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Proposed changes to City of Melbourne homelessness laws a concern: psychologists say

Psychologists concerned about proposed changes to City of Melbourne homelessness

Experts available to discuss psychological perspectives on homelessness

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has made a submission to the City of Melbourne’s Proposed Activities (Public Amenity and Security) Local Law 2017, in which it says the new law will impact negatively on those experiencing homelessness, making an already vulnerable group less safe and more at risk of physical and psychological harm.

The Law proposes broadening the ban on camping in the Melbourne CBD, the confiscation and disposal of unattended items, fines for leaving items unattended and increased powers to ‘move people on’ if they fail to comply.

The City of Melbourne has scheduled hearings for 30 March with a report tabled after that.

Points from the APS submission include:

  • People forced to relocate from the CBD to less safe areas within the city, or to the outskirts of the city, will be at higher risk of being physically and psychologically unsafe, feeling more isolated and less connected to their community. They will be less able to access services and supports that are essential for their survival and necessary for them to exit homelessness.
  • The proposed amendments have victim-blaming undertones and send a message that homeless people have less right than others to be on our streets, and that they have other choices (to move elsewhere, to be safe). Such negative attitudes inevitably lead to hardened views and treatment of people who are homeless, and to less support for them in the wider community.
  • The City of Melbourne says the amended laws will support the Council’s disability action plan. However, a significant proportion of homeless people also have a physical disability or mental health condition, making up 25% of the clients of specialist homeless services. The proposed amendments will disproportionally impact on these extremely vulnerable groups.
  • The APS strongly believes that collaboration between all levels of government to address the drivers of homelessness and increase access to services and secure housing will be more effective in tackling homelessness in the longer term than the Council’s proposed measures.

The APS recognises the important and challenging dual role that the Council has in protecting safety and public amenity, while working to support those who are homeless, and we acknowledge the City of Melbourne’s role in positively working with homelessness services and police in the past.

For more information on psychological perspectives on homelessness

Note to editors:
Psychologists are available to discuss the APS submission and psychological perspectives on homelessness.

Background: Psychological perspectives on homelessness

  • Access to adequate, safe, affordable housing is a fundamental right that forms the basis for achieving individual and community wellbeing, which are central tenets of psychology.
  • Key pathways to homelessness include poverty, experiencing homelessness as a child, social exclusion (e.g. racial discrimination), individual factors like substance use, transitions (e.g. from jail, from inpatient psychiatric services, birth of first child, relationship breakdown, redundancy/retirement), and structural issues (e.g. insufficient housing stock, the impacts of colonisation).
  • As well as being a fundamental human right, adequate, safe and secure housing provides a foundation for individuals and families to develop a sense of identity and belonging, and is broadly recognised as essential to individual and community wellbeing.
  • By contrast, homelessness involves not having a stable ‘base’ from which to anchor one’s life, one’s sense of self or identity, and sense of community. Homelessness denies people the right to shelter and safety, disrupts the connections they have with their family and communities, and is also associated with a sense of not ‘belonging’, not being valued and being excluded from social and community life.
  • The sense of marginalisation and alienation from mainstream society that inevitably arises from homelessness also has profound effects upon the physical and mental health of those experiencing such homelessness.


For more information, or to arrange an interview call the APS Media team on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email media@psychology.org.au. Find the APS Media team on Twitter: @AustPsych

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 23,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.