Labor's neglect of accessible housing is fuelling homelessness among older women

Ensuring secure and accessible housing is DFV prevention. Today Abigail slammed Labor's betrayal of people with mobility issues for continuing to refuse to sign onto the National Construction Code's minimum accessibility standards for new homes.

Abigail said:

I take note of a written answer from the Minister for Housing, and Minister for Homelessness in relation to the New South Wales Government's continued failure to sign on to the National Construction Code's minimum accessibility standards. I asked that question in the context of inaccessible homes being a key factor of both homelessness and domestic abuse, particularly for older women, who are either forced to remain in abusive households or forced to live on the streets because there is simply no accessible homes available to them.

It is shameful for the Labor Government to say that it cares about older women, who are the fastest growing cohort at risk of homelessness and face violence and abuse at a significant rate, and yet refuse time and again to sign on to those very basic standards. Every time I raise the issue with Labor, I am hit with the same lacklustre response that what is preventing us from signing on is building costs and that we are waiting to see how other States do before we take action ourselves. Other States have committed to that reform because they know that not only will it make a tangible difference for people with mobility issues but it will also only incur a mere 1 per cent increase to the cost of building new homes, if even that—far less than the cost of retrofitting those homes when it inevitably becomes necessary in the future.

A few weeks ago Yumi Lee, the CEO of Older Women's Network, came to speak to Parliament about the unique nuances of domestic and family violence faced by older women in our State, and the intersection between finding accessible housing and domestic abuse. Yumi said that ensuring secure and accessible housing is domestic and family violence prevention. Signing on to those minimum standards is prevention. The violence that older women face is too often wrongly categorised as elder abuse and pushed aside as a horrific and rare tragedy. While such violence is without a doubt horrific, it is not rare. Miscategorising it as elder abuse and not domestic and family violence makes those women invisible and leads to them being further failed by our systems and support services. Out of the 35 women killed so far this year in Australia, 13 of them were women over the age of 55. Of the 64 women killed in 2023, 21 of them were over the age of 55.

The majority of those women were killed by their sons or daughters, with many of them being unconfirmed. We urgently need to expand our definitions and understanding of domestic and family abuse or we will continue to fail to provide that cohort of victims with the prevention and response supports that they need. But expanding our understanding is only one element; we need urgent and targeted action from Government to address the nuanced experiences of older women and women with disability. Without the infrastructure in place to support their needs, we are failing these women. Instead of pandering to the interests of private property developers and the big end of the construction sector, Labor must finally step up and take the action our community needs. Ensuring secure and accessible housing is domestic and family and violence prevention and a vital anti-violence strategy. It is time for the Labor Government to recognise this.


Read the transcript in Hansard here.

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