The case of SEQ: localising international policy SDSG11

Formal concise report from Habitat3 for South East Queensland

This UNAAQ event resulted from culmination of 5 years of preparation to endorse Sustainable Development Goal 11 on cities; the 2-year drafting of the New Urban Agenda ‘Habitat3 toward 2035’, and the release of the 2016 draft South East Queensland Regional Plan that envisages 50 years. South East Queensland comprises 6 cities, 17 urban centres, 47 towns and many rural centres, inside an area equivalent to the Netherlands. SEQ is benchmarked against 25 other regions over the past 20 years and our performance has been variable. A range of tools has been instrumental in reporting our stewardship and quality of life. However, SEQ trends are worrying.

79 people from different backgrounds, disciplinary and community roles participated throughout the day. One third of the room represented ‘under 35 year olds’ and about half the room identified as ‘over 50’. Apart from community leaders, there were planners, scientists, architects, engineers, landscape designers, urban professionals, teachers, lawyers, business owners, health and emergency services professionals.

A background paper (attached) was provided to all participants in conjunction with a full set of NUA policy and practice statements that institutionalise action for shared governance and culturally appropriate implementation. This allowed great speed of learning as our 16 speakers and 4 moderators shared their expertise and passion for the better future.

Aunty Ruby gave an indigenous traditional acknowledgement also set the scene for gender sensitive pathways for intergenerational, intercultural and interdisciplinary methods for our common future. Song-lines were gifted to us as the SEQ anthem and sung by the Rachel Hore choir. This is hot-linked in the papers with the Earth Charter art by Graham Payne (community of life drawing). During the afternoon, slam poetry was written for us and shared in the final panel session. This is being gifted to us as a special memento and as a motivational tool to go forward for the next 5 years. 4 Expert Panels each answered set questions to focus our thoughts:

  1. Evolution and achievements for SEQ
  2. The future prospects and possibilities (active Habitat 3 representatives)
  3. Practices and innovative implementation – case studies
  4. Shared governance – roles and responsibilities

After lunch Uncle Desmond gave a welcome to his country. Then participants chose what topics they wished to pursue to advance the NUA themes in SEQ. These included (1) access to affordable housing; (2) empowering vulnerable peoples and the working poor through sharing food, assets, public assets, public transport, and basic human needs (3) jobs and entrepreneurship (4) Greenspace stewardship (5) Protecting public space for use by everyone (recreation, community farm, non- privatisation of river/ beach access) (6) regenerative urban design for climate (7) shared governance framework for SEQ accountability, (8) inclusive infrastructure investment.

After teamwork, a spokesperson shared their innovative approaches that would work here. Wow! People socialised considerably before heading home.

The outcomes included greater goodwill and draft ‘We the Peoples of SEQ Declaration’ to shepherd local action. This will be reviewed over the next 5 years (probably this anniversary date). Special thanks go to UNAAQ team and partners.

For more info & copies of any documents/ photos/ u tube/ reports contact

Habitat Adviser Report May 2014


By Mark McDonnell

Why do older women (55yrs +) become homeless?

If you read the literature on older women and homelessness, you will find a range of reasons offered to explain this situation. These reasons include:

  • Women’s quest independence (personal and financial)
  • The decline of the nuclear family
  • Increase in the number of single person households
  • Our increasing longevity
  • Migration
  • Structural disadvantage entrenched within our political and social system
  • Violence
  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Intellectual disadvantage
  • Reduced public housing
  • The high cost of rental accommodation
  • Reduced service options available to homeless and disadvantaged women
  • Multiple disadvantages within someone’s life
  • Divorce
  • Death of a spouse
  • Family Crisis etc.

And these reasons are all valid. In an ideal world it would be useful to be able to prioritise these issues, so we know where it would be most productive to direct our resources.

A recent report by the University of Queensland uncovered the top 10 reasons cited by women seeking help for homelessness. These reasons came from unpublished data from the Aust. Institute of Health and Welfare 2012.

These self-reported reasons are:

  1. Domestic Violence (26%)
  2. Financial Difficulties (17%)
  3. Not Stated (12%)
  4. Inadequate Dwelling Conditions (9%)
  5. Housing Crisis (8%)
  6. Other (6%)
  7. Housing Affordability Stress (5%)
  8. Previous Accommodation Ended (3%)
  9. Relationship Breakdown (3%)
  10. Mental Health Issues (2%)

This list is helpful but it has some limitations. Self reporting is not always a reliable way to identify core issues.

I am aware that people seeking help often tell the organisation what they think the organisation wants to hear. For these people, this is the way they “play the game”. It is a matter of survival.  I have been told by numerous homeless and disadvantaged people in West End that if you want help from a particular organisation, you have to tell them that you are sleeping rough. They contend that if you don’t, they probably won’t help you. In the limited number of times I have referred people to this organisation, this advice is sound.

In the previous self-reported reasons for women seeking homelessness, clearly Domestic Violence is an issue. However the self-reported 2% mental health issues seems low. I wonder how much of the financial difficulties were caused by mental health issues. How much of the Housing Affordability Stress was related to financial difficulties or mental health issues?

On top of this, these reported personal reasons may not take into consideration the larger issues of reduced public housing, low level of financial social support (eg. Newstart Allowance), reduced service options for homeless people and the impact of multiple disadvantages within someone’s life.

Older homeless women identified that their greatest need was for “General Assistance and Support”. This need was listed more than 3 times the amount of the next identified need of “Special Services”. “Long Term Housing Needs” and “Sustained Tenancy and Eviction Prevention” came in as the 3rd and 4th greatest identified need. This is consistent with what I have observed. Homeless people frequently need long term general support. Yes, they have periods of identified crisis within their life, but they nearly always need ongoing general assistance and support. If they can receive this ongoing general assistance and support, many crisis can be avoided or minimised. Frequently, homelessness is a chronic condition. You can’t give a magic pill and expect it to go away. Like diabetes, epilepsy and high blood pressure, homelessness needs ongoing support and maintenance. There maybe periods of acute episodes, but if you keep conditions supported and under control, they are less like re-occur as frequently or as intensively.

Given the wide variety of possible causes and influences on homeless and disadvantaged women, what is the best way to help them?

In a perfect world, the answer is – Permanent Supported Housing. There is much literature and personal experience to support this. If this is not possible, then we still need to do the same things that occur within that supported environment.

·         That is:  Develop rapport with the client.

·         Work with them on a one on one basis to address their issues.

·         Develop a good understanding of all their issues (assessment), so appropriate referrals can be made.

·         It must be understood though that these people often are not mentally strong. So to tell them to seek advice from XYZ organisation may not be helpful. They may need to be supported and taken to the place that provides the assistance.

·         It is important to realise also that there are frequently no quick fixes. The bureaucracies can work very slowly. People in need of help can be confused and reluctant to take good advice.

·         Be patient and understanding. Take your time. Don’t expect miracles to happen over night.

Remember “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step” (Lao-tzu 650 BC).


 Habitat Adviser Report May14