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Public hearing 26 - Homelessness, including experience in boarding houses, hostels and other arrangements, Parramatta - Day 2

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Publication date

CHAIR:  Good morning everyone. Before we commence, I wish to make the Acknowledgement of Country. On behalf of the Royal Commission, I wish to acknowledge the Dharug people who are the traditional custodians of the land upon which this hearing is taking place. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We also pay our respects to all First Nations people who are attending the hearing in person today, or who are following the proceedings on the live stream. 

Yes, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN:  Good morning, Commissioners, and good morning everyone following the Royal Commission proceedings, both in the home and also online. Commissioners, just before we start with our first witness, I'll outline what will happen today. So today we will first hear from Nicola Moorhouse, and Nicola prefers to be referred to as Nik. We'll do that. And following Ms Moorhouse's evidence, you'll then have a pre-record from Christmas. We met Christmas as part of the team at the Neighbourhood Centre in Newtown in Sydney, and Christmas pre-recorded a discussion with me a few months ago, and we'll play his pre-recording. 

We'll then break for morning tea, which should be around 11.15, and then after morning tea we'll have a panel of Specialist Homeless Services representatives. There will be three members of the panel, and Mr Fogarty will take their evidence. We'll then adjourn for lunch. And then following lunch, our witness will be 'Claudia'. She comes from a regional part of New South Wales. She's a young person, and she will talk about her experiences. And we will end the day with a final pre-record that we also did as part of the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre with William. So that's the proposal for the day. 

And, Commissioners, if there's any changes to those arrangements, I'll let you know. So you'll see Ms Moorhouse is with us in the hearing room now. And she will take an affirmation.

CHAIR:  Ms Moorhouse, thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission today. Thank you also for the statement that you've provided, which we have all read. I just interrupt myself, but Commissioner Galbally doesn't appear to be on   

MS EASTMAN:  She is. So, Chair, we've just turned off some of the screens just to keep the lighting  

CHAIR:  I see. 

MS EASTMAN:    a little bit lower, but, yes, she is   

CHAIR:  Let me explain, if I may, where everybody is. Commissioner Galbally, who usually is on screen but is not at the moment, is located in Melbourne and is participating in the hearing remotely. Commissioner Ryan is on my left, and I'm the Chair of the Royal Commission. So thank you very much for your statement, for coming to give evidence today. If at any time you need to take a break, just let us know and that can be organised quite readily. And I'll now ask Ms Eastman – I, first of all will ask if you would follow the instructions of my associate who's located over there. He will administer the affirmation to you. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Thank you.



CHAIR:  Thank you very much, Ms Moorhouse. Now I'll ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you. Can I confirm that your name is Nicola Moorhouse?


MS EASTMAN:  And your preference is to be referred to as Nik?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, please. 

MS EASTMAN:  And what would you like me to call you today:  Ms Moorhouse or Nik?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Nik, please.

MS EASTMAN:  Nik.  Nik, you've prepared a statement which is dated 28 July this year, and can you confirm that the contents of the statement are true?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, I can. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, I want to ask you some questions arising from your statement, but do you come to the Royal Commission because you want to talk about how, in your view, a shortage of appropriate rental properties, the increasing cost of rent and systemic issues with the public housing system in New South Wales have created a crisis situation for you and your daughters. And so you want to share your story so people are aware of the shortage of accessible housing for people with disability who have children, and that the public housing system can be difficult to navigate for people with disability?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, can I start by asking about yourself and your family. So you live in Newcastle?


MS EASTMAN:  And you're 45 years old now?


MS EASTMAN:  And you have two daughters?


MS EASTMAN:  One's 15 and one's 18?


MS EASTMAN:  And we're hoping one of the daughters might be here soon?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  She might be. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the younger daughter, she's still at school. She's in year nine at school?


MS EASTMAN:  And she lives with you but she also spends some of the time with her father; is that right?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And your older daughter is living in Sydney now?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  She is now, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  Both your daughters live with disability?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, they're both autistic. Sorry, they're both autistic. 

MS EASTMAN:  And your eldest daughter is not an NDIS participant?


MS EASTMAN:  But you're working through the process at the moment for your younger daughter to become an NDIS participant?


MS EASTMAN:  And you're also an NDIS participant?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  I just want to ask you about your daughter and living with autism and what the importance of her physical environment means to her. Does she struggle with noise?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes. She has a lot of issues with noise. It's a sensitivity that she definitely has, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And she struggles with disruptions to her usual routine?


MS EASTMAN:  And stress and uncertainty, particularly around housing in recent times, has caused her a lot of anxiety; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yeah, Mil has a lot of anxiety and she also has quite explosive meltdowns. 

MS EASTMAN:  And so, where you live and the form of housing that you live in is important in terms of assisting her, managing her anxiety and living with autism; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  She's had to miss a fair amount of school this year as you've navigated your way through the public housing system; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  Can I ask you about you. You last year completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Newcastle?


MS EASTMAN:  And you received an award. What was that award for? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I received the Perseverance Award. 

MS EASTMAN:  A Perseverance Award. What does that involve, to receive the Perseverance Award? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That was for sort of basically completing a degree whilst living with a disability, and having other issues, such as being a single parent of children with additional needs, and also, I work at the university with autistic students too. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, for you, education is a very important thing, isn't it? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  It's incredibly important, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  When you studied for your Bachelor of Arts you majored in English, Creative Writing and Global Indigenous Studies?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And your intentions are to undertake an honours degree?


MS EASTMAN:  And you'd also like to work to completing a PhD; is that right?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's my plan, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  I think you mentioned this, but you do also work at the university as well?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I do part time. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that's as a specialist peer mentor for autistic students?


MS EASTMAN:  What does that work involves? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That involves basically sharing the skills that I have developed over my own time at university and sharing them with the students and helping them with pretty much every aspect of student life. I'm not a tutor so I don't actually help them with their assignments, but I help them plan their assignments and plan how they're going to get things in on time. I help them access other supports at the university and I'm just sort of a support person, really. 

MS EASTMAN:  And so, this means that you work with quite a lot of students and they might have a really interesting and rich range of experiences   life experiences themselves? 


MS EASTMAN:  Is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's true, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And part of supporting people as a peer mentor might be also supporting them if they're gender diverse people who live with disability?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, last year I was a group leader for a group for women's and gender diverse, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  Now, do you mind if I ask you some questions about your disability, because this is going to be a topic that we will talk about shortly in terms of finding accessible housing. So, you've told the Royal Commission that you have visual snow syndrome?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  You've set out in some detail in your statement the nature of that disability but can you tell the Royal Commissioners about the nature of that syndrome, what it means in terms of your life, and then I'll ask you some questions that will take us into housing and the arrangements in your physical space to accommodate your disability. So let's start   


MS EASTMAN:    with the nature of the syndrome?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Okay. Visual snow syndrome is a neurological disorder that is relatively rare, and currently there's quite a lot of research happening because not was   until recently was known about visual snow syndrome. For me, I have   I have vision but I do not have any clarity of vision. So I   I see what looks like static or pixels that is constantly moving across my entire visual field and it has   because it has   it's quite thick, so it has depth to it. It impacts   it also impacts my spatial awareness and my depth perception. It has made reading incredibly difficult. I'm not able to drive anymore. And I'm extremely photosensitive, which is why I wear sunglasses and a hat and need lights dimmed everywhere that I go. 

MS EASTMAN:  So the vision issue started for you in around 2013? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And I think you've said you're legally blind?


MS EASTMAN:  So you use that expression, and that's since 2020. Was there a process you had to go through to have that description "legally blind"?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yeah, there was a process, and, unfortunately, even though my ophthalmologist would consider me   had considered me legally blind before 2020, because of the criteria around low vision, it doesn't really fit with visual snow syndrome. I had to wait until my vision had decreased quite considerably until I met that criteria. 

MS EASTMAN:  And over that period of time, you had to make adjustments to the way you live; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, I did. 

MS EASTMAN:  And over time adjustments also to particularly your housing and your living environment, so the way the house is set up and organised and where it might be located, for example, getting to university or for your daughters to be able to get to school; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes. Yes, it impacted, like, every aspect of my life. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. So in terms of the accessibility requirements for you now in the spaces you need, you need enough space to navigate through and between rooms? 


MS EASTMAN:  And you use your cane at home; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Not so much at home. Not now I'm sort of settled in my new house. I did at first, but once I'm familiar   very familiar with a space, I don't really   if there's no hazards in that space, I don't tend to use it. 

MS EASTMAN:  So having space where you can just have that certainty?


MS EASTMAN:  About moving around without there being any sort of risk   I think as you've described, bumping into doors or frames or things like that? 


MS EASTMAN:  One aspect of the accessibility requirements is also window coverings to reduce the amount of natural light? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of the lighting in the house, just having that right degree of lighting in particular spaces. For example, it might be different in bedrooms or lounge rooms compared to the kitchen or the laundry; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is correct. And, sorry, is it okay if I just add, so visual snow doesn't just   syndrome, sorry, doesn't just affect my vision. So I have other symptoms such as vertigo, migraine, nausea. I often struggle with the left hand side of my body. I get sort of a temporary paralysis, a weakness and pain in the left side of my body. 

MS EASTMAN:  So that lighting is really around those neurological symptoms that might be a trigger for migraines; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, and the vertigo, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  So bright or fluorescent light and light fittings make it very difficult to see?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  So in the hearing room, we've dimmed the lights in the hearing room here at the Royal Commission, but they're still quite strong lights, aren't they? 


MS EASTMAN:  So if at any stage you have a break or the lighting's not working, let us know. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  The other aspect in terms of just that spatial issue is you've said about the need for hand rails on steps and stairs, and is that just to create that degree of certainty to be able to navigate around spaces? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, sometimes with my vertigo, though, I do struggle with my balance, and if my left hand side of my body isn't communicating with me correctly, I may struggle more to get up and down steps. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of what you need within your own home, what's changed for you over the past sort of 12 years or so? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  What's changed? Okay. I guess just needing more space so that I can navigate areas better. Things need to be in their place, otherwise I can't find them. So, everything has to have a home and be put back in that home. What else? Obviously, the lighting that we've spoken about. A quiet place. Yeah, and just sort of easy access as well, location. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. So can I ask you some questions now about your experience in the Newcastle rental market? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, you can. 

MS EASTMAN:  So until June this year, your daughters and you lived in a rented house in Newcastle? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, we did. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you lived in that same house from about 2016; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And why did you have that sense that rental house never felt like a home? 


MS EASTMAN:  Didn't feel unsafe there, but what was it about that sense of not feeling like a home? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I think it had a lot to do with the fact that it didn't meet my requirements for my disability, and that particularly the bathroom's quite dangerous for me. And there was a couple of other areas at the house that I struggled with that I would walk into pretty often. 

MS EASTMAN:  Was it an old house? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  It was a very old house and it had a lot of   there was a lot of issues with things like mould which impacted my asthma and things.

MS EASTMAN:  Some of the sort of furnishing and fittings in the house were a bit worn and dirty?


MS EASTMAN:  And the bathroom was an issue. It was an old bathroom. It was a little rusty; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  It was extremely rusty, yes.

MS EASTMAN:  And you had to stand on a board to be able to use the shower? 


MS EASTMAN:  And so, over time, you had a number of occasions where you tripped using the bathroom; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  Even things such as the drawers in the bathroom are unstable? 


MS EASTMAN:  And not being able to get rid of the mould?


MS EASTMAN:  And some water leaking and the leaks got worse; is that right?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, there was quite an issue with water leaking, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  Did you think that it was dangerous to live in that house? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I felt like the bathroom was, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of that feeling it's dangerous in the bathroom, did you do anything about that? Did you talk to the landlord? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, I did, many times, and that is how I ended up being evicted. 

MS EASTMAN:  All right. So in January this year, the managing agent advised you that you would be issued with an eviction notice?


MS EASTMAN:  And the purpose of the eviction notice was so that repairs could be undertaken in the house?


MS EASTMAN:  So were these repairs the repairs that you identified needed to be done? 


MS EASTMAN:  And was that principally around the bathroom? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Principally, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  Dealing with the mould and   


MS EASTMAN:  And perhaps some new furnishings or carpets and things like that; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  Okay. And was it your understanding that once those repairs had been done that you might be able to return to the house? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I was told that I   I could if I wanted to; however, that the rent was going to go up by about $200 a week. And that property has just hit the market. It's not   it's not gone up by quite 200 but it's now on the market at 590. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that's out of price range in terms of rentals?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Considerably. I was struggling to pay 420. 

