Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE) has responded to the release of a new study into women’s access to housing outside the capital cities by urging governments to consider the gendered factors driving homelessness in regional areas and provide greater funding for affordable regional housing. 

Earlier this week, YWCA Australia released the results of the nation’s first study into women’s access to housing in regional and rural areas, revealing that one in eight regional women on low to medium incomes has been homeless in the past five years. 

WHGNE chief executive officer Amanda Kelly said she was saddened by the results of the study, but not surprised. 

“It was only two months ago that I spoke to the state government’s Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria, here in Wangaratta, highlighting the gendered nature of homelessness in regional areas,” Ms Kelly said. 

“We know that the gendered structures and systems that shape our daily lives have a particularly devastating impact on women when it comes to housing security, safety and stability. 

“That is, a lack of pay equity, gender inequality and the way caring responsibilities can disrupt or limit women’s working lives all contribute to economic instability, leading to disproportionate rates of homelessness for women. 

This is further exacerbated by the disruption, trauma and economic instability that women experience as a result of family violence. 

“Our nationally recognised Gender and Disaster Pod project demonstrated that crises – like the recent bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic – intensify the existing gender inequalities that exist in our communities, increasing incidences of family violence and adding to housing stress.” 

Ms Kelly said she was heartened to learn that the Victorian Government had this week announced a $500 million project for upgrading and building new social housing across Victoria. The greater proportion of this will be for repairs and refurbishment with 25% being earmarked for regional areas. Ms Kelly hoped that the government would recognise the dire need for new housing stock in regional and rural communities too. 

We were really pleased to hear that $125 million of this funding will help increase housing options for women and children fleeing family violence. It is sorely needed,” Ms Kelly said. 

“However, our communities in regional Victoria also need additional social housing and crisis accommodation 

Our crisis accommodation is stretched to capacity, and we have heard of a woman trying to care for children in a hotel room for weeks on end while waiting for crisis accommodation, before eventually giving up and returning to an abusive relationship. 

“This YWCA report has come a crucial time for us all, particularly in light of the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The cost of inaction on regional homelessness and its gendered drivers is far too great for us to ignore.” 

For further information on WHGNE’s work towards the prevention of violence against women in the Goulburn Valley and north-east Victoria, visit www.whealth.com.au.