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Question: Supporting those experiencing homelessness due to flooding in the Riverland

20 October 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of homelessness in the Riverland.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the honourable Minister for Climate, Environment and Water, Susan Close, provided a ministerial statement on the forecast high flows and rainfall expected in the River Murray over the next few months. In her statement, the minister highlighted that it is the highest seen since 1974, nearly 50 years ago, and it's likely to affect South Australian communities living in the Riverland.

Earlier this month, the Local Government Association of South Australia called on the state government to address regional housing issues, given so many people are struggling to find homes. According to homelessness advocate Shane Maddocks, the chief executive of ac.care, regional towns are on the 'precipice of an unprecedented homelessness crisis'. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data on homelessness estimates that 344 people are experiencing homelessness in the Murray and Mallee regions where high flows are predicted. With high flows and wet weather expected while some people are sleeping rough and in tents, my questions to the minister are:

1. How many people are currently sleeping rough in areas where high flows and wet weather are predicted?

2. What is the government doing to protect those experiencing homelessness in the regions that could be affected?

 

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his important question. Some of that detail I will need to get from the minister in the other place and bring that back to the chamber, which I am happy to do. However, in a general sense for background, it might be worth placing on the record some of the other information around the housing situation in terms of the rising waters of the River Murray.

I am told that the South Australian Housing Authority has advised that there are not any public housing properties in the Riverland immediately at risk from flooding, but of course the agency continues to monitor that situation in consultation with the various other agencies that are looking at the issues around flooding.

The South Australian Housing Authority is also responsible for emergency relief during major incidents and is represented at the State Emergency Centre to coordinate with other agencies. It's one of the agencies that has been represented on the emergency support team that I referred to in one of my earlier answers, of which PIRSA is also a member. That support team has been meeting for the last six weeks and will continue to do so as required.

As part of the emergency relief responsibilities, the South Australian Housing Authority has identified locations for emergency relief centres if they are required in coming weeks and months. Of course, we hope that they are not, but if they are, they have already identified locations. They have identified hotels and motels in affected areas and they have contact details in the event of activating large-scale emergency accommodation.

They have also contacted organisations like Lions and Rotary, which may be asked to assist in emergency relief work. I am also advised that the authority will work with the local homelessness service provider to conduct assertive outreach to vulnerable communities along the riverbank. Those are some of the actions currently underway, and I will take the remaining questions and refer them to the appropriate minister in the other place.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: can the minister confirm what arrangements are in place for those who are sleeping in tents who cannot be contacted by government agencies?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I would expect that the assertive outreach to which I referred is probably incorporating that into their work. We know there are vulnerable communities but also others who may not have ready contact, so that sort of assertive outreach is part of that. Again, if there is additional information I can provide once I have referred it to the minister in the other place I will do so.

 

Reply received on 20 November:

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

I am advised that leaders from the SA Housing Authority and Country South Homelessness Alliance visited the region on Tuesday 25 October to coordinate response.

Five people rough sleeping in Berri and six people rough sleeping in Murray Bridge with government and non-government staff working together to accommodate this group.