Single older women comprise a rapidly growing cohort of those experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness in Canberra.
Following a life-time of work and caring responsibilities, often characterised by inequalities around wages and superannuation, older women today make up the majority of people accessing local housing support services. Women who fall into homelessness or experience housing insecurity later in life, are not a homogenous group and their circumstances are complex and varied.
Hidden Women is a short documentary film highlighting the experiences of older women in housing and the confluence of gaps in policy and service delivery that have exacerbated the situation. Crucially, Hidden Women puts an everyday face on housing insecurity amongst older women.
YWCA Canberra has a history of providing housing support to Canberrans through our transitional housing, affordable housing and supportive tenancy services and we are proud to share some of our clients’ stories. Hidden Women was developed with the support of the ACT Government through the Participation Grants Program (Office of Veterans and Seniors).
Australian women aged over 50 are at greater risk of financial and housing insecurity than older men. This has been linked to a number of compounding and systemic factors. Women in this older age group today did not benefit from compulsory superannuation at the beginning of their working lives, they were more likely to have been paid at a lower rate than their male counterparts and were likely to have taken time out of the paid workforce to have children and fulfil caring roles.
In late 2017 the Mercy Foundation brought together a National Working Group consisting of housing and homelessness policy leaders, researchers and practitioners to examine national policies that need change and advocate for more effective strategies so that older women can access affordable, safe, secure and appropriate housing and enjoy good health as they age. YWCA Canberra was proud to be part of this working group, and this paper presents a summary of the work of that group, identifies the core issues and the key policy areas that require attention. The document outlines a national agenda for action.