Indigenous Women's Homelessness in Far North And North West QLD: toward better outcomes

Wallace, V., Graham, D., Selway, D., Kelly, T., and Howe, E. (2014) Indigenous Women's Homelessness in Far North And North West QLD: toward better outcomes. Report. James Cook University, Cairns, QLD, Australia. (Unpublished)

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This research report provides insight into Indigenous women's homelessness from the perspective of homelessness service providers, and the lived experiences of Indigenous homeless women presenting to services in Cairns and Mount Isa.

The report also provides an overview of the literature related to Indigenous women's homelessness and offers recommendations to further assist policymakers, service providers and others to effectively and safely re-house Indigenous homeless women (many of whom may be relocating from their homeland communities).

To explore the perspectives of homelessness service providers and their experiences of assisting Indigenous homeless women, an online survey was made available to services officers from participating agencies (see Appendix B). The respondents to those surveys answered questions relating to:

- the reasons why Indigenous women were accessing homelessness services;

- from where had they come;

- where they would likely be rehoused;

- if there were peak periods; and

- if the presenting Indigenous women had any special or unmet service needs.

Statistical data was also made available from selected homeless services to help bring perspective to: the presenting numbers of Indigenous women compared to men; and the ethnic breakdown of clients utilising homelessness services. The results of the homeless services providers' survey indicated that primarily the key reason for Indigenous women becoming homeless was domestic and family violence, but it was not the only reason. The 'road' to homelessness often involves a multitude of life experiences that can culminate in homelessness, and the service providers' perspectives reflected that complexity. The full range of key reasons for Indigenous women presenting to homeless services were: domestic and family violence (25%); alcohol and drugs (18%); financial hardship (18%); racist/age discriminatory real estate agents (9%); avoiding alcohol and family issues (6%); overcrowding (6%); literacy and numeracy challenges (6%); can't get home after visiting family (6%); not enough public housing (6%).

Other reasons identified were: limited family support; crises; involvement in child safety; exclusion from community; family breakdown; financial literacy; jail; rainy season (not being able to sleep in a river bed); and health problems.

The service providers also noted that women travelled into their regional service centres from their home communities of Far North Queensland; Torres Strait; Northwest Queensland and the Northern Territory. They also noted that women presenting to their service centres would often have 2 to3 children in their care at that time.

To further understand the lived experiences of Indigenous homeless women, face-to-face interviews were conducted with women from Mount Isa and Cairns. Their responses to interview questions were transcribed and thematically analysed. The face-to-face interviews with Indigenous women brought yet another perspective to the issue of homelessness. Homelessness is a personal experience and the stories the women told reflected their varied and often painful life journeys into homelessness. The themes in their stories revealed that reasons for homelessness for the women interviewed circle around relationship breakdowns, patterns of repeated homelessness, lack of access to services in remote areas, and lack of affordable housing. The recurrent theme in both surveys is the need for affordable housing, suitable to accommodate a variety of family groups, from single women to large families.

Based on service providers' perspectives and the lived experiences of Indigenous homeless women, as outlined in the full report, the researchers make the following recommendations:

• Women in remote locations require specialist services to stay in their home communities if it is safe to do so. They are particularly vulnerable when exposed to some of the risk factors for homelessness.

• Effort should be directed to prevent perpetuating factors of repeated homelessness. Many of these factors are interconnected and cyclical, perpetuating the issue of homelessness.

• Cultural traditions and dynamics must be considered in preventing and resolving issues related to the homelessness of Indigenous women.

• Affordable housing, suitable to accommodate a variety of family groups, from single women to large families is urgently required.

Item ID: 35262
Item Type: Report (Report)
Keywords: indigenous, women, homelessness, Cairns, Mount Isa
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Additional Information:

Final report to the Mercy Foundation Ltd., from the Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland.

Funders: Mercy Foundation
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2015 00:56
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Determinants of Health @ 100%
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