MS EASTMAN:  So just pausing at January this year, you're told that the house needed to be repaired. You would have to leave?


MS EASTMAN:  And if you wanted to come back, it was probably going to cost more to come back? 


MS EASTMAN:  So at that point in time in January, you were facing a situation where you couldn't have paid the proposed new rent but you still needed somewhere to live   


MS EASTMAN:    even if the house is being repaired; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in January, your principal source of income was the Disability Support Pension? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Together with other government supplements around Family Tax Benefit. Is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Do you mind me saying what your income was at that time? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  No, not at all. 

MS EASTMAN:  So you were receiving about $800 a week?


MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of paying the rent, which at that time was $420 a week, the idea of the rent possibly going up to something over 600, even as high as $670 a week, would have been well out of your budget? 


MS EASTMAN:  So faced with that dilemma, is it the case that you started to look for another house to rent in Newcastle? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is true, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of Newcastle as a location, were there particular reasons why you focused on Newcastle? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Well, my   my daughters' father lives in Newcastle, and he has 14 percent custody, so I needed to stay close to him. And my studies at the University of Newcastle would be very difficult. I also have my supports in Newcastle. Vision Australia is based in Hamilton, and all my support workers are based in Newcastle. 

MS EASTMAN:  So Newcastle's sort of critical to making sure your life works for   


MS EASTMAN:    your work, study?


MS EASTMAN:  And your daughter's study. And I assume you've got friends and relatives in Newcastle.

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, I do. I do have connections in Newcastle. It's also   going to new places when you can't see very well and learning to navigate those places can be very, very difficult. 

MS EASTMAN:  So I want to ask you about finding a property that you might want to rent. So I think these days everybody just jumps onto the internet, they do a little search? 


MS EASTMAN:  They might then go and inspect a property, queue up with everybody at the same time on a Saturday morning. What's the process that you used to identify properties and what were you doing early this year?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I did something very similar to that. My first port of call was to go on the internet and try to look at properties and to have my support workers help me look for properties. Yeah, that was one of the ways. I mean, it's very difficult because I can't really see accurately what things look like when presented on the screen. 

MS EASTMAN:  So going on the screen and doing an online search, that itself has got some difficulties just because of the way in which you use the screen? 


MS EASTMAN:  In doing those searches, was there any capacity to identify what you actually needed from an accessibility requirement? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  It's very, very difficult. 

MS EASTMAN:     can you do that? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Just from the ads that are on places like it's very, very difficult, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  Did it mean that you'd actually have to physically go to   


MS EASTMAN:    a property to identify whether the property both externally and internally were going to meet your access requirements? 


MS EASTMAN:  So you've just mentioned your support coordinator. Did you have assistance to actually do these searches?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I did, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And what was the nature of that assistance, because you were able to get on and put in the information?


MS EASTMAN:  But what was the support coordinator doing that was different to you? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  So my support coordinator was helping me. She was looking at other avenues other than the usual going online. She was looking into different agencies like Compass and other social housing organisations. And she was also looking into things like respite and crisis disability housing. And that's when we discovered that it would be quite   I wouldn't say easy but it would be a much simpler process to go down that path if I didn't have children, but there was very little in the way of options for emergency or respite for a disabled person with children. 

MS EASTMAN:  So your initial starting point was just to take a regular path of looking online for what was available for standard rental properties? 


MS EASTMAN:  And your support coordinator was starting to look at something outside, say, the private rental market in terms of different options? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, she also   she also started making contact with actual real estate agents too, because when I had spoken to them myself, they weren't really too interested in helping me. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. So you quickly realised that the Newcastle private rental market had changed quite a bit since you rented your house?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, and the prices had gone up since then too. 

MS EASTMAN:  So you're looking for a three bedroom house for you and your daughters?


MS EASTMAN:  That would have all of the accessibility features for the family; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And as you started to look at what you needed, not even necessarily what you actually would like   


MS EASTMAN:    but what you needed to do day to day activities, there just wasn't anything   


MS EASTMAN:    that was meeting that, was there? Okay. So what happened along the way? So I'm going to ask you about some of the properties that you looked at, but did you have to make a decision about the expectations of what accommodation might be available? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, I did. I realised that if I was going to stay in the private rental market that I would be in a position again where I would have to live somewhere that wasn't actually suitable for me and my disability. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of keeping a family together, did it have some consequence as well for your elder daughter and what she decided to do? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes. I think my   I don't really like talking on her behalf, but she explained to me that she   she felt that it would be easier for me if I was just looking for a two bedroom apartment, because she   sorry, a two bedroom place because she had been thinking about moving to Sydney anyway. She had not intended to move when she did, but she decided that that would make things easier   easier for me. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. You   as the day got closer to when you'd have to leave your former property, the anxiety started to kick in; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Very much so, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you started to think about looking not just for a place to live, but crisis accommodation? 


MS EASTMAN:  Is that right? And what can you tell the Royal Commission about that process of starting to think about crisis accommodation? What did that mean for you and your younger daughter? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  It was   it was extremely stressful, extremely stressful, not knowing what's going to happen or where you're going to end up is   it causes a lot of anxiety. And obviously anxiety exacerbates my   my condition. And for my younger daughter, Millicent, she   she really struggled. She struggled with the house being boxed up and she struggled with not knowing what was going to happen which caused her   she was having several meltdowns a day and she wasn't sleeping very well, and she was extremely unhappy. 

MS EASTMAN:  Were you told or was it your understanding that crisis accommodation would have involved a bedroom in a share house with support workers? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's what I was told to expect and what would have had to have happened was my youngest daughter would have had to have gone and lived with her dad, which was not a   a situation that myself or my daughter really would have   would have liked. 

MS EASTMAN:  And at this time you're still working at the university? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I wasn't, no. My   I only work very part time and I need to be a student in order to   to do that position. However, I was unable to remain at university. I was unable to do honours this year because of the stress of being evicted and trying to find somewhere to live and the impact that that was having not only on myself but my children. I am now back to doing that job as the university has made an allowance for me to do that as they know that I will be undertaking honours next semester. 

MS EASTMAN:  So I want to turn to the topic of public housing, and you first applied for public housing in 2016?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you understood that you were on a housing register or the list from about September 2016; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  No, it was earlier. It was earlier than that. By the time they found me something, I'd been on the list for almost six and a half years. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. I'll make that notation, Commissioners, to paragraph 39. So your understanding was that when you were first placed on the waiting list, you had a notation   this is your understanding   that your requirements were zero steps or stairs; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I didn't know at first that that's what had been put down.

MS EASTMAN:  But you learnt about that? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, I did, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  And so was it your understanding that if there was a notation on the application you'd made to be on the list for public housing or social housing, is if it described your particular requirements, was it your understanding that that might have a bearing on when particular accommodation might come up or be available to you? 


MS EASTMAN:  Was that your understanding? 


MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of zero steps or no stairs, you can handle stairs, I think you've said earlier, provided that they're safe? 


MS EASTMAN:  And there's not too many? 


MS EASTMAN:  And that you've got the right contrast to be able to use the stairs? 


MS EASTMAN:  Now, in October 2021, so this is   we're jumping around on dates but this is   


MS EASTMAN:    before your landlord gave you the notice to evict   


MS EASTMAN:    in January? In October 2021, you were offered a public housing property? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you declined that property after inspecting the house because you considered it to be unsafe for you? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Can I ask you just about that time around October '21.  When you received the information that there was a public housing property for you, was there any consultation with you around what the housing might be or did you have any choice in terms of what the options might be? 


MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of the house that you inspected being unsafe, what was it about the house, from your perspective, that made it unsafe? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Again, it was mainly focused around the bathroom. This was a very, very small house. It had a very small narrow corridor running down the middle of it, but the bathroom itself was very, very small and the   from what I can remember, the shower didn't have a cubicle. It had a very weird sort of shower tray that was pretty much the same colour as the tiles, and I really couldn't see it. And there was going to be a water issue there, but also I was fairly sure that I was going to fall over the   over the shower tray. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of the location of the house, was it close to schools or   


MS EASTMAN:  Or university or where you lived before?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  No. And it was a considerable walk to a bus stop or anywhere that I would be able to buy any groceries. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you made a decision to refuse to take up that offer; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I did, after a   a good consultation with one of my support workers.  The kitchen was also quite unsuitable, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And at that stage, though, you still had the other house you were in, the private rental?


MS EASTMAN:  So you were not in a situation at that time where you had to take an offer because there might be nothing else or you'd need crisis accommodation?


MS EASTMAN:  So did you tell the Department why you wouldn't accept that particular property? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, they asked me to send them an email listing all the reasons why it was not suitable for my disability. 

MS EASTMAN:  And so you set out, and the Commissioners have got a copy of that email in their material. You received a response from the Department in November 2021?


MS EASTMAN:  The Department advised you that your rejection of the property would be treated as a rejection of a reasonable offer?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  What was your understanding of what a "reasonable offer" meant?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  My understanding of a "reasonable offer" would be an offer that is suitable for my disability. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, again, having received that letter in 2021, your understanding was that in order to prove to the Department that the house was unsuitable because of your disability, you would need to provide an occupational therapist's report?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Setting out that it was unsuitable? 


MS EASTMAN:  So, for you, do you have a regular OT or occupational therapist that you use or see? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I do now, but I believe at that time I was still on the waiting list. The waiting lists are   to see an OT are extremely long. 

MS EASTMAN:  And had you ever had to get an OT report about what was suitable or unsuitable accommodation for you? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I'm sorry, I can't remember. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the process of having to get an OT to explain and prepare a report about it being unsuitable was pretty stressful for you?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That would have been pretty stressful. I mean, they give you so little notice of when you   when they have a property for you to go and see. They sort of call you up and say hey, you've got 48 hours or whatever it is to come in and get the keys and go and see this property. You do not have time to organise for an OT to come and see that for you. Not only   there is an expense to getting an OT, and there's an expense to getting the OT to write that report also, which would have to come out of my NDIS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Did the Department say to you "look, we've got a number of OTs here. When you're ready to go inspect the property let us know and the Department OT will come with you".  Did anyone make that suggestion to you? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  No, I was unaware the Department of Housing even had OTs until about two weeks ago. 

MS EASTMAN:  Until two weeks ago?


MS EASTMAN:  Your worry was if you rejected that reasonable offer, that that might have a consequence for you in terms of any future   


MS EASTMAN:    housing offers; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  And it was your understanding from the Department that their policy was to make two reasonable offers   


MS EASTMAN:    to an applicant, and that concerned you a lot, didn't it? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  It did because it made me sort of   the realisation was whatever they offered me, I was in such a desperate place that whatever they offered me, I was going to have to take whether it was suitable or not. 

MS EASTMAN:  At any stage between receiving the letter in November 2021 and up to when you were starting to look again for housing, did you have any ongoing discussions with the Department about what your particular accessibility requirements might be? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I had had discussions with them because I had to   there was a bit of a complication over changing what had been written on my account in regards to zero steps. So, yes, I did have a couple of conversations with them because when they sent me   when they offered me the house that they offered me in the October of '21, that had no steps in it, so that's when I discovered they still had   despite handing in further documentation to say that I could manage some steps, I realised that they hadn't actually changed that on my file. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. I want to move to the second house that you inspected. So we're into the beginning of this year. 


MS EASTMAN:  And the clock is ticking in terms of moving out of your   


MS EASTMAN:    old house. And you understood that a suitable public housing property would become available in around April   


MS EASTMAN:    2022? But it kept  

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That's what they said originally. 

MS EASTMAN:    getting pushed back?


MS EASTMAN:  And a house became available in early May, but there was a delay before you could inspect the property; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  And you found that situation quite stressful?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, that was quite stressful. They called me up again and told me again, you have X amount of time to come and see this property and come and get the keys. And obviously I was quite excited because I'd be waiting for that call, and then I went into the office and sat in the office and no one had the keys. The keys were not actually there and the property wasn't ready to be viewed. 

