The proposal to track deaths among those experiencing homelessness has been supported by the Australian Medical Association.

The proposal to track deaths among those experiencing homelessness has been supported by the Australian Medical Association.

The Australian Medical Association has labeled the numerous premature deaths among the homeless population as a “national tragedy” and has called on the government to allocate resources towards implementing a monitoring system and enhancing housing and healthcare services.

Earlier this month, Guardian Australia reported that a 12-month investigation of 627 cases revealed the premature and preventable deaths of hundreds of homeless Australians.

The average age of death was 44, a concerning disparity in life expectancy, and failures within the housing, health, and justice industries were contributing to these deaths.

AMA president Stephen RobsonView image in fullscreen

The study revealed a significant difference in life expectancy across the country for the first time. The results were consistent with more thorough research conducted in specific areas such as Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne.

The president of the AMA, Prof Steve Robson, stated that the early deaths of homeless Australians is a “tragic issue” for the nation.

He repeated the requests made by organizations focused on homelessness, such as the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, for the national government to take charge in tracking deaths among the homeless population. This is not currently being done by any government in Australia.

According to Robson, consistent and regular reporting of data is crucial in identifying patterns and determining necessary policies to tackle important health concerns. The ongoing development of a National Housing and Homelessness Plan presents a great opportunity to turn this into a reality.

“It is a devastating reality that a significant number of Australians who are homeless are facing untimely deaths. The AMA recognizes the value in implementing a national reporting system to gather consistent data on this pressing issue.”

In 2021, the AAEH requested the previous administration to task the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare with creating a standardized reporting system for tracking deaths of homeless individuals. Unfortunately, their request was denied.

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The AIHW is currently undertaking a project to improve the documentation of deaths among Australians who are homeless. This involves connecting information from specialist homelessness services with death records.

Julie Collins, the federal housing minister, has denounced the untimely deaths of homeless individuals as “utterly unacceptable”. She has stated her commitment to ongoing discussions with state and territory governments regarding the gathering and sharing of data.

The government of New South Wales is also thinking about enforcing a requirement to report deaths of homeless individuals to the coroner. This would provide governments with a better understanding of the issue.

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The Council for Homeless Individuals has sent a letter to the Victorian government, imploring them to take similar action.

Organizations focused on addressing homelessness and labor unions have expressed concerns about a potential loss of funding of $73 million by the end of the current fiscal year. This could have a negative impact on 700 essential support positions.

The organizations urged federal and state authorities to continue providing funds at a ministerial council meeting held on Friday.

The potential loss of funding poses a significant risk and uncertainty for homelessness services, as they are currently unable to guarantee the continuation of staff contracts after June. If the funding is indeed cut, over 700 workers in the homelessness sector will be affected, adding even more strain to an already overwhelmed system.

According to Collins, the government is committed to providing additional housing for a larger number of Australians.

I am excited to convene with my colleagues from other states and territories to further this important task.