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A rightfully responsible Australia

By Conrad Liveris - posted Thursday, 24 April 2014

When we claim something as a problem, we should also consider how our own actions play into this. With any right comes a converse responsibility.

Many people find it easy to discuss how frustrating or difficult visible homelessness and poverty is. Homelessness should not exist, especially in a country like Australia. We enshrined the idea of boundless plains to share in our national anthem.

But when I read that homelessness is on the rise I have to think "but why?" We are a prosperous and growing economy, we are making way on so many social issues and our diversity is ever present. We have a great life in this lucky country.


Homelessness is on the rise - and we need to come to terms with that. The impact of homelessness is much beyond an unpleasant view in our cities. While it is easy to walk down the main-streets of our cities and see homeless people begging and think that it is ruining a broader sense of pride in our community, the reality is is that these people are part of our community.

Australian poverty takes many forms. Yes, that includes the people begging on our streets; it also takes in the women escaping domestic violence sleeping in cars with their children, and the aged who move between parks and shelters to sleep after being discharged from hospital with nowhere to go, and even teenagers who do not have the energy and stamina to go to school.

If we are open for business, we need to invest in homeless people. I am fortunate to meet with and speak to a lot of homeless people across Australia, I ask them all the same question: what do you want? What do you need to be taken off the street? They always respond similarly. They want to be treated with dignity and build skills that will allow them to be employable.

Such resolve to take themselves out of homelessness and poverty, it can only be described as inspirational.

But no.

I loathe waste and unproductive economies and organisations. When I see growing homelessness I do not see a social issue, per se, but an economic problem that is only getting worse. I get frustrated because it is clear that we are not doing enough.


In saying all of this I recognise that corporate Australia is pulling their weight on homelessness. Many companies have realised that their staff live near where they work (shocking, I know) and that they see homelessness. PwC is a shining example of this, recently they did the maths and discovered the economics of homelessness in Australia. The lifetime national cost of homeless is $10.2 billion.

That's $10.2 billion in lost productivity, diverted resources and wasted talent. We should be aiming to support homeless people into education, training and employment and not into a situation that is increasingly difficult to get out of.

Our communities are extremely diverse. And our cities are a mix between the wealthy and the poverty-stricken.

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About the Author

Conrad Liveris is a Community Advocate and Operations Analyst, working in business development and policy with a focus on gender equality and intergenerational issues.

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