MS EASTMAN:  But you did eventually get to see the house? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Three weeks later, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And when you inspected the house, what was your impression in terms of both the external part of the house but internally, in meeting the accessibility requirements and also what your daughter needed? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Pretty good actually. I was very pleasantly surprised. It was a very, very different to the original property that they had shown us. This one was close to my daughter's school. It's very close to bus stops. It's very close to grocery stores. The property itself had   already had things like hand rails in the bathrooms and the   there's hand rails going up both sides of the stairs which is really important. It's   it's set out in a way that it's quite   the corridors and things are quite spacious, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  So you accepted the offer? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I most definitely accepted the offer, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you've moved in? 


MS EASTMAN:  And since you've moved in, there's a few things that you feel need to be done to modify   

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:    the internal part of the house to make it accessible? 


MS EASTMAN:  What's been the process in terms of getting some modifications made internally? 


MS EASTMAN:  Things like, just as a reminder, curtains, blinds, light fittings?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, well, when I   obviously, there's no   when you move into a Housing Association house, there is no   there's no curtains; there's no blinds. So that was the first thing that I   that I had to do. I've   I have been speaking to the Department of Housing in regards to making some changes to the lights. There's three rooms   the bathroom, the laundry and the kitchen   where I cannot use the lights in those rooms because they're big, bright, sort of those long fluorescent lighting. And also the house is painted just off white, the entire house, and because of my visual snow syndrome, I find that incredibly glary, and I've been discussing with them things like painting and putting up wall paper and that kind of thing. At first when I   when I originally spoke to them, there was a little bit of hostility and I was told, "well, you're going to have to get an OT report. Everything you want to change, you need an OT report for.  And you have to fill in"   I was handed a form to fill in which obviously I can't   I can't read. And they also told me that day too   they gave me another form listing that they were going to come and do an inspection and they handed me a whole heap of paperwork that I don't have the capacity to be able to read. 

MS EASTMAN:  Nik, I think you've said that some of the face to face and interactions with the Department have been challenging?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Some of them. 

MS EASTMAN:  Some people have been lovely?


MS EASTMAN:  Others have been rude and offhand?


MS EASTMAN:  And you say this: that you understand that the staff must have to deal with some difficult people but they shouldn't speak to clients disrespectfully?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  No, they shouldn't. 

MS EASTMAN:  You've had that sense, haven't you, going in, of   well, you put it in your own words, and I think you told me this, but how did you feel having to go in and that sense that you should just accept what's on offer because that's about all you're going to get?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, had that real, yeah, and there's also a sense of   I guess there's a loss of agency or authority over my   my own disability in that I need an OT to explain to them, someone who isn't inside my body, who doesn't know what I'm dealing with on a daily basis, to explain to them what my needs are. But also there's a   I don't really know the best way to say this, I'm sorry. I felt a lot when I have been into the Department of Housing, that I   you're sort of treated a little bit like you're a criminal, like you have done something wrong and that perhaps you don't deserve to be treated with respect. I don't know. It's not   it's just not a very nice   it's not a very nice feeling. 

MS EASTMAN:   Let me put it this way:  the experience of being a private renter and engaging with real estate agents in the private rental market has been very different to you than engaging with  


MS EASTMAN:    government department system?


MS EASTMAN:  Both in terms of how you interact with the system?


MS EASTMAN:  But also in terms of the way you are treated in that system?


MS EASTMAN:  And so you've been able to draw on sort of comparing different experiences?


MS EASTMAN:  You've also been having that sense of saying   being where you are now, is that real anxiety that you could just fall off the cliff into poverty, and I think that's something you've said really worries you? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I think   I think there is a poverty trap around being on Centrelink and particularly being in a house provided by the Department of Housing, and a concern for me is that I won't be able to get myself out of it. 

MS EASTMAN:  So secure housing is essential to be able to   

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, it is. 

MS EASTMAN:    complete your education? 


MS EASTMAN:  To be able to work? 


MS EASTMAN:  To support your daughter?


MS EASTMAN:  To be in the community?


MS EASTMAN:  To have the privacy to be able to do what you want, fulfil your own personal desires and your relationships? 


MS EASTMAN:  And that fear of insecure housing, stripping all that back from you, and the fear of poverty is something that still is with you, notwithstanding you're very happy with being in the house that you're in now; is that right? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, that would be   that would be correct, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  And there's a slight tension in that for you, isn't there, in that   

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes. Yeah, there is. 

MS EASTMAN:  The last thing I want to ask you about is some recommendations that you've proposed in your statement   


MS EASTMAN:    for the Commissioners and I know you're very keen to talk to them about some ideas for change, and one of them is about communication. 


MS EASTMAN:  And the engagement with clients who need to use the Department to be able to navigate their way through housing systems. So it's got to be accessible, but you also think that there could be a liaison person in each office who's got the capacity, expertise and training to assist people with disabilities. What would you like to sort of see in terms of the way in which the Department engages with people with disability? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I think in a more thoughtful manner, in a   in a manner that takes into account people's disabilities and their differing needs. 

MS EASTMAN:  You'd like to see better linkages between the NDIS   


MS EASTMAN:    and social housing to help people who need social housing to find suitable housing more quickly?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, definitely. 

MS EASTMAN:  And part of your experience has been you've had very good support with your support workers and coordinators   . 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  I do now. I've had some trouble in the past but right now I do have an excellent team behind me. 

MS EASTMAN:  And bringing those two systems together is something you think could be improved?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Definitely. 

MS EASTMAN:  It needs to be easier and quicker for people with disability who live in social housing to make the necessary adjustments and renovations to ensure that their dwellings are safe and accessible?


MS EASTMAN:  What you'd like to see is that the Department should work with the client and listen to them, and it's not always realistic to have to get an OT report?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  It's not realistic. I was just really lucky, the stage that I'm at, that I already had   I was already on the waiting list and I'd seen   an OT had come out to me before I moved and then I just happened to be booked in with an OT at the end of July. So we were   we were supposed to be working on something completely different but she was able to come out and fill in the report that the Department of Housing had asked for me to fill in. 

MS EASTMAN:  Another recommendation that you have is that people with disability on the social housing waiting list should be able to turn down an offer for a social housing property that doesn't meet their accessibility requirements without that risk of them being marked as rejecting a reasonable offer?


MS EASTMAN:  And then finding that they start to fall down the waiting list?


MS EASTMAN:  That's an issue that you wanted to raise?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Definitely. Definitely. 

MS EASTMAN:  And I think there's a range of other issues, but I'm looking at the time, and I'm sure that the Commissioners have read your recommendations, but I'm also pretty sure that they'll have some questions for you as well. But, Nik, thank you for sharing the experiences that you've had, which I know when you've worked with us at the Royal Commission have been occurring as we've been talking to you and evolving over the time that we've engaged with you. So thank you for working with us. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  You're welcome. Thank you for giving me a voice today. 

MS EASTMAN:  Commissioners.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. If it's okay with you, I'll first ask Commissioner Ryan if he has any questions for you. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I don't. It's a simple enough story that you've told very well. Thank you for coming to the Royal Commission.

CHAIR:  I'll ask Commissioner Galbally who, as I've indicated is in Melbourne, if she has any questions. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Thank you very much for your evidence today. I'd just like to ask you about your very last recommendation where you say the government should do more to help people with disability to buy their own homes, and you reflect on that. Have you   you know, have you got anything to add to that? And could you explain it? Thanks. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yeah, look, I think   I'm very grateful to the NDIS. I have a good package and I   I need the supports that I have and I'm very grateful for them. However, I feel like   or I believe that if the NDIS and the government sort of were able to help support more disabled people to purchase their own housing, there's a lot of supports that I need around housing that I think   sorry, what I'm trying to way in a roundabout way is I think I would have less of a financial need ongoing on a yearly basis if I had access to my own home that I could set up exactly how I need it, sort of from the get go or to be able to move into a property and make, you know, sort of dramatic changes. I think that would actually, over time, would save the NDIS money and it would remove the sort of reliability of disabled people going through the Department of Housing in the current way that we are processed. 


CHAIR:  Ms Moorhouse, I notice from your statement that the letter from the Department indicating that they considered that you had rejected a reasonable offer was sent to you in November   


CHAIR:    2021. You then say in your statement that you understood that a suitable public housing property might become available around April 2022. When did you get that understanding? How long after November 2021? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  That was after I had been issued my eviction notice. So once I'd been given the eviction notice, even though I was already told that I was at the top of the high priority list, the Department of Housing asked me to fill in another form and to provide them with evidence that I was being evicted. And it was some point   it was at some point after I had done   I had completed that. I'm not entirely sure. I think it may have been early March.

CHAIR:  Right. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  But I'm sorry, I can't   one of my symptoms is that my memory does not work as well as it used to, I'm sorry.

CHAIR:  No, that's okay. I just wanted to be a little clearer about the chronology. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yeah, they informed me that   I think my original eviction date was 18 April and they had informed me that they should have it   they should have something for me around that time. But because of how there's sort of a lack of communication between the maintenance department and the allocation teams, they were not completely sure when the property was going to come out of maintenance.

CHAIR:  I understand. With your university studies, presumably you incur, as a result of your bachelor's degree which you now have, a HECS liability too?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, I do. I do, yes.

CHAIR:  Is that something that has troubled you or is that something that you will worry about in due course if and when you get   

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Occasionally, it worries me. It's one of those things where, for me, my education is incredibly important, for numerous reasons, but  

CHAIR:  You don't have to give reasons for that. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  No, but it's a   unfortunately, the HECS debt is a necessary evil.

CHAIR:  Yes. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  And because of my anxiety around it, I've pretty much ignored my HECS   my HECS debt but obviously in the future that is something that   that is going to impact on my ability to support myself and pay my bills and  

CHAIR:  Sure. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:    buy a house, that kind of a thing.

CHAIR:  You say you would like   and you'll be starting your honours degree in the next semester. Is that this year or   

NIK MOORHOUSE:  No, that will be February next year.

CHAIR:  February next year. And then you would like to do a PhD?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  If I do well in honours, yes.

CHAIR:  Would you mind indicating what area you would study or what you might do a thesis in your PhD?

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Until quite recently I was really   and I still am really interested in deficit recourse and how that impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, but more recently I'm becoming more interested in disability advocacy. So I'm not too sure at this point in what direction I will go in, but probably going to be one of those two areas.

CHAIR:  That's entirely reasonable. I'm just interested in whether you had a specific project?


CHAIR:  And you contemplate an academic career in due course. Is that something you will do? 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Yes, definitely.

CHAIR:  In that area, perhaps, of disability?


CHAIR:  All right. From my point of view and I'm sure from other Commissioners we wish you every success   

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Thank you.

CHAIR:    in your studies and in your future hopefully academic career. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Thank you very much.

CHAIR:  I would like to echo what Ms Eastman has said and the other commissioners have said and thank you very much for explaining your experiences and the experiences of your family as well, and the fundamental importance of having safe, accessible, secure accommodation. 


CHAIR:  So much depends upon it. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come here today and to speak to you.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. Thank you. Ms Eastman.


MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Commissioners. So that concludes Ms Moorhouse's evidence, and, Nik, you're very welcome to stay there, if you'd like. Just before we break for morning tea, I want to play the pre-record evidence we made with Christmas.

CHAIR:  Okay. 

MS EASTMAN:  Christmas lost his job following a workplace injury, and eventually he became homeless. You'll hear Christmas's experiences of rough sleeping in the streets of Sydney and what happened to him when he moved into public housing during the COVID lockdowns. And he's got a bit to say, including to the Prime Minister, about the importance and the benefits of social housing. So I think we can play his   

CHAIR:  Did he identify which Prime Minister? Did you say the Prime Minister? I'm just wondering if he identified which one? It's all right. Okay. Now, this isn't going to create a problem of light, is it, for Ms Moorhouse?

MS EASTMAN:  Nik, you're very welcome to stay or to go.  Whatever suits you.

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Do you mind if I just move.

CHAIR:  Whatever is comfortable for you. 

NIK MOORHOUSE:  Thank you.

Video played

MS EASTMAN:  Good morning, Christmas. 

CHRISTMAS:  Good morning. 

MS EASTMAN:  Which is a pretty cool name, I think. 

CHRISTMAS:  You can thank the Cook Islands for that. They come up with really good names. 

MS EASTMAN:  Christmas, thanks for talking to the Royal Commission this morning. 

CHRISTMAS:  You're welcome. 

MS EASTMAN:  I was keen to hear your story. What can you tell us about your life? How far back do you want to go?

