Blocking Melbourne’s homelessness ban

In early 2017, the City of Melbourne proposed tough new laws that would have effectively criminalised homelessness. We stopped them through our responsive campaign, which was built around collaborative strategic engagement and client-centred advocacy.

What were the City of Melbourne’s proposed changes?

Since 2014, the number of people sleeping rough in the City of Melbourne has increased by 74%

In response to this increase (and in the face of heavy negative media coverage throughout January 2017) the City of Melbourne proposed changes to the Local Law via the Activities (Public Amenity and Security) Local Law 2017.

Key aspects of the proposed changes were:

1. Broadening the ban on camping.

By removing the current reference to ‘a vehicle, tent, caravan or any type of temporary or provisional form of accommodation’, clause 2.8 would have provided: ‘Unless in accordance with a permit, a person must not camp in or on any public place’.

2. Providing for confiscation and disposal of unattended items, as well as a fine of $250 for leaving items unattended.

The proposed changes suggested a new clause 2.12 of the Local Law, which would have made it illegal to leave items unattended in a public place. If belongings were left unattended, an authorised officer could have confiscated and impounded them. Authorities could have also sold, destroyed, or given away the belongings if the owner had not paid the fine within 14 days.

What would these changes have meant?

The proposed ban on camping was extremely broad and would have effectively made it an offence to sleep on the streets in Melbourne.

When people live their lives in public spaces, leaving belongings can be unavoidable. If someone needed to leave-out their belongings temporarily (while they go to the toilet, for example), they could have their goods taken and may have needed to pay a fee to get them back. That would have been unfair to place on people who couldn’t afford it.

What did we do about it?

We worked closely alongside people with lived experience, community groups, homelessness services and law firms to tell the City of Melbourne that we can’t arrest our way out of homelessness, and that criminalisation is not the answer. Through our submissions, we showed that there are better ways to improve the issue of homelessness in our city: ways that are effective, impactful and make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Our campaign changed the media conversation and rallied the entire sector.

Working together, we successfully put pressure on the government to abandon the disproportionate, unfair proposed laws, and stopped homelessness being criminalised in our city. There’s still more work to do to change unfair laws that affect people facing homelessness, but our campaign showed that when we take a stand, we can have a real impact.

Read our submissions

See our submissions related to preventing Melbourne’s ban on homelessness

Submission to the Lord Mayor – Don’t criminalise homelessnessDownload PDF (350 KB)

Don’t criminalise homelessness – statements from homelessness, housing and social services agenciesDownload PDF (432 KB)

Don’t criminalise homelessness – joint media release from homelessness servicesDownload PDF (470 KB)

In the Public Eye – Churchill Report (2013)Download PDF (4 MB)

Asking for change – a better response to beggingDownload PDF (1,011 KB)

Preventing the criminalisation of homelessness

Homelessness is a complex issue that requires systems-level change.

We challenge and change laws that unfairly impact people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

See more of our campaigns

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