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Homelessness laws are discriminatory and will add to burden on police, courts and legal aid – LIV

Homelessness laws are discriminatory and will add to burden on police, courts and legal aid – LIV

By Karin Derkley

Discrimination Human Rights 

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Proposed changes to local laws aiming to reduce the number of homeless people in the CBD will result in more vulnerable people becoming caught up in the justice system, the LIV says in its submission to the Submissions Committee on the Proposed Activities (Public Amenity and Security) Local Law 2017.

The proposed local law changes, which include expanded move-on powers and allow for the belongings of homeless people to be confiscated if left unattended, are unnecessary and discriminate against people who are already vulnerable because of their social and economic situation, the LIV's submission argues.

Criminalising homelessness will also impose a significant further burden on the courts, legal aid and police, the LIV says. Homelessness is already a key factor driving high remand rates, and the proposed law is likely to have a flow-on effect on social outreach and legal services, which are already struggling to meet the current demand and are severely under-resourced.

The submission says expanded move on powers are unnecessary because Victoria Police already has power under the Summary Offences Act to regulate behaviour in public places in relation to public drunkenness, using offensive language in public, or begging.

Public space laws violate people's rights to freedom from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, the LIV says. The laws have a disproportionate impact on people who are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and young people.

The confiscation provisions are discriminatory because their practical effect will be to prevent homeless people engaging in life-sustaining activities such as going to the toilet or washing by making it impossible for them to leave their belongings, it adds.  

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing Leilana Farha stated recently that this provision is in effect a violation of international human rights law which strictly prohibits discrimination against and social exclusion of people who are homeless.

Rather than criminalising and stigmatising homeless people, the LIV supports alternative evidence-based solutions for addressing homelessness in the CBD that invest in health and housing support services.

The LIV will be holding a panel discussion on 11 April on the rights of people experiencing homelessness and the role of law makers, support services, police and the community members in working together to implement alternative options to the proposed law.

Media and interested members of the public can register for the discussion by emailing alhrsection@liv.asn.au.

Contact: Karin Derkley, Media Advisor
T: 03 9607 9389
M: 0413 014 902
E: media@liv.asn.au


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