CHRISTMAS:  Well, I can go all the way. Basically I've been one of the lucky ones. I got housing, which is so good. It's affordable and, yeah, it's something I never really thought about, but, yeah, I got my housing pretty quickly because I was at the right place at the right time. But   

MS EASTMAN:  All right. So where are you living now? What's your housing like now?

CHRISTMAS:  It's really good. I've got James Cook in Waterloo and it's a high rise and really good. 

MS EASTMAN:  Do you live by yourself or with someone else?

CHRISTMAS:  Yeah, I've just got me, and, yeah, I'm really lucky I got it. I got fast tracked, basically, in corona. So I was really lucky, right place at the right time. But, yeah, there's a lot of people homeless, like women and children still on the street and, yeah, they want to demolish our buildings, and there's a lot of people fighting for it. We're trying to do word of mouth and there's a group getting signatures and process online, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  To keep the housing going and not   . 

CHRISTMAS:  Yes, to just fix the housing up. It doesn't need much maintenance. There's nothing wrong with it. The word is Albo is having a look at it. So, Albo, fix that one up.  Yeah, it's like, yeah, so good. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that came up during coronavirus and the lockdowns?


MS EASTMAN:  Is that right?

CHRISTMAS:  It was just before they started doing the fines. So they were like sweeping us all off the streets. So I just let it   as I said, the right place at the right time. Because I didn't want to go into the hotel, had a bit of a bad experience. 

MS EASTMAN:  Before you went into where you are now at Waterloo, where were you before? What was your living circumstances?

CHRISTMAS:  Woolloomooloo was my last place, just camping with the crew down there. 

MS EASTMAN:  What's "camping with the crew down there" mean?

CHRISTMAS:  Outside the Talbot Hostel. And   

MS EASTMAN:  So you were on the streets. 

CHRISTMAS:  Yeah. And, you know, they look after you. It's   we all camped out under the police station there. It was pretty safe for everyone. And you can go to the Talbot during the day for facilities, and yeah, that's where I got the housing. 

MS EASTMAN:  How long have you been on the streets? 

CHRISTMAS:  On and off since I got down to Sydney. I came from Cairns.  So yeah, just floating. I wasn't in a hurry to get any housing. I was sort of up in the air what I was going to do. 


CHRISTMAS:  I never really contemplated housing and, yeah, I never actually applied for it straightaway because, which I would have done if I'd known now how good it is, but, yeah, I didn't want to be tied down but then I realised you're paying 77   I think it's 78 now a week, so you're really free to travel anyway, if that's what you want to do. You can save up. You've got an opportunity to save. And you can go to Fraser Island, anywhere you want for a couple of weeks, so, yeah, you don't have to move. I always like to move around and see the world, but, yeah, you can do that if you've got housing but the problem is there's just not enough, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, Christmas, one thing we're talking about at the Royal Commission the experience of people with disability. What's been your experience in terms of yourself and getting assistance, help with your mental health? 

CHRISTMAS:  I'm not sure what helps out there. I just kind of deal with it. 


CHRISTMAS:  Yeah, and I haven't really looked at that yet. I think having housing has been a big thing because you've got somewhere to go. You can jump under the blankets and hide and pretend it's all not happening, if need be. Housing has been the key for me, yeah, definitely. 

MS EASTMAN:  And do you feel that like the housing is going to help you just work out what you want to do with your life?


MS EASTMAN:  And where you want to go and who you want to be with?

CHRISTMAS:  Absolutely, yeah, it's a good base. It's affordable. You can go back to the drawing board and, yeah, really plan what you want to do. 

MS EASTMAN:  What about work? Have you had a job in your life that you liked doing? What do you like?

CHRISTMAS:  Yeah. I've worked in all sorts of industries. 

MS EASTMAN:  What sort of things have you done in your work? 

CHRISTMAS:  I've worked in mining, fishing, trawling. My last job was in a fish factory, which was good work. 

MS EASTMAN:  And tell me about the Neighbourhood Centre. Is that a place where you can get advice   you can get advice and    work out where to get services and stuff like that? 

CHRISTMAS:  Yeah, the people are great. Everyone's friendly and yeah, any sort of advice you need, they'll give you. 


CHRISTMAS:  So, yeah, they've helped us with clothing and all sorts of things, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  And some of the people that we've met at the Neighbourhood Centre also have had real problems with their housing as well. What can you tell us about the friends that you've got here through the Neighbourhood Centre, about their experiences? Have they talked to you at all about that? 

CHRISTMAS:  Yeah, well, it boils down to whether you have housing or not. Yeah, we just talked to Colin, and he's been waiting 30 years. But circumstantial   it's needs based. Yeah. So the problem is availability. Rent is way too high in Sydney and it's causing the problem. 

MS EASTMAN:  What do you think could be done about the problem? 

CHRISTMAS:  Just off the top of my head, what must be done is there needs to be some kind of tax on owning 100 houses. People that are going around owning 100 houses, there's people on the streets who've got none, aren't paying so much as one cent more in rates for every house after their first house. That has   must change. 


CHRISTMAS:  That's the first thing. I just   yeah, haven't really planned, thought that through, but that's just an obvious no brainer for me. 


CHRISTMAS:  You know, it's just the rich getting richer. It's happening in all aspects of society. We've just seen it in corona. All the wealth and power being concentrated. But that's just one simple thing that could change overnight and has got to change, yeah.

Video stopped 

MS EASTMAN:  So, Commissioners, we thank Christmas for his contribution. I think we did ask him whether he'd like to come today. We haven't seen him yet. So could we break now till11.30.

CHAIR:  Yes, it's now five past 11. We'll adjourn until 11.30.  And then we'll resume with?

MS EASTMAN:  With our panel from the homelessness sector.

CHAIR:  Thank you. 



CHAIR:  Mr Fogarty. 

MR FOGARTY:  Yes, thank you, Chair. Commissioners, we have three witnesses for this session. On the right to the Commissioners in Sydney, in Parramatta, Trina Jones from Homelessness NSW. In the middle, Nada Nasser from Mission Australia, and on the left, Shane Jakupec from Neami National. I understand each will be affirmed.

CHAIR:  Yes. Thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence in the panel, which Mr Fogarty will conduct in due course. I understand that each of you wishes to take the affirmation, and, therefore, I shall ask you to follow the instructions of my associate over here, and he will administer the affirmation to you. Thank you. 





CHAIR:  Just to explain where everybody is, you can see Commissioner Galbally on the screen. She is in Melbourne participating remotely. Commissioner Ryan is to my left. I am the Chair of the Royal Commission. And Mr Fogarty of Counsel will now ask you some questions. 

MR FOGARTY:  Thank you, Chair. I might, noting that the witnesses don't have statements before the Royal Commission, first introduce them and their organisations briefly, if I may. First, Nada Nasser is Mission Australia's State Director of New South Wales, ACT and Victoria, leading homelessness; child, youth and family; employment; mental health; alcohol and other drugs, AOD; strengthening communities; and other community services. Prior to Mission Australia, Nada worked in senior roles in Housing New South Wales, other government human services agencies and in the not-for-profit sector. Mission Australia delivers a wide range of direct housing homelessness supports across Australia, as well as other services to support people in need including Specialist Homelessness Services, tenancy support and specialist housing support services such as the Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative, otherwise known as HASI. In the 2020/2021 financial year alone, Mission Australia assisted approximately 28,000 people through its homelessness and housing services. 

Trina Jones is the CEO of Homelessness NSW and has over 15 years’ experience leading responses to complex social issues, including homelessness, increasing supply of quality social housing, community safety, drug and alcohol use in Australia, the UK and Ireland. Trina has designed and managed prevention direct homelessness services, including case management, crisis accommodation, transitional housing, domestic and family violence, and assertive outreach programs. Prior to commencing as CEO of Homelessness NSW this year, Trina worked at the City of Sydney for eight years, including as its Homelessness and Safe City Manager. Homelessness NSW is the peak body for homelessness in New South Wales with its membership made up of over 1,550 members comprising Specialist Homelessness Services, organisations and individuals working to end homelessness.

And our last panel member is Shane Jakupec.  He's the Senior Operations Manager, Metro and North for Neami National. Shane has worked in the community services sector in New South Wales for over 20 years with experience spanning mental health, homelessness and suicide prevention services. Neami itself is a national not for profit organisation providing community and clinical mental health, homelessness and suicide prevention services. It works in metro, regional and rural communities, supporting more than 27,000 Australians a year to make positive changes to mental health and wellbeing. 

I propose to ask our panellists today to give evidence on four topics in order to assist the Royal Commission to get better understand, from their perspectives, the reality currently as they see it for people with disability experiencing or at risk of homelessness in New South Wales. The first topic concerns the visibility or, indeed, invisibility of people with disability in the homelessness sector.  Commissioners, I'll pause at the end of each of the topics and invite you to ask questions as we go, if that suits. 

Panel members, each of you has extensive  

CHAIR:  Sorry, what are the other three? 

MR FOGARTY:  The other three. The second topic, Chair, is in relation to barriers preventing people with disability exiting and pathways out of homelessness, segueing to the third topic which are models, strategies, projects, best practice that our witnesses have experienced or acknowledged in respect of - to essentially break down those barriers and pathways out of homelessness for people with disability. And the last topic is their visions for people with disability in housing and, I suppose, homelessness 20 years from now in New South Wales.

CHAIR:  Okay. Just one other question:  Mr Jakupec's organisation, is that word that I heard an acronym or is it the name of the organisation or what? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Good question. Neami used to stand for North Eastern Alliance for the Mentally Ill. It was a small organisation in north east Melbourne. Being a national organisation, we now just say Neami National.

CHAIR:  Right. But what does it stand for?

SHANE JAKUPEC:  North Eastern Alliance for the Mentally Ill. That was   it used to   so like Qantas. What does Qantas stand for.

CHAIR:  Right. Thank you. Now that we've got that clarified, Mr Fogarty will explore issue number one.

MR FOGARTY:  Thank you, Chair.  Each of you has extensive experience in homelessness and housing and the disadvantage experienced by people that sees them homeless or at risk of homelessness. What would be helpful, of course, for the Royal Commission is understand where does disability fit in. Is it detected and recognised in the homelessness sector and, if it is, how does the sector respond. I might ask each of you separately, but, please, if you feel you want to contribute, do so. Trina, I'll start with you. Does your organisation or your members, I understand many of whom are SHSs or Specialised Homelessness Services, collect data on the prevalence of disability amongst people experiencing homelessness?

TRINA JONES:  Yes. Data is collected are part of intake and assessment forms in Specialist Homeless Services. However, because clients may not wish to disclose that they have a disability or services may not mandate that question on the intake assessment form, because they can be quite extensive, the data can be inconsistent. The data's also often collected for reporting purposes, and due to the lag on these reports being available, and the data lag in general for homelessness services   like we're still using census data from 2016   it's difficult for services to use this data to actually inform their service delivery. So when we talk about understanding the prevalence of disability within the homelessness sector, that becomes a major challenge. 

Another challenge that the sector faces is shared terminology. So the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, which runs the reports that collects the data, defines "disability" as reduced capacity of core activities. This differs to the NDIS definition which focuses on   broadly focuses on impairment and permanency. And then the Centrelink definition, for the purposes of Disability Support Pension, which focuses on a specific medical condition or ability to participate in the workforce. 

Now, while I understand the needs for these different definitions to meet the needs of the programs, for individuals, being recognised as having a disability in one service and then having to re prove that each time you try to access housing, try to access supports, try to access payments, it starts to become very frustrating, convoluted and difficult. And so, for those reasons, it's difficult for us to accurately articulate the amount of people receiving homelessness support that have a disability. 

MR FOGARTY:  Do you think that affects the services provided to those people with disability in those services? 

TRINA JONES:  I think it affects the ability for robust and holistic support. 

MR FOGARTY:  Right. 

TRINA JONES:  Specialist Homelessness Services work tirelessly with resources available to them to support people at risk or experiencing homelessness to access long term housing with support. The difficulty in navigating the services that are required for people with disability, like NDIS, like modified housing, like the mental health clinician support that's required, places difficulty for Specialist Homelessness Services to navigate that. Which then falls back to the person experiencing homelessness and creates a further barrier.

CHAIR:  Is that a matter of collecting data or is it a matter of assessing the individual people who come to your attention? 

TRINA JONES:  Yes, Commissioners. Well, so one of the challenges is the assessment, meeting the needs for the individual, but then it's also been being able to navigate the system with the right evidence base to make sure that those services can actually be provided. We heard from the witness with lived experience earlier of the burden of proof that's placed on individuals to continually demonstrate their needs for additional supports and this, not having access to that data in a collective and coordinated way, can inhibit the delivery of services.

