of which were unanimously supported by the committee, were welcomed by housing advocacy and social service organisations as a blueprint for the desperately needed action to address the housing crisis in NSW.

“Instead of delivering a response and a plan for affordable and social housing, the Baird Government have spent the past six months consulting on a discussion paper that ignored all of the available evidence and took us all back to square one.

“It looks like they intend to wait until the election is done before carrying on with their unsustainable sell-off of public housing and underinvestment in delivering the affordable and social housing we need, throughout Sydney and across the state.

Ms Barham said that any that wouldn’t set out how they would boost the availability of appropriate social and affordable housing was dodging one of the key issues for NSW.

“The Greens have set out our economic plan that would deliver $4.5 billion in funding for social and affordable housing. We would see government bonds used to drive rapid investment to increase the housing available to people on low and moderate incomes, in the inner city, the suburbs and regional centres.

“The Greens want to see the recommendations of the Select Committee implemented by whoever forms government after 28th March. We moved to establish this inquiry because housing affordability and the social housing system were deteriorating after successive governments had failed to deliver the funding, the policy settings and the whole of government commitment that was required.

“We need a housing system that gives priority to helping people to afford a secure, appropriately-located and configured place they can call home. Without adequate housing, people and families are deprived of the opportunities for work, education and social support that are essential to their wellbeing. By punting the issue a few more months down the road, the Coalition has neglected its responsibility to care for the people of NSW,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891