Legislative Council: Thursday, March 23, 2023



The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:05): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, on the topic of homelessness.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data on homelessness was released, which demonstrated that homelessness in South Australia increased by 1,200 people between the years 2016 and 2021. The data from the 2021 Census shows that First Nations people are over-represented, comprising 20.4 per cent of homeless people, while making up 3.8 per cent of the population in South Australia.

South Australia is the state with the third highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness. My question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs therefore is: what is the government doing to prevent homelessness in South Australia and, in particular, what is it doing to reduce the number of First Nations people who experience homelessness in our state?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:06): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. I did see it reported that the figures from the last Census, comparing 2016 to a snapshot in time five years afterwards in 2021, were released with some concerning figures in relation to homelessness.

Certainly, it is the case that so much of how we interact with society and how we thrive in society stems from homelessness—it is one of those foundational tenet needs, without which many of the other areas in which we see people face disadvantage, and particularly Aboriginal people who face disadvantage, stems from, whether it be health, education, life expectancy or economic participation. Without that foundational need catered for in terms of a place to live, it is difficult in so many other areas.

In terms of specific programs to counter homelessness, I will have to refer the substance of that on to the Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Nat Cook, in another place. I know there have been some slight improvements in some areas. The Closing the Gap report was only handed down recently, and one of the areas looked at—I think it was outcome area 9—the proportion of Aboriginal people in South Australia living in appropriately-sized housing was one of the areas in which South Australia had made improvements.

That doesn't mean there is not a long way to go and we don't need to do more, but that was one improvement from the last Closing the Gap report. I know that some of the many programs—and there are quite a number—the Hon. Nat Cook, the Minister for Human Services, has put in place. I will talk to her and bring back a reply for the honourable member.