CHAIR:  Which are the categories of people that would come to your agency and whom you would regard as homeless or at risk of homelessness who would not be people with disability. What sort of people would they be? 

TRINA JONES:  Our membership supports a diverse range of people, so we represent 150 members that provide homelessness services. So it's a diverse range of people. For those that do not have a disability would be potentially people, you know, living in poverty; people with addiction, gambling, drug and alcohol use; people fleeing domestic and family violence, which is the leading cause of homelessness in Australia. But often the case is that there's many of these are intersected with people who do have a disability and these needs are compounded by the further complex challenges.

CHAIR:  On one view, drug addiction would be a disability. 

TRINA JONES:  That's right, an addiction can be perceived to be. Yes, that's right. And a systemic approach to homelessness data collection information sharing and monitoring is what's required so that we can identify additional vulnerabilities and complexing compounding factors, particularly for people with disability. 

MR FOGARTY:  Shane, can I ask you, are your observations similar to those of Trina's and do you see a way it could be improved?

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Thank you, just before we start, I'd like to acknowledge the Dharug people, the Traditional Owners of the land where we are. I think it's important to mention that in the context of homelessness. We work with between 20 and 30 percent of the population on the street who come from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, and it's one of these intersections that complicates many of the challenges people have in accessing services, particularly, then, once you add the layer of disability as well. I do agree with Trina on many of the things she mentioned. 

The key thing I wanted to mention around data collection is all of the services on the street, when we collect data, it's self reported data. Sometimes people don't identify, as Trina mentioned, with a disability. Sometimes they don't know that they have a disability. They may have some cognitive impairment that was never picked up, through an injury, accident, you know, misuse of drugs and alcohol, etcetera. And so when we're thinking about access to services, such as the   some of the programs in   run by mental health teams or the NDIS, people need to have proof of that evidence. 

And the idea of living on the street, having an itinerant lifestyle, having a disability, trauma, range of complexities, and then not having a specialist to be able to provide that assessment is a real big issue. Many of the assessments that people require to gain access, for example, a neuro-psych assessment will be $2,000 plus. So these are not little barriers. We heard the previous witnesses in the earlier session talk about some of the costs to access an OT report. And an OT report is cheap comparatively, if you need a psychiatrist's report for psychosocial disability, etcetera. 

So there are many barriers to collecting the data that's then required to access the services. And, you know, one of those big barriers is that, the cost and accessible. So a GP, for example, typically will not support someone's application for a medical assessment if they've not met them before. So if you area on the street, you don't have a regular GP, countless times, staff in the service that I work with will take someone to a GP for a medical assessment and they'll go, "I'm not going to sign this off. I need to see you two or three times". By the time you get that, that person has moved to another area, they've moved out of the state and that creates an added barrier to accessing housing, as an example.

MR FOGARTY:  And the proof that you're talking about in terms of OTs, etcetera, does your service provide those sorts of assessments in house or does it have to go out of house for clients?

SHANE JAKUPEC:  We provide   we source them out of house. We don't have the capacity for that with our homeless services. But it is one of the things that, as a service system, we're really looking at around do we need to provide that stuff in house. How do we do that? I know there's some collaboratives in the city. I work with my colleagues here around working with people with a lot of complexity. And we have a review panel where we try and unpack all the key issues and then target the barriers. And that works well, but it's one little piece of the puzzle in inner city and it's not a nationwide approach. 

MR FOGARTY:  I think too   I might be skipping ahead, but Neami has sought or is setting up a multidisciplinary service and what are the skills or services that would be in one of those?

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yeah, so access to mental health care. So with psychiatric disability, or psychosocial disability, accessing a mental health team or a mental health case manager in community requires proof of that. You need to have complexity to a particular threshold. For homeless support case workers that don't maybe have that mental health knowledge and background, that can be really difficult to navigate because, again, you're working on housing, supporting someone to settle in home and stabilise. Then you're also working on their trauma, their maybe physical health needs. There might be medications they need to be accessing for ailments, etcetera, for injuries. 

And then the mental health access and support or specialist mental health support like maybe a psychiatrist's review to access is actually quite difficult to do. And the private sector, very expensive. Most people can't afford that. Some agencies can subsidise that. Again, it's a massive barrier. So we are starting to look to employ mental health commissions. In some of our services we're employing psychiatrists to be able to break down some of those barriers, I guess, for access to those assessments. 

MR FOGARTY:  Have a one stop shop. 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Definitely. 

MR FOGARTY:  To assist with their complex needs. Nada, in your experience at Mission Australia or elsewhere, are there other innovative programs or projects you've seen or been involved with that help stem this problem with data collection and response to that? 

NADA NASSER:  Yes, sure. I also want to start by acknowledging the Dharug people and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. Yes, I agree with my colleagues around the challenge of data, the challenge of definitions, the challenge with even, from our experience, clients themselves don't   often don't   when they're asked do they have a disability, either they choose not to disclose it or don't see a mental illness a disability. So there is a broad perception that disability is a physical disability or an intellectual disability. So one of the innovations that we're involved in is the by name list which is through the End Street Sleeping Collaboration. 


NADA NASSER:  And I think that's an interesting innovation because it's looking at collecting data based on an individual through an assessment of their vulnerability. So the assessment of their vulnerability includes their disability, the mental illness, the whole range of physical conditions, any circumstances or condition that impacts on their ability to sustain housing, and indicates that they need support to sustain that housing. That is a really good tool. I mean, it has   it's still emerging and it has some limitations, but it's   it is a good innovation. 

Looking at some of the data from the by name list, we can see that   I think about 73 percent of the clients reported that they have a diagnosed mental health condition. So you can see the difference between that and some of the other data that we have seen. Of course, this group of clients, using the by name list, is rough sleepers and so they are people who are at the more complex end. So you would expect to see a much higher proportion of disability and other health conditions   

CHAIR:  How do clients come to your attention? 


CHAIR:  How do clients come to your attention? 

NADA NASSER:  Broad services from a number of areas. So they might be referred to us from a housing provider. So we have partnerships with community housing and public housing providers. And  

CHAIR:  And in what circumstances would a housing provider send someone to you? 

NADA NASSER:  Yeah, so that is a work on prevention, early intervention. So if there's a client who has a mental illness and needs support or someone who is at risk of being evicted   they may be in rental arrears, they may have a holding and squalor issue   our role, we would go in and work with those tenants to prevent them from becoming homeless. So that's one avenue. We also have referrals from mental health teams. We have referrals from   we have a team that works with   with people on the street. So we can work with people on the streets to help channel them into other services and into housing. So we have a number of sources available.

CHAIR:  Sorry. If someone comes to your attention who's living rough on the street  


CHAIR:    what do you do? 

NADA NASSER:  A number of responses. So in the first instance, we need to understand their situation. So we would do an assessment, we would work with them, we would find out what other services they may be accessing, is there anyone else that's working with them? The first thing is to understand their situation. If they need   often we would try and place them in some form of temporary or emergency accommodation to just, you know, stabilise their situation. And then, from there, we would work intensively with them to help them, whether it's an NDIS assessment, whether it's a housing application to help them access housing.

CHAIR:  What if they don't want help? 

NADA NASSER:  We work really hard to encourage people. If they don't want help, it may be because they have had a previous bad experience. So we would work through that with them to try and understand why is it that they don't want that help. Sometimes it's helping them access treatment as well. So they may need some particular treatment. So, yeah, so if they don't want help it's usually because they have a past, maybe previous difficult experience or maybe they don't believe that solution is going to suit their needs. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Can I just interject here. I have a feeling that the speed with which some of you are speaking is so quick that our interpreters would be having trouble.


COMMISSIONER RYAN:  In fact, I'm having trouble. You refer to your dataset as a by name list. 

NADA NASSER:  That is not our dataset as an organisation. This is   Counsel was asking about an innovation we're involved with. So the by name list is a data set by an organisation called the End Sundertreet Sleeping Collaboration, which we are a partner with. So, yes, they are the ones that developed that by name list and we are   a number of organisations are partners working with that organisation on the by name list. And apologies for speaking too fast. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  That's alright. 

MR FOGARTY:  Thank you, Commissioner. Shane, just on that topic before we leave it, the by name list, I understand you've had some involvement in that, and there was an issue initially around consent and that information being shared amongst different service providers? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yeah, I think this is a very important issue around some of the challenges people have in navigating systems. Every organisation gets stuck on their own consent. Every client needs to consent with every organisation. That's the general practice. One thing I do want to mention with the End Street sleeping Collaboration, it's a very interesting collaboration because it involves NGO services but it also has representation with Department of Communities and Justice at an executive level. It also has involvement from the Premier and Cabinet Department as well. 

And so government hears directly what's happening. We work together collectively with service providers and the government to actually hopefully build this dataset, and the tool that we have been using, the screening tool, is the VI SPDAT, Vulnerability Index   Service Prioritisation Decision tool. That   there was a big consent question around how to use that and who can access that. And so through lots of legal advice from Department of Communities and Justice, from every NGO involved in that process, there was agreement that we could develop a consent form where the person that was street sleeping would consent for agencies with their best interest looking to support them to access housing, which is what their primary goal was, that information could be shared and other agencies get involved with that if it was within their interest. And we managed to get the government on board with that as well. 

What it means now is there is an electronic by name list that Microsoft helped develop where we put that key information about those individuals, we allocate   we can document who the key service provider is with that person and given the itinerant nature of rough sleeping, if someone moves to another area they can look up that system and they can see who's been connected, they can see what work's been done, and they can continue the work with the individual. And, historically, people get lost in the system and the new agency starts from scratch and has to do that work again. 

So it is a really good innovation and it's still very early days in that space, but it's a promising innovation in that the consent issue we've managed to get resolved, and I think that's something that really needs to be looked at moving forward, because the disparate nature of services means that we work in silos and we clearly can't keep doing business as usual and working in silos as before. 

CHAIR:  How do you know the consent is informed in each case? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Absolutely. We talk to the person and if we are aware of a disability that impairs cognition, part of that process may be supporting them to access a guardian, if required. So we have   part of our partnership is   within that collaboration is St Vincent's Hospital are on there as well, and they represent   they have a really innovative homeless help team which actually can go out and meet people and make those assessments. So it's not NGO support agencies making decisions about someone's cognition. It's actually health team that specialise in being able to do that and make those decisions and support that informed consent. 

MR FOGARTY:  You've referred to silos. I'd like to move to the next topic, if the other Commissioners, commissioner Galbally, Commissioner Ryan don't have any questions on this introductory topic. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Can I ask, the collaboration you've got that's created the by name list, is that confined to a state or is it a national database?

NADA NASSER:  I'm happy to answer that. It is a state wide collaboration. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  For New South Wales. 

NADA NASSER:  For New South Wales, yes. It is based on a model operating in other parts of the world, but this is the only place where it is a state wide collaboration. 

MR FOGARTY:  Commissioner Galbally, do you have any questions at this point? I think you're on mute, Commissioner. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Look, I'm just thinking about mental illness, and the interface with intellectual disability and physical disability, and many other disabilities for that matter, and whether that's   those interfaces, whether there's data collected on that, would be a question. You know, the 75 percent, I'd be interested to know what other disabilities that 75 percent had? So you may not want to answer that now. And then my second question was in the informed consent area, do you use supported decision making rather than going to the guardian, you know, if there's   is there a whole culture of supported decision making? 

NADA NASSER:  Commissioner, just in relation to your question on the data, I don't have a breakdown of the 73 percent, but we know from the by name list, for example, 23 percent of clients overall reported having a sustained and acquired brain injury. 15 percent reported having a physical disability that limits their access to housing. So there are a number of points of data there that can provide an overview of different types of conditions and disabilities in relation to this cohort. 

In my organisation, we do collect data that does break down the condition. Unfortunately, as Trina said earlier, many clients choose not to respond to that question and those who do respond to that question often miss a physical   miss their mental illness as a disability. So they will often say no to the question of having a disability. So we do need to get better at that data question. 


MR FOGARTY:  Trina, did you want to respond? 

