Homelessness legislation

25 September 2013
A meaningful legislative framework is an essential component of an effective national response to homelessness

In a 2007 report to the United Nations, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, concluded that Australia had failed to implement the human right to adequate housing and was in the midst of a ‘serious national housing crisis’.

There are 105,000 Australians experiencing homelessness.

The Government’s White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness, recognised the urgent need to address the extent of homelessness in Australia and identified commendable targets and goals, including halving overall homelessness by 2020.

In November 2009, the Federal Parliament’s Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth released a report based on its inquiry into homelessness legislation. The Committee acknowledged the overlap between protecting human rights and social inclusion and recommended that:

‘new homelessness legislation include provisions for the right to adequate housing to be progressively realised. A definition of adequate housing, including its essential components should be included in legislation.’

A meaningful legislative framework is an essential component of an effective national response to homelessness. This legislation could make a significant contribution to the effectiveness of homelessness funding and service delivery and to outcomes for homeless individuals, families and children.

Related law reform submissions:

  • Joint submission by Homeless Law and the Council to Homeless Persons on the Homelessness Bill 2012 – Homeless Law and CHP commented on the exposure draft of a Federal Homelessness Bill.  We expressed concern that in its form, the Bill would have no substantive impact on the issue of homelessness because it was a symbolic document with no connection to the existing framework of law, policy and intergovernmental agreements that govern homelessness funding and service delivery.  PDF iconPILCH HPLC and CHP Homelessness Bill submission.pdf


  • Submission to the House Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth: Inquiry into Homelessness Legislation (August 2009) – this submission recommends that Australia enact national legislation which: contains a clear definition of adequate housing (based on the definition of adequate housing in international law, which includes security of tenure, availability of services, affordability, habitability, accessibility, proximity and cultural appropriateness) and explicitly recognises a justiciable right to adequate housing; recognises Australia’s international human rights obligations in relation to adequate housing; and establishes core minimum standards for homelessness services and the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of housing.PDF iconHomelessness_Act_Inquiry_Aug2009.pdf

    The Standing Committee’s response to this consultation, Housing the Homeless: Report on the Inquiry into Homelessness Legislation (i.e. a bi-partisan Parliamentary Committee report) recommended the enactment of a national Homelessness Act which enshrines the right to adequate housing.