The CEO of a Perth based Aboriginal organisation that provides services and support to people experiencing homelessness hopes the recently announced homelessness inquiry takes a close look at the accessibility of services.

The inquiry will examine the financial administration of homelessness services in Western Australia.

It will consider the current funding and delivery of services, the State Government’s 10-year strategy on homelessness and data systems that are used.

There is opportunity for other areas to be probed as in addition to the above, the terms of reference tabled in the WA Parliament listed a fourth item as “any other related matter”.

Data published by Aboriginal Community Housing provider, Noongar Mia Mia earlier this year stated despite Aboriginal people comprising of 3.7 per cent of WA’s population, 29.1 per cent of the homeless population identified as Aboriginal.

Noongar Outreach Services CEO Maria McAtackney said she hoped it looked at the many barriers to accessing beds for those experiencing homelessness.

The organisation provides day and night mobile outreach around the metropolitan area to vulnerable Aboriginal people.

“The services won’t take our referrals because they will say, ‘we only deal with clients who are referred to us by the department for communities’ or ‘we are providing beds only for the people on a specific campsite’,” Ms McAtackney said.

“We are still having people ringing us every day asking us saying they need somewhere to stay, we can’t advocate for them because there isn’t that open door that will take our referrals.”

“All we can do is say ‘ring this organisation who got all the funding’.”

Ms McAtackney said she welcomed the inquiry and while full details of the hearings and submissions process were not yet available, Noongar Outreach Services looked forward to providing feedback as part of it.

“The government has to decide – are they funding homelessness services in the background or are they funding homelessness services to deal with frontline homeless issues and linking them with services and getting them beds on the night and getting them off the streets, the two of them don’t match,” Ms McAtackney said.

The inquiry will be undertaken by the Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations, Chaired by Liberal Peter Collier.

The committee is made up of one other Liberal MP, two Labor MPs and a Greens MP Dr Brad Pettitt.

Dr Pettitt who jointly initiated the inquiry alongside his Liberal colleagues said he hoped it would “shine some light on the sector in a way that had not been done for some time”.

Earlier this year a makeshift ‘tent city’ that was established in a park in Fremantle put pressure on the government to act on assisting those experiencing homelessness.

Research released by the University of Australia this year showed that of the at least 56 people who died homeless on the streets of Perth in 2020, 28 per cent were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

By Aleisha Orr