TRINA JONES:  Yes, I just want to add if possible   also I'd like to acknowledge that we're meeting on the land of the Dharug people and pay my respect. I'd also like to add when we talk about the by name list and other lists, they are talking specifically about people sleeping rough. There are examples internationally that show robust information management systems across the whole system. So they talk about people at risk of homelessness as well as people who are street sleeping, and that's integrated in a way that has consent, privacy, cybercrime considerations and data protection considerations built into it. There is a model in Canada that I would point to called the Homelessness Individuals and Families Information System. 

I'd also like to add, if possible, that former data collection undercount the prevalence of impairment and disability and the level of need for assistance for First Nations community. Our members tell us all the time that Indigenous communities do not define disability in the same way as mainstream services do. And this often leads to under-representation of this group, despite First Nations community members being over represented in homelessness populations. So I would like to add that also.

MR FOGARTY:   Thank you, Trina. Is anyone able to comment on the informed consent? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yeah, look, Commissioner, I'll mention that one. So the Sector works from a very person centred approach, and it's really the first port of call is to talk to the individual and work with them. I know it was mentioned earlier or the question was earlier around what if people don't want to, you know, access housing or   you know, there's lots of reasons why people don't want to. What we know, security and safety is critical. Housing needs to be a human right and shelter is one of the first key things people need. 

If someone is not wanting shelter, there's probably a lot of reasons behind that, and that could be trauma.  It could be   it could be that they don't have capacity to make those decisions for themselves as well. And so when we get to informed consent, we work with the individual.  And as you persistently continually go back to that person, and meet with them and engage them, you get to know them as well, and you'll understand if there are some possible impairments. Even if the person is not articulating that they have a disability, you'll get a bit of a sense. And that's where we have some good   again, in inner city, there's a really good coordination group that looks at, I guess, the   there's an assertive outreach team so that a staff will go out on the street and engage people that are street sleeping regularly, consistently to get to know them and offer them housing. 

And if they don't they will continue to come back, get to know them, and then, if required, refer them to this, I guess, coordination panel where they try to unpack the complexity for individuals. So many times there might be an underlying disability. It could be intellectual. It could be a cognitive impairment that hasn't been assessed yet. And so we would work together to work out who has the strongest relationship with that person, how do we get past the barrier of cost for that assessment and how do we support that assessment to occur, which would then allow us to get an understanding around is it informed consent particularly. 

But even if someone does have a guardianship order, if we feel that their only way to access services is to refer that person for guardianship, we still work with the individual and the guardian together. It's not about what the guardian says. That's legally, what goes, but we want to make sure that the individual is coming along that journey as well with them.

CHAIR:  Is the assumption upon which you operate that no person could rationally refuse an opportunity to have shelter? 

TRINA JONES:  I think our members would say that you start where the person is at. If that person wants to get access to food and companionship, we start from there and you build that trust and rapport. Having worked myself in assertive outreach for people sleeping on the street, lots of people's first conversation will be   and we heard from Christmas earlier, "that wasn't an option for me, I didn't think I was going to look for housing" and yet when you see that work and you put that time in with the person and they access the house they think   they often tell you, "I can't imagine it in another way, I'm connected to my community, I'm improving my health, I'm getting my support needs met". For those that would say, "I don't want access to a house", when you unpack what that actually means is, "I don't want to be re traumatised by a system that can't meet my needs in a way that's accessible for me to communicate at a time in my life when I'm in crisis and stress".

CHAIR:  Yes. 

MR FOGARTY:  Thank you, Chair. Moving on to barriers and I think we've started to touch on those, and, Shane, you referred to the silos. If I can ask you what they are, but really in a framework of barriers affecting particularly people with a disability is their pathways out of homelessness, Shane, if you can inform us about   I guess, there's probably many, but the big ticket that Neami sees for its constituents.

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yeah, absolutely. So if we're talking about people with disabilities, just across the board, accessibility in housing, we heard earlier today as well, that's a big ticket item. There is not enough affordable housing for people to access. At a disability layer, we have the ongoing issue there of having modifications being able to be done and met for the needs of the person with the disability, but then also being able to find that in a place that's where their connections are. One of the big barriers for people accessing housing from the street is that they will lose their community. If they have been sleeping on the street for a while, they have their community, they have their safe place. That's what they know, they have their people. And you move into an individual place far away from that group, you don't know the services, you don't know the people, you have isolation. 

There's a whole range of ways of working and re-learning how to live in a property. So that's one of the barriers a lot of the time for people actually accessing that. So having a variety of different types of accommodation and tailored modifications for people with disabilities is really key. If we think about psychosocial disability as an example, that's   there may not be a physical requirement that is apparent initially, but if someone has suicidal ideation   and that's a common thing   it doesn't make sense to put them in a high rise building with a balcony. And that needs to be a consideration. 

And it's not   it's overlooked a lot of the time because the person doesn't know to articulate that. As Nada mentioned, it's not a high priority. They don't see that as a disability. And, you know, so some of that can be missed. A couple of the other, I guess, big structural barriers that we see, certainly the difference between city and regional housing and options is growing more disparate. Like, it's hard enough to get accommodation in the city. Rent's expensive. But more and more, we're seeing in the regional towns with people moving out of the cities with the pandemic and working from home, housing access is reducing further and further for people that actually require subsidised housing. 

And so I know working in   we have a program working in Orange, and it was almost impossible for housing providers to find a rental property that could be available that they can lease to put somebody in. And that's when there is money available to subsidise that. You still can't find that housing. So that's a huge issue across the geographies. 

I guess education and employment opportunities, there's a big barrier there as well. I know there's just been a reform nationally again around the employment services sector. That was recently in the news around, you know, many of the services being de funded and being refunded. New services being refunded. That cycle has been going for the last 20 years that I've been in the workforce. Every four, five years, there's a whole bunch of services that are cut off. And the big reason that I heard on the news this time   again, same story, people with disabilities are sort of parked and left because they get their first payment as a provider, and then they're too hard to work with. And so they're left on the books and they're not supported and, you know, it's the same old story. 

So we need better targeted supported programs for people to actually get into employment education. There are, again, good international models, individual placement support programs where you focus with the individual what they're wanting to do and then you source that employment and it's been very successful. Like, we do some of that ourselves. I know there's been approaching   attempts to do that within the social housing space as well. But that, I guess, education   housing is one thing. Education and employment is the other thing. That's the pathway out of poverty. Not everyone wants to sit on a disability pension or a Social Security amount if they don't want to, but we need to be able to support people to have the right services to actually be able to move forward with that. 

MR FOGARTY:  And is there a disconnect between the silos between those different services and Neami   part of its wrap around support is to bring those together? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yeah, absolutely. So time and time again, people are connected with employment services, and they will typically go, "they're not doing anything for me, I've been to five different employment providers, they're not helping". And so where we can, we'll facilitate a    hopefully a better relationship with their employment provider and if they   we can't do that, in some of our programs, we've stepped up employment workers to do   to work within that IPS, individual placement support model, to support people because we know they're not getting it in the mainstream system. 

MR FOGARTY:  Trina, can I ask you about barriers particularly affecting people with disability on their pathway out or preventing them exiting homelessness? 

TRINA JONES:  I'd like to talk about three key themes, I'd like to talk about housing, funding and coordination capacity. So to understand the intersection between homelessness and disability, I think it's important to note that our members are increasingly telling us that people coming to their services have a disability, right, and they have varying types of disability, physical, mental and need additional support. So when we understand the issue of housing as a barrier, we also must frame this in the context that we cannot solve homelessness without housing. 

There's currently a waiting list of about 50,000 people in New South Wales, with the average wait time of up to 10 years. The current investment in social housing in New South Wales is atrophying and in decline, and with the current investment of approximately 700 houses a year, it will actually take 70 years to meet the current waiting list. So we talk about 10 year waiting lists; it's more likely to be 70 and that's for the current demand and doesn't take into consideration future need. In 2021, over 70,000 people experiencing homelessness with supported in New South Wales, and, as I've said, a high prevalence of those were people with disability. We know in terms of investment in services, that services cannot meet demand.  Of those 70,000 people, that was 30 percent more than the services are currently funded for.

CHAIR:  Where does that figure come from? 

TRINA JONES:  That comes from the Australian Institute of Housing and Welfare, so the AIHW. I'm happy to submit this with footnotes, if it's useful.

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Might have been just a bit fast. 

TRINA JONES:  Apologies. Happy to submit my notes referencing statistics, footnotes. So with 70,000 people experiencing homelessness   and that's 30 percent over the amount that services are funded for   a further 40 percent are turned away because services cannot meet demand. The investment in support services, the Productivity Commission has found, averages about $36 per day, okay. So $36 per day to support a person experiencing homelessness. 

We know that that is simply not enough to actually meet the complexity of need, the coordination and the practical support needed to help people to exit homelessness. Although our services and our members do that every day, it's not keeping up with the demand. We need five year contracts to enable certainty and innovation in service delivery, particularly for people with disability, given the complexity of need required and the coordination across state, federal and local services.

So that idea of housing supply not meeting the demand, funding for services not being able to keep up with demand and coordination across local, state and federal government being disparate, disjointed and lacking capacity in each of those areas to integrate are the main drivers for people falling out of the safety net and continuing to experience homelessness. So  

CHAIR:  I understand the point about the backlog of accessible, safe housing for people with disability. It's obviously a fundamental question. But when you come to something like coordination and funding and you bear in mind the number of programs at Commonwealth and state level that have been developed over the last several decades, have they not worked? And if not, why not? 

TRINA JONES:  They're not working because they're not investing enough for the level of complexity of need.

CHAIR:  So, what, it's just money?

TRINA JONES:  Money and people can solve homelessness, right, and political will. So one of the things that we make a recommendation for from Homelessness New South Wales is the appointment of a Homelessness Commissioner. A person who can ensure that there are key performance indicators across the departments in government   Health, Justice, Housing and Homelessness Services   to make shared accountability of governments to end homelessness, and that's for people street sleeping and people at risk. At a time when there's increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness, a huge atrophying stock in social housing, it's never been harder to find a rental. There's less than 0.01 percent of rentals available, and that's from the Anglicare snapshot of rental affordable for people with disability. 

The safety net is not available for the most vulnerable, and that's why we're seeing so many people fall into homelessness and stay homeless without an ability to exit. So there is funding, but there's a lack of coordination, and the funding is not enough. And even if the services were well funded and well-coordinated, without housing, we can't end homelessness.

CHAIR:  Where do your respective organisations fit within the strategies that have been developed? Particularly by the Commonwealth to deal with homelessness with the professed objective of ending homelessness? Where do your organisations fit and how do you either facilitate the coordination or are frustrated in the coordination? 

TRINA JONES:  Our sector is leading the innovation and calling on government for further investment. A good example is a program called Together Home which was stood up in response to COVID 19 pandemic, and that was a program that brought together all of the services to support people who were street sleeping into housing with support. And that housing was managed by community housing providers. Support was provided by specialist services. And government agencies came to the table with the investment to enable that to happen rapidly, and at scale. And we saw record numbers of people exit homelessness with support.

CHAIR:  That's an example of coordination working. 

TRINA JONES:  Yes, with investment and political will.

CHAIR:  Yes. So where does your organisation fit within the strategies that the Commonwealth has developed? Are you part of that strategy? Are you outside the strategy? I'm asking these questions because we don't   it's not your responsibility, but we don't have a statement, so I'm not quite sure of just where your organisations fit within the overall framework? 

TRINA JONES:  So Homelessness NSW exists to build a capability of people and capacity of systems to end homelessness. So we mobilise our members to understand the issues on the ground, and then we advocate to make those issues known at the strategic level and influence policy, investment and coordination at local, state and federal government.

CHAIR:  And where do your organisations get their money from? 

TRINA JONES:  We're funded by the State Government, predominantly.

CHAIR:  Wholly?

TRINA JONES:  Predominantly. 

NADA NASSER:  The SHS funded is under broader Commonwealth partnerships – Commonwealth   state partnerships to support homelessness. So funding is channelled from the Commonwealth to the states, and I believe there's a joint funding arrangement as well, so the State Government contribute as well as the Commonwealth Government to the SHS program.

CHAIR:  So do you regard yourself or your organisation as an integral part of the national strategy to reduce homelessness?

TRINA JONES:  Absolutely. 

NADA NASSER:  So, yes, we are delivering   in relation to Mission Australia, we deliver services that are funded   funding is channelled from the Commonwealth to the states, but also states contribute to that funding. So we are providers of the services that are funded through those channels. We also do have an advocacy role. So as a national organisation we work   you know, we   our colleagues like Homelessness NSW and other organisation to advocate to the Commonwealth. And to contribute to national plans around ending homelessness. So we do make that contribution through our advocacy role. 

