Thursday, 19 January 2023

I am very pleased to be with you today to launch the Housing Security for Older Women Taskforce.

Working towards the achievement of gender equality has long been a personal and professional priority for me, a priority I am continuing to pursue as Governor.

In this role I have had the privilege of engaging with organisations which support this goal, directly or indirectly.

As patron of Catherine House and the Hutt Street Centre, I have learned about the challenges forcing people into homelessness or housing insecurity, particularly, in the case of women, domestic violence.

Like my predecessors, I have been pleased to host ceremonies at Government House to present the Augusta Zadow awards, which recognise individuals and groups improving working conditions for women and young people, and for Cottage Homes, one of the oldest not-for-profits in the state, providing low-cost housing to South Australians in need.

Through these interactions I have been exposed not only to the challenges facing housing security in our community, but to some of the many individuals and organisations working tirelessly to address this issue.

As we are all aware, in recent years, older women have attracted public attention as the “new face of homelessness” in Australia.

This has been brought to public consciousness by a number of studies, media and government reports, including the most recent census, highlighting their increasing housing insecurity.

While it’s a sobering fact that older women are the fastest growing population experiencing homelessness in Australia, I am heartened that, as a community, this issue is receiving the attention, and, I hope, soon, the action, it merits.

As with any social issue, housing insecurity for women has not emerged overnight.

The gender pay gap, limited superannuation, caring responsibilities and family violence have long challenged Australian women’s financial – and therefore housing – security.

The added impacts more recently of an extremely low rental vacancy rate, and record rent prices, have compounded the situation.

Solving housing insecurity for women in South Australia, and across, the nation, will not be quick or easy.

It will require long-term commitment from sectors across the community.

Therefore I am very pleased by the depth and breath of knowledge, skills and experience embodied in the members of this taskforce, encompassing the public service, advocacy, research, private and charitable sectors.

In particular, I welcome the fact that the taskforce has five members with lived experience of housing insecurity.

I thank you especially for bringing your own experiences and learnings to this forum.

Your perspectives provide vital insight that will enhance the plans and recommendations made by this taskforce.

I thank all members of the taskforce for devoting their time and energy to this worthy activity, as well as the State Government for launching this initiative.

I trust your deliberations will be fruitful and I look forward to following your progress.

May we all look forward to the day where women – and all South Australians – are housed securely, and can focus their attention on reaching their full potential as individuals and as South Australians.