Local government is the tier of government closest to the people of Australia and is important for the health and wellbeing of communities through the services it provides and through its role in supervising development. Put simply, if any tier of government in Australia can be thought of as a ‘place manager’ for Australia’s cities, towns and regions, it is local government. This means that local government is important in dealing with homelessness, which is often a very public phenomenon. But to date, local government hasn’t been seen to be important in dealing with homelessness, and even the policy initiatives announced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) from 2007 onwards allocated only a small role to local governments.
This paper briefly explores some of the issues around homelessness and local government in Australia. This paper provides a summary of a report produced for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) (now Department of Social Services). It argues that local government does more in homelessness than most people realise, and that it has the capacity to do more if given the opportunity.