MR FOGARTY:  Chair, I might, noting the time, move to the next topic, but if Commissioner Galbally has any questions at the moment? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  It was just one question, and this is to you, Trina, I think. Are you involved in the whole universal design for accessible housing? And, you know, have you got   the New South Wales Government's not adopting the minimum accessibility standards? Do you make representations on that topic to the New South Wales Government? 

TRINA JONES:  Absolutely. We have called on the State Government and continue to call on the State Government to ensure that universal housing design with   and the liveable housing design guidelines are adapted and are in place to retrofit existing stock. And we are proponents for the guidelines that recommend inclusion of the features that make homes easier and safer for all occupants, particularly people with disability. We also note   and, again to the witness statement earlier from Ms Moorhouse   the set up of the home does not always deliver the needs for the occupants. An example was given where no curtains were in place. I'm not sure if people are aware, with significant heat, the temperatures in social housing, public housing and substandard accommodation can reach dangerous levels, without   particularly without window treatments. 

One of the particular risks for people with disability, particularly people who are taking antipsychotic medication, is this can have adverse impacts on their medication and cause significant impacts for themselves and others. So the type of housing, the quality of that housing, the energy rating, the accessibility and the ongoing maintenance are key advocacy issues for us as the peak body. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Thank you. And I take it the pipeline to private rental from public housing, that that has to be accessible completely too. So   

TRINA JONES:  Absolutely. 

MR FOGARTY:  The literature speaks of some models, and I'd like to invite you to discuss those and perhaps adaptations that you might see necessary for people with disability or adaptations in the work that each of your organisations does. There's the Housing First model, wraparound service model, sometimes referred to as case management services and support, and then, on a global level, early intervention and prevention. Shane, of those models, are they adopted by Neami? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yeah. So the first one you mentioned, the Housing First model, I guess for the Commissioners, that in itself assumes that we get the person that's homeless, we put them in a long term house, so not a short term rental, put them into a property where they can be there for long term and we provide supports around them, we wrap that around them to meet their needs. So it doesn't assume that people need to be housing ready. It actually gets them off the street, gives that fundamental safety and security for that person, and then we work with them. Now, there are various programs that have been established to operate in this approach, but the challenge with most of them to date is the accessibility to the rapid housing. 

That is, again, really key. It's a great model. It works when you can get the housing and you have the funded support. Neami is funded and just recently got refunded for three years for a program in Sydney called Supported Transition and Engagement Program.  The governments worked really well to recognise that short term support for that has a disability and has maybe been sleeping rough for a long period of time is not appropriate. Three months support is not okay. Six months support is not okay. 

Evidence suggests minimum 18 months is what's required to support that person to feel safe, feel connected to their community and learn the skills to be able to continue without supports or reduced support. That program allows for 18 months to three years of support, and with our community housing partners, it's a permanent housing outcome, and that's really key and we've had amazing success with that program moving forward. In saying that, it's not specifically for people that are homeless with disabilities, it's more people that are homeless, and the levels of support that are funded might allow workers to see someone for maybe once a week or twice a week. That's inadequate for someone with long term complex physical and mental health issues. 

And I guess that's an area that further investment could be done. Trina mentioned the Together Home program. That was   that's a good model, but it's funded for two years. So it's not a long term housing outcome. But there is a funding pool to provide top up support for where there is complexity. So the key thing is about flexibility in a funding model to support the person's needs for how long they need. And that long term housing outcome is good. 

One final thing I wanted to mention here is we still have a bit of an us and them approach with, say, mental health is seen by   is managed through the Ministry of Health in New South Wales and the Health funding stream. Homelessness is managed through the Department of Communities and Justice and the housing funding stream. And it's still a little bit of a dance of whose client is it or who needs to take priority for that.  The reality is when someone's on the ground there, they intersect both of those across the board. 

And so there does   as Trina mentioned, there does need to be better coordination between the Departments because some of the highly funded program that Nada mentioned, the Housing Accommodation Support Initiative funded through the Ministry of Health, that allows people to be supported daily and multiple times a day if required to be able to live independently in the community. It's a very successful program. It's been running since 2003 and continues to be expanded. So it can be done, and it can be done with complexity. If the person wants to live independently, we should be able to put the supports around them to do that. 

MR FOGARTY:  Before moving to Nada and Trina on this topic, does the NDIS have a role to play or have you seen it having a role to play to support that model? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yes. So many people in some of those programs are on a pathway to an NDIS package or may have had one. The challenge is that it's a long process, and for all the reasons we talked about earlier around finding the person when they're on the street, particularly, getting them to the right specialist, paying for those assessments, navigating the process, that can be a really long process. Once you've got somebody in a house   if you get somebody in a house, you know where they are. You go and support them. They're safe and you can actually fast track that process more. It's still complicated but you can actually support that person to get that NDIS package quicker once they're housed. Once they're on the street still, it's very difficult. 

MR FOGARTY:  Noting the slowdown requirement, Nada   not to you particularly   what about Mission Australia and models of support for clients with disability? 

NADA NASSER:  Yeah. I   I think there are quite a number of really great models out in the sector, both in the Specialist Homelessness Services system as well as outside that system. And I think it's important to recognise that, but as Trina said, they're often not funded well enough, but also they're often not across the whole system. So I want to just talk a little bit about the Housing Accommodation Support Initiative, which I'll refer to as HASI. HASI is a really great program that manages that integration well between Health and the NDIS. 

The Housing and Support Initiative is funded through Health, and it basically works on a client centred approach and provides the level of support that is needed as long as it is needed. So it, you know, could be sometimes that you might provide three hours a week of support.  Sometimes we might provide 30 hours a week of support. So it's very much based on the needs of the clients. It takes a wraparound support approach. So we have a case worker who works with the client and helps them to access any other service they may need. 

So they may need alcohol and other drug treatment. They might need an NDIS package. They might need a range of other services. Of course, they also help them with housing. So the key part of it is sustaining and helping people to access and to sustain their housing. In our NDIS   in our HASI program, we have about 20 percent of clients, just under 20 percent, who have an NDIS   who have an NDIS package. And we manage to do that dance well between Health and the disability NDIS services. 

So the   to   in order to access HASI you have to have a psychosocial disability. That is a key eligibility criteria. So while those clients would also be eligible for the NDIS, we also work with some of them to access additional services through the NDIS so they may access   particularly if they have a physical disability, or they need additional supports that the HASI program is unable to provide. So that's a really good example that works well between the housing system, the health system and the disability system in an integrated way. 

And it means the client is not the one who is navigating the system. It is actually us as service providers who are working together to navigate that system, you know, on behalf of the client and with the client. Interestingly, HASI has both provides services in the community, so in housing that is in the community, usually public housing or social housing. But also we do have supported accommodation. So there is, you know, people who are unable to live independently are supported through a group home setting, with 24/7 support on site. Sometimes 24/7 support on site for those who have very high levels of need, but sometimes the support is a drop in support. 

So we have one facility, for example, on the Northern Beaches that has   where our staff drop in three times a week to work with a group. There are about eight people living there. We drop in to provide support, to check-in, to help with whatever is needed.

CHAIR:  You're a registered NDIS provider? 

NADA NASSER:  We're not a registered NDIS support provider. So the   in   so we are registered only in relation to our aged care services. So we do have three aged care facilities, and those aged care facilities are registered as is required for all aged care providers to be registered if they work with people.

CHAIR:  I thought you said you had group homes, effectively? 

NADA NASSER:  No, they're not   they're not group homes as in for people with disability. They are   it's a group   it's a shared accommodation setting. I guess what I'm saying is it's   it's a group   it's a group setting. So basically it's an accommodation where a number of people live within that residential setting. And we do have a number of residential  

CHAIR:  Who's the landlord? 

NADA NASSER:  So community housing providers is usually the landlord. So in this particular example the landlord is the community housing provider. The tenants who live in that facility provide   pay rent, social housing level rent, to the community housing provider, and us as the support provider go in and provide the support.

CHAIR:  Thank you. 

MR FOGARTY:  Trina. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  While we're on that - 

MR FOGARTY:  Sorry, Commissioner. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Are you speaking about the Mission Australia's Coffs Harbour facility when you were talking about a facility? 

NADA NASSER:  I wasn't specifically, but the Coffs Harbour   in Coffs Harbour we have another model but that's a really good model as well. It is specifically provides accommodation for young people. We have a   it's a 40 bed unit complex, a 40 unit complex. And within that unit complex we've earmarked one floor for young people and specifically young people who need supports to sustain their tenancy. And we work with those young people to obviously maintain their housing but also support them to access education, training, employment support.

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Can I just ask you about the 40 unit   


COMMISSIONER RYAN:    proposal. I have some experience in de institutionalising places, and living out in the western suburbs of Sydney like Campbelltown and teaching there, it has to be said that the idea of housing a whole group of people who are homeless together in large concentrations has not been a happy experience. What's different about housing 40   having 40 studio units for young people in a place like Coffs Harbour? How do you ensure that that isn't going to become what have sometimes been described as tomorrow's ghettos and so on. And, for example, there's proposals in Sydney to demolish the Waterloo Towers and so on. I mean, is that really a model form? Or is that been something that's been created by the necessity of the available funding? 

NADA NASSER:  So that's a really good question, Commissioner. Firstly, the Coffs Harbour building is   only has one floor for young people and the rest is a   is broad social housing. In terms of the mix, we generally   and I think the general practice now, wherever there's a social housing development, there's usually a housing mix that we work to, so a combination of social housing, affordable housing and some private rental as well, to try and create more of a social mix. I think that is the general practice. 

But sometimes the reality is trying to create as many homes as possible. That's the funding reality that housing providers do face. But one of the ways we work really hard to promote integration and promote social connection, through a range of social programs. So, for example, in Coffs Harbour, we have a Mission Australia centre right next door to that 40 unit building where there's a range of, you know, community activities, and it's a hub for community services as well as social activities as well. So I think social connection is really important.

I do also add that in social housing in New South Wales, there's a program called the Tenant Participation and Community Engagement Program and that's a program that works   particularly where there is a concentration of social housing, works with the tenants and the local community to make sure there's good social interaction and social connectedness. 

MR FOGARTY:  Commissioner Galbally, did you have any questions at the moment? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  My question is   I don't quite know the word to use, but when something looks like it's working, you know, that you would see as successful, what's the mechanism, then, to lift it   to get it lifted up? Not by you particularly, but do you have an avenue to government, and are they quick to the table to say, "this is great. Now, let's bring it right across Australia"? You know, because, otherwise, successful models tend to come and go, and, you know, they go back 30 years.  And it sort of   feels like a loss of really valuable information and evaluation too. So I just   you know, it's a bit of a circuitous question but is there a program to lift up successful models and, if not, should there be one? Maybe Trina? Your organisation? 

TRINA JONES:  Yes. Our sector is very good at undertaking evaluation and doing critical reflection on what works well and what does not work well. And there is regular in depth evaluation undertaken on successful program models. And examples are the Housing First approach, which, you know, was kind of broached in Australia, some would say pre 2010 but really started to get traction around 2010. So we are now at 2022 and we still haven't got Housing First embedded into core business as a delivery model to end homelessness for vulnerable people. 

Despite the mountains of evidence, despite the international success and the evidence from people with lived experience, it's still funded as a stop start program, often for up to two years, and without good linkages to investment in new social housing. That's just one example. And we could also give examples of the Common Ground model, which is an integrated support housing option where people with complex needs who would not thrive in individual social housing properties outside of a supported setting. We haven't been able to get further traction on another Common Ground in Sydney. 

A Youth Foyer is another example that can significantly break the cycle of disadvantage. We continue to advocate for them but unfortunately have not got the traction to scale the development of them across New South Wales or Australia. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Yes. The terms to scale, isn't it? 


COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  And the sort of frustration you must feel about that not happening. I mean, my second question was just, are developments like the Coffs Harbour 40 unit development and others, are they completely accessible to every type of disability? 

NADA NASSER:  I believe that it is accessible. There's lift access in terms of access into the rooms but I couldn't tell you how many of those units internally are accessible. I'm happy to take that question on notice, if you'd like. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Yes. I'd be really interested to know about the full accessibility of most of that stock, you know, of all of that stock. 


