Addressing homelessness through law and policy reform

20 Feb 2018

Today is World Day of Social Justice.

On any given night in Australia one in 200 people are homeless, and according to a UQ law researcher, homelessness among women and children is becoming a growing problem.

TC Beirne School of Law researcher Professor Tamara Walsh has been investigating the issue for 15 years and is working on a national study to assess the enforcement of public nuisance-type offences on individuals experiencing poverty and homelessness. 

Professor Walsh said it was well-established that people experiencing homelessness were at high risk of criminalisation, particularly for offences like ‘public nuisance’.

“Thousands of vulnerable people, including disadvantaged youth, are charged with public nuisance-type offences for behaviour that really shouldn’t be coming to the attention of the criminal courts, such as swearing or yelling in public,” she said.

“Tax payers’ money could instead be going towards supporting young people to get their lives back on track.”

Professor Walsh is leading a team of researchers that is collecting and analysing data from across Australia on the impact of criminal laws on the experiences of people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. 

With a focus on the impact on women, children and Indigenous people, Professor Walsh hopes her latest research will help reduce the criminalisation of homeless people by identifying law and policy reform options. 

Other researchers involved in the project are Professor Luke McNamara (UNSW), Associate Professor Julia Quilter (UoW) and Associate Professor Thalia Anthony (UTS).

Media: Caroline Enright, TC Beirne School of Law Communications, or + 61 7 3365 5296