Campaign Spotlight: Women Ageing Well
WEL is working for equality for women all year, with our latest campaign, Women Ageing Well. In 2020 WEL is leading a new and focussed campaign to address the structural causes of women’s homelessness and housing insecurity.
Over the next 18 months, the Women Ageing Well campaign will build a community of allies and support, and will lobby the NSW and Federal Government to:
- Lower the qualifying age for priority social housing in NSW, currently 80 years of age
- Increase the supply of social housing by an extra 5,000 homes a year for the next 10 years through inclusion of social housing infrastructure into NSW Government’s post-pandemic investment
- Provide adequate and sustainable funding to meet demand for homelessness services, and ensure that they respond to the needs of culturally diverse communities, and women and children who need them
- Improve protections for and assistance to renters by amending the NSW legislation to increase protections for vulnerable women of all ages
- Increase funding of specialist women’s refuges and other front-line services dealing with violence against women from the Commonwealth/State fund, based on policy and reform proposals that put the safety and well- being of women and children first.
Together with our feminist partners WEL will also address the key policies driving women into social, emotional and financial insecurity.
WEL NSW recentlymade a submission on the Housing Strategy for NSW/Discussion Paper . Our recommendations were as follows:
1. Improving housing data collection
As the Housing Strategy discussion paper points out: ‘All parties involved in planning for the state’s
housing supply will make better decisions if we can draw from relevant, accurate and robust evidence’.
We urge that data collection in relation to NSW housing needs be disaggregated by gender wherever
relevant to ensure that policy responses are effective in addressing the issues of concern outlined in
2. Improve tenancy laws to enable long term and secure tenancies
WEL advocates improved tenancy laws to protect tenants against evictions, unfair rent rises,
discrimination and landlords who refuse to maintain properties, and to protect women experiencing
3. Address housing stress and homelessness for older people (older women are most affected)
Anglicare’s 2019 survey of private rental properties found that less than 1 per cent of private rental
properties are affordable for a single person receiving the Aged Pension22. Further, private rental is
often not the most suitable form of tenure for the elderly (the majority women), because of the
difficulties in making home modifications to enable ageing in place and in moving house in later life
should the lease end. WEL advocates that the NSW government respond to the current crisis through
the following measures:
• improve access of older people to appropriate social and affordable housing by lowering the
qualifying age for priority housing on the basis of age from 80 years.
• Establish an innovative state-wide specialist seniors housing support service to improve
housing outcomes for disadvantaged older people, as advocated by Ageing on the Edge NSW
Forum, including those at risk of homelessness and those who need assistance to plan for their
retirement housing. Features of this model include:
o One-on-one engagement with clients (including face-to-face) to assist them to
understand and navigate the service system and provide them with tools to access
the right support.
o Flexible responses in terms of duration and type of support and the ability to provide
a continuum of service options that can be tailored to meet individual needs. The
model also includes a focus on ensuring that clients are linked with other needed
supports such as home care and social support.
o Specialist expertise on the issues that older people face and the housing and aged
care service systems.
o Embedding the voice of people with lived experience to deliver a more tailored and
relevant program. For example, using peer educators to deliver community
information and development sessions.
o Targeted, tailored support and engagement with different groups, such as, Aboriginal,
CALD and LGBTI people.
4. Crisis accommodation for women experiencing homelessness that provides a rapid pathway to
Increased poverty as a result of unemployment and underemployment, combined with the tapering
of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, will result in more women becoming homeless. There is a need to
prioritise responding to women’s hidden homelessness. Crisis accommodation for women
experiencing homelessness must be safe and provide a rapid pathway to permanent housing so they
can re-establish their lives. In particular, generalist crisis accommodation is often unsuitable for older
women or women fleeing domestic violence.
5. An increase in specialised refuges for women experiencing domestic violence
There is a need to ensure that services for women experiencing domestic violence and/or
homelessness, are appropriately specialised, competent, accessible, culturally appropriate and safe.
Women and children seeking refuge from violence cannot be properly supported by a generic
homeless response. They need staff who are focused on the complex legal, child protection and social
support systems required for separation and safety, and who fully understand the range of abusive
behaviours involved in domestic violence, their impact and the effects of trauma on victims and their
These specialist women’s services need to be established under best practice principles which include:
a rights-based approach that incorporates an understanding of the gendered nature of violence;
respect for and empowerment of survivors/victims by enabling self-determination and control over
processes and choices; proven good practice service provision; a client-centred trauma-informed
approach accountable to survivors placing their safety, need and interests at the centre of all
decisions; cultural sensitivity that is well-informed and supportive of diverse groups of women; access
to legal assistance for personal protection and family law matters; support to remain or return to their
home when and if it is safe to do so. There is also a need to increase resources for programs such as
Staying Home Leaving Violence but not as a substitute for a network of women’s refuges.
6. Increase social and affordable housing
For those who cannot afford to buy their own home, the private rental market has clearly failed to
address serious housing affordability problems for people on low incomes. Tightly targeted social
housing has long waiting lists. An investment in social housing will not only assist low income
Australians, especially women, but building additional housing will also provide much-needed
Additional social and affordable housing should include housing configured and targeted to women in
housing need, including women and children fleeing domestic violence, single women, single older
women, single mothers and women with disabilities. We support the use of universal design principles
in building or retrofitting social housing stock to best meet diverse needs. Affordable housing should
be in close proximity to concentrations of employment opportunity for women.
WEL supports the ‘Everybody’s Home Campaign’ led by an alliance of charities and community
associations in conjunction with the Community Housing Industry Association and Homelessness
Australia. The target for this campaign is 500,000 new social and affordable homes nationally.
Initially, we ask that the NSW Government provide at least an additional 5,000 social housing dwellings
in 2020-21, as part of a long-term plan to significantly increase social housing stock. This could be
achieved by using the three point action plan put forward in the Equity Economics report
commissioned by NCOSS and the NSW housing peaks. The calculation of the build per year should take
into account the anticipated NSW shortfall of 76,100 social housing and 24,100 affordable housing by