MR FOGARTY:  Trina, before proceeding to the last topic   and I think some of that is probably, we can read into the evidence each of you have given   is there anything you wanted to add in terms of the best practice models? 

TRINA JONES:  I think I'd just like to add on early intervention and prevention, you know, the evidence is clear who's at risk of homelessness. Among those in the highest risk categories are people with disability, and we know that having a disability can be both a cause of homelessness, you know, given the barriers we discussed today, and also a consequence of homelessness, given the trauma that homelessness can have and the concurrent mental health issues that can then eventuate. The best way to intervene in preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place involves ensuring that they can afford to access appropriate housing. 

So programs like the National Rental Affordability Scheme and Commonwealth Rental Assistance Programs, they are a lifeline for vulnerable renters. And without those programs, many people with disability would fall into homelessness. The National Rental Affordability Scheme will finish in 2026, leaving thousands vulnerable to homelessness across Australia. And the risk factors are particularly high for people with disability. 

We also know that improving exit planning and accountability from government services like hospitals, out of home care, Corrections, are critical intervention points to reduce the risk of homelessness among people with disability, and we know that we're not adequately collecting data and tracking and coordinating across government to ensure that people are not exiting into homelessness. So we need shared accountability. The leading reason cited for seeking assistance from homelessness services for people with disability was housing crisis, domestic and family violence, and need for financial assistance. 

Poverty is the major driver of homelessness, and programs to raise the minimum standards of living for people dependent on government support payments, has demonstrated value to improve social and health outcomes. So we support campaigns like Raise the Rate and improving the standards of living for the most vulnerable. 

MR FOGARTY:  Do you think the   an early intervention and prevention strategy or model is used enough across New South Wales or is it still a crisis driven model?

TRINA JONES:  I think we're absolutely a crisis-driven model. There are steps that can be taken today. One example is, you know, abolishing the no grounds eviction clauses for renters and improving security for people who rent. Extending the National Rental Affordability Scheme so that thousands don't fall into homelessness. And investing in social and affordable housing so that if they can't access the private rental market, there is a safety net available for people that is funded and supported. 

MR FOGARTY:   Last topic. And, again, I remind us all to try and slow down. Can I start with you, Nada. What's your vision for people with disability in New South Wales in housing or homelessness   hopefully not homelessness   in 20 years' time? And in terms of a framework in which that might be achieved, whether it's a human rights one or in combination with another framework or other frameworks? 

NADA NASSER:  I think we need to start with believing that homelessness is solvable and not accept that it is inevitable. I think for too long, you know, we've accepted that homelessness is inevitable and that there will be people who are homeless. So we need to start by, as a system, as, you know, organisations, government, non government organisations working together to accept that it is solvable. Mission Australia, we do believe that. One of our core strategies is ending homelessness, and   and we work with   on collaborations like the End Street Sleeping Collaboration, like the Constellation Project that are looking at innovative ways to end homelessness. 

So I think that's a really important start. We need to tackle the problem from different angles. It is not a one size fits all. Homelessness services alone can't solve the problem. Disability services system can't solve the problem.  The health system can't solve the problem, the housing system. So we need to work together. So that connected system is really important. We know what works. So we talked a lot about models today and the evidence of the programs that work. So there is a lot of evidence about what works. We just need to do it. And we need the funding to make it happen. 

As, you know, my colleague   my   both my colleagues talked about today, a key is having enough social housing. You know, there's probably no need to say any more about that. I guess we are not going to be able to end homelessness without having enough housing that is affordable, that is accessible and that is in the right locations, but also that help people achieve that social connection as well. Housing   I, you know   our vision is that seeing Housing First as the go to model before we even put people into crisis accommodation. That actually needs to be the first response is a Housing First response with wraparound support. 

I want to see a system where there is no exits into homelessness, and I know Trina talked a little bit about this before, you know, whether it's in the Corrections system, our health system, other systems, let's plan to prevent people from exiting straight into homelessness. About a third of young people in homelessness services have had an experience with out of home care. Let's make sure we're not exiting people from out of home care into homelessness. And that's being done in other states. They have extended out of home care support to young people to the age of 21. We should be doing that in New South Wales as well. 

A more   a stronger focus on prevention, early intervention. We heard Nik's story earlier today. The risks were really early there that she was going to lose her tenancy. We need to be doing more for people like that, to make sure we are identifying that they are at risk of homelessness and solving   and helping them to stay housed before they become evicted. 

We talked a lot about a connected system. That is a real   that's a key. It's really important that we have better systems for sharing information, for working together. And we don't need more programs; we need more client centred approaches. Let's listen to people with lived experience like Nik, like Christmas, that they are telling us their stories, they're telling us what they need. Let's listen to them and let's drive solutions that are focused on their needs, rather than programs that are rigid, that are inflexible and that people with a disability have to fit into rather than the other way around. I think I might leave it there. That's   yeah, that's my vision. 

MR FOGARTY:  Thank you. Nada. Shane? 

SHANE JAKUPEC:  Yeah, thanks, Nada. I support everything you say. I guess just to enhance a couple of those things. The question earlier around national collaboration and states and how does that work. You know, we see Health and Housing sort of not really working together. We've got the Commonwealth funding health programs through the Primary Health Districts. In the Central East Sydney Primary Health District, they, as a Commonwealth department, formed a bit of a glue to bring three health districts. So the South East Sydney Local Health District, the Sydney Local Health District and the St Vincent's health network together with the Department of Communities and Justice to develop a homelessness strategy across the board for that. 

It's a good example of they have that Commonwealth view. They do get funding for different initiatives to commission locally. And so maybe that's a good way forward as thinking about recommending some of the potentially they being the glue to bring agencies together. Because there's 31, I think, around the country. They're already established; they've been there for a while. So that's one thing I would add to better coordinated services. 

I guess regarding the Housing First, I would love that that is the par for the course, but that means there is housing to put people in. People are traumatised from moving from street to temporary accommodation to crisis service to somewhere else that they can go for two years, never knowing where their home will be. And every time they go through a cycle into a new type of accommodation, each time they have to learn new rules, new ways of working, new people. 

And that's really difficult and very tiring, and that's actually one of the causes why a lot of people don't want to go into housing because they think that's where they will end up. So it's having the foresight to hopefully, you know, lift the floor and, you know, move away from "rough sleeping is where we accept people can start from", to going, "well, we need to move people into housing straightaway". If you do it rapidly, you reduce the trauma, you reduce the expense and you give people better life outcomes by doing that. 

MR FOGARTY:  Trina, can I ask you to finish, noting the time? 

TRINA JONES:  Yes. Homelessness NSW have a vision for a future where there's enough quality and safe housing and support services to ensure that no one is homeless in New South Wales. So we heard today and from the witnesses over the course of the inquiry, the Commission, that the drivers of homelessness are complex and varied, but I guess what I'm trying to explain is the solutions are the same. An investment in the supply of social and affordable housing, and that needs to look like 10 percent of all housing stock. So we need to get to a place where we have nation building so that of all residential dwellings in Australia, about 10 percent are social housing, and that's on par with similar countries that have similar GDP. 

We need to ensure that that housing is safe and designed for people with disability to live in safety and security with connection to their community. And that type of housing is designed for people to have connection with their family. In the instances of First Nations community members with disability, often kin and family stay to have caring responsibilities, and housing needs to be designed to allow for that instead of in the current format that actually punishes tenants if they have family stay with them, or puts them at risk of eviction. 

We need to fund services appropriately to meet the needs of clients and include specialist supports, including psychosocial support and coordination to access NDIS and other supports. And we need to coordinate across government to ensure that the safety net is knitted together tightly enough to ensure the most vulnerable in our community have access to the support they need in an accessible way without having to fight and advocate for a decent and safe standard of living. 

MR FOGARTY:  Thank you. Chair and Commissioners, I invite you with any final questions to the panel members.

CHAIR:  Yes. Thank you very much. I'll ask Commissioner Ryan first if he has any further questions to ask the panel. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I might ask Trina a question. You've described the level of   you've described that we don't spend enough. And you talked about the sort of expenditure that we   you've talked about that we need to spend more. The Royal Commission will ultimately have to address itself to how much. Is there an article you can refer to or a submission that's been given to the Royal Commission or to someone that has suggested what the annual expenditure a government would have to make? Because the numbers are just phenomenal. I mean, there's 178,000 new houses built in Australia every year. 


COMMISSIONER RYAN:  So it would be  


COMMISSIONER RYAN:  The number would be pretty staggering. 

TRINA JONES:  Yes, it's an investment for the future in Australia, because we know that an investment in social, affordable housing has economic, social and health benefits. In terms of the funding for service delivery, if we take   

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  No, no. Sorry, not service delivery. The number   you said you can't solve this   

TRINA JONES:  Yes, without housing. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:     without houses.


COMMISSIONER RYAN:   So exactly how many houses would a government have to build in social housing in order to achieve that objective so that we're not meeting the objective in 70 years’ time?

TRINA JONES:  That's right. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  What's a reasonable recommendation for this Royal Commission to make? 

TRINA JONES:  So the research is telling us in New South Wales that we need 15,000 houses per annum to meet the current and future need. That would represent about 40 percent of all residential dwellings built in New South Wales, which is an enormous figure. Because of the atrophying nature and decline in social housing, that's where we're at today. Modelling from research from AHURI, research from the Productivity Commission and some modelling that we are working on at Homelessness NSW suggests that 10 percent of all housing dwellings could significantly meet demand within the housing sector. And I'd be happy to submit a supplementary paper post today to give some modelling around that. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I would be grateful. I think we would be grateful if you did that. 

TRINA JONES:  And I would also like to include some financial modelling to demonstrate why $36 a day is not enough to support people to exit homelessness in New South Wales and we would need a further, at a conservative estimate, $152 million a year to meet the current demand in people accessing homelessness services.

CHAIR:  By 15,000 social housing or houses, you mean not individual houses necessarily, but they could be units in buildings and so on? 

TRINA JONES:  Yes, that's right. That's right. I mean, it's important to know in New South Wales, approximately 70,000 houses are approved residential dwellings, are approved every year. Only about 35,000 get built for various reasons. So that will give you an indication of the current investment at 200 to 700 houses built for social housing, where that sits, at two percent of all housing built in New South Wales per year.

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Did you have a response to   you might remember sometime ago we were talking, I think Commissioner Galbally referred to the standard of accessibility for housing. I understand there was some sort of regulation impact statement done. Did Housing New South Wales contribute to that?

TRINA JONES:  Given I have been at Homelessness NSW for eight weeks, I'm not sure if   what was submitted for that particularly. In previous roles, I have attended as a witness into the inquiry of follow up of maintenance contracts of social housing in New South Wales and presented evidence to that Parliamentary Inquiry on the Standard of Public Housing and the need for retrofitting of housing to meet accessibility and liveable design guidelines. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Thank you, Mr Chair.

CHAIR:  Very good. Just a rough calculation, 15,000, let's say 250,000 a pop, what does that get you to? Something like $25 billion a year; is that right? 

TRINA JONES:  It's a significant investment required.

CHAIR:  Yes. 

TRINA JONES:  The methods can be mixed though. Not all investment needs to be from government. We can have mixed method investment. Some of the recommendations that Homelessness NSW are making include planning reform to allow for what's called inclusionary zoning so that there is social affordable housing developed on all new development. A social housing levy applied to all development to fund investment in social housing. We're also suggesting there could be modelling around the development of a social housing clearing house that could capitalise and work out a vehicle for private investment from superannuation and other investors in the development of social housing. And also that we have subsidies in place from the State Government to match investment from federal government to realise increased impact of federal investment at the state level. 

CHAIR:  As broad as our terms of reference may be, I'm not entirely sure that we're instructed   


CHAIR:    to develop economic policy over the next two decades for the entire country, but we'll do our best. 

TRINA JONES:  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Commissioner Galbally, did you have any questions? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Look, I just wanted to thank you very much and to thank you very much for that vision. You know, it's really very, very important. Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much for coming to the Commission and giving evidence and, yes, we've had a number of very interesting ideas. Thank you. And we've learned a lot about the work that you are doing which indeed is very helpful to our own work. So thank you very much for your contributions to the Commission. We very much appreciate that. 


CHAIR:  Mr Fogarty, it is now one o'clock. I take it we adjourn until two? 

MR FOGARTY:  Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes. We'll do that.