Where do Women Belong? Housing Women in Central Australia Post-Release

Hannah Purdy

NT Shelter
Regional Coordinator - Central Australia

As NT Shelter’s Regional Coordinator for Central Australia Hannah has re-established NT Shelter's presence in the Alice Springs, and is responsible for the Alice Springs and Barkly Region Accommodation Action groups. Her specialisations include youth and women’s homelessness. Hannah has previously worked at Frontyard Youth Services, Victoria’s state-wide access point for young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and in Canberra as political communications consultant and in the Federal Parliament press gallery.

Over the last ten years the number of female prisoners Australia-wide has grown and continues to grow.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that over half of the women in prison experienced homelessness in the month prior to their incarceration: be it sleeping rough or living in unstable and short-term accommodation.

While in prison, inmates are connected to a wide range of support services including tenancy management and independent skills development. Yet in Alice Springs, with severe shortages across the entire housing continuum and one of the worst places in Australia for renters, what happens to women exiting prison in Central Australia?

Access to safe and secure housing underpins a broad range wellbeing indicators: family reunification, employment, children’s interaction with the education system, mental health, physical health and domestic violence, just to name a few. The costs borne by women exiting prison without such accommodation are immense and compounding, particularly for mothers, for whom these costs have long lasting implications for the entire family.

This presentation will highlight the barriers facing women exiting prison in Central Australia. How do these women maintain their culture and identify without a stable place to call home? These problems will be explored through an analysis of the region’s extensive housing and homelessness challenges, identifying key infrastructure and service support gaps and policy priorities. This session will also consider what needs to happen to deliver a step change in the level of housing and homelessness investment in the NT.