21 October 2020

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (18:19:29): Members would have seen in their electorates stories of the rising inequality across this great State. People have been suffering for some time now through drought, fire and floods, and throughout 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. What does that look like to those who are already vulnerable? What sorts of issues are those people dealing with—those who always struggle, who live in poverty with complex health matters, who live with pain, who live with mental illness, who are homeless, who are unemployed, who are stuck in the broken cycle of the justice system or who are stuck in domestic violence situations? What of the children who are abused and neglected?

If we are to economically recover, we need simultaneous social recovery. The Government needs to address the urgent needs of our most vulnerable to protect them. I want to ask the Government why recovery has to look like hi‑vis and a hard hat? The priorities of the State and Federal governments, and subsequent necessary investment, need to reflect on and mirror the Premier's so-called priorities. They must focus on building social and affordable housing; support for vulnerable people; the provision of increased funding for the domestic violence sector and specialist services, including case management; and support for our community services in their incredible and life-saving work.

We would all agree that three of the most basic needs in this life are food, clothing and shelter. I shine a light on the increasing difficulty in obtaining at least one of these. Each year more and more Australians struggle to get a foot in the door of the elusive housing market. This is particularly true for our country's most vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people. The thought of being able to put a roof over one's head is a privilege that eludes many. The security of finding a good rental property that is safe and warm is next to impossible these days, let alone being given the opportunity to invest in the great Australian dream of owning your own home. Many public or social housing tenants are living on a desperate and poor cliff edge. Many people have been unable to heat or cool their homes, pay their bills or find much to look forward to. Their lives hang in a precarious balance and rely on an underfunded and under-resourced community services sector to navigate a depleted system for support.

Many people will sadly need to rely on the services of hospitals, and homelessness and justice systems into their future. I hear of too many sad and horrific cases of this in the Blue Mountains and beyond. What of those who are homeless and struggle with a range of complex traumas? Sitting here in this Chamber it is easy for some to forget the plight of these vulnerable Australians; it is easy and, dare I say, convenient. The talk and promises of the Government are only a temporary lifeline. For one of the most vulnerable at‑risk groups, women and children escaping domestic violence, almost 40 per cent lack permanent housing. Crisis accommodation is rare to find. Too many women are experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse from a current or former partner; too many are dying and there is nowhere to go.

For many women, the impact of drought, fire, flood and then the social isolation due to the pandemic has provided too many barriers to escape. We desperately need additional funding for specialist women's refuges, for addressing gaps in the system—for example, case management and culturally appropriate responses—and for a social housing infrastructure program that will see women and children leave violent relationships and step back into a safe place. Reducing homelessness and providing a safe and affordable place to live are the Premier's own priorities and are listed as a State outcome. Now is time for the Premier to step up and focus on delivering because lives depend on it