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AUSTRALIAN NEWS 11th May 2011

Sent: Wednesday 11/May/2011 Topic: National

FAMILIES ARE THE HIDDEN FACE OF HOMELESSNESS

Source: Wesley Mission Press Release

A major report on family homelessness shows a growing number of families are struggling to gain secure accommodation and are being displaced by a critical shortage of rental accommodation and public housing. They are also struggling with mental health issues, isolation and an outdated system geared towards the needs of individuals and not families. It is estimated that homeless families currently account for between a quarter and a third of the homeless population in Australia.

As part of an 11-point plan to help homeless families the CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev Dr Keith Garner has called for increased community and public housing, and a more family-friendly approach to support services for families. "The population of homeless families is on the rise," Dr Garner said. "They are in our suburbs, sleeping on the floor in a relative or friend's house, sleeping in their car, or living in a refuge after they've left a violent partner, They're mostly young, more often than not women, and they are almost always accompanied by young children."

A growing number of families who have never experienced homelessness find that the welfare system is complex, confusing and alienating.  By far the most common reason for family homelessness was domestic violence, with more than four in 10 naming this as their number one reason for being homeless. This is almost double the second most quoted cause, relationship breakdown or divorce. Homeless families are often disconnected from their traditional networks of support - family, friends, known health professionals, schools and public transport.

One in every five families lives more than 20 kilometres from their support networks. Half of the homeless families surveyed wanted to access private rental properties but given the tight market, were unable to compete with  real estate agents who "auction off" properties, inflating market value beyond their reach. "With the current limited supply of rental properties and with average rental prices rising by 10-20 per cent a year, this is not likely to change soon," Dr Garner said. The report also found that new homeless families, in particular, do not know where to turn for help.

The Report also reveals that children in homeless families can often repeat the pattern as adults. More than half the adults surveyed for the report had been homeless as children. More than half had parents who had financial problems and issues with alcohol abuse." Experiencing violence or being bullied also appears to predispose people to later homelessness, as does mental illness. These issues can be seen repeated in the next generation. Other key findings include:

*  Seven in 10 of those aged over 10 had experienced violence or bullying, and half had encountered problems because of drug or alcohol use.

*  Six in 10 of these children had been arrested or incarcerated, which is markedly higher than the general population, where less than one per cent of children aged 10-17 are involved in offending.

*  More than eight in 10 older children were having trouble at school.

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PROBLEMS WITH RU486 ABORTION PILL BEGIN TO EMERGE

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

Complications from the abortion pill are higher than for standard surgical terminations, according to a study comparing the two methods in Australia. The "audit" of nearly 7000 abortions performed in South Australia in 2009 and 2010 found that 3.3% of women who used RU486 in the first trimester of pregnancy later turned up at hospital emergency departments, against 2.2% who had undergone surgery. Hospital admissions jumped to 5.7% for recipients of early "medical" abortions - i.e. using drugs - compared with 0.4%  for surgical patients.

The findings undermine the claim that the risk of complication for medical abortions is less than that of an operation. Use of the controversial drug RU486, is growing fast as proponents cite its safety and cost-effectiveness against surgery as well as the option it gives women to have the induced miscarriage in their own home. The Therapeutic Goods Administration says 11,173 prescriptions have been issued for RU486 since its introduction in 2006. South Australia has one of the strongest take-ups and more than a fifth of terminations done there are with the abortion pill.

In the study, published in the journal Australian Family Physician, Adelaide-based doctors Ea Mulligan and Hayley Messenger reviewed most of the 9000 terminations carried out in the state in 2009 and last year. They found the incidence of serious complication was higher for medical abortion. Two of the 5823 surgical patients suffered severe haemorrhage, involving the loss of more than a litre of blood. This equated to a rate of one in 3000. Four of the 947 women who had medical abortions had the same problem, lifting the rate to one in 200.

Hospital admission for infection was one in 1500 for surgical abortion, against one in 480 for medical abortions. Complications from second-trimester medical abortions, often done after the detection of fetal abnormality, happened in up to 33 per cent of the cases reviewed. Anti-abortion groups claim the findings call into question the safety of medical abortion. "We always said that taking RU486 would have a very serious effect on women's health. Taking a pill seems easy, but in fact there can be quite a lot of complications," said Margaret Tighe, of Right to Life Australia.

Cherish Life Queensland president Teresa Martin said the study "blows out of the water" arguments advanced by RU486 pioneer Caroline de Costa for wider availability of the drug. Currently, it can be prescribed only by the 102 doctors licensed by the TGA, under strict conditions. Australian protocols generally call for a 200mg tablet of RU486 to be administered by an authorised prescriber in a hospital or medical clinic. The process is completed, within 48 hours, with another drug called misoprostol, causing the woman to miscarry, usually at home.

Differences in the law on abortion vary by state and this plays out in the way women are treated. In SA, almost all abortions are performed in public hospitals and both RU486 and misoprostol are administered in them. Queensland, however, maintains a ban on elective abortion in its public health system - meaning most terminations are done at a handful of medical clinics. While the state has twice SA's population, there are only 15 authorised prescribers of RU486 in Queensland, one more than in SA. NSW and Victoria have 30 each and the ACT six.

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RIVERINA FARMERS SURVIVE DROUGHT - GIVE BACK TO THE CITY

Source: Christian Today

Cooperation between the Uniting Church, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the Carrathool Shire Council and local farmers has led to the launch of 'Waste Not Want Not' - a unique project that will deliver otherwise wasted produce from the district to the tables of hungry families throughout New South Wales and the ACT. Carrathool Shire, located in the Riverina region of south-western New South Wales, is traditionally a grazing and cropping area but, with innovations in irrigation, the industry has expanded.

Often, perfectly sound food is rejected for commercial sale because it does not meet required specifications such as being too small or becuase of having blemishes on its skin. With the help of 'Waste Not Want Not', fresh fruit and vegetables will now be saved and distributed through Foodbank in Sydney to charities throughout New South Wales and the ACT. Foodbank is the largest hunger relief organisation in Australia, endorsed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council as the food industry's preferred means of disposal of surplus product.

'Waste Not Want Not' originally aimed to provide at least 16,000 kg of food each year, the equivalent of 35,320 daily servings of vegetables. Already local farmers have promised 200 tons of produce, or 441,500 servings. CEO of Foodbank NSW, Gerry Andersen, said he had never been so touched by a community. Community Development Officer with the shire council Penny Davies, said for the past 10 years there had been calls for the city to support the bush. Now farmers were in a position to return the favour and do something for the city."

Lou Revelant, drought support worker with the Department of Primary Industries, said 'Waste Not Want Not' would also help build resilience in the Carrathool community. The Uniting Church's rural chaplain Julie Greig said farmers and irrigators had been made to feel like environmental vandals, when it was really in their interest to grow food sustainably. "And now, here they are, giving away food for needy people. It just goes to show that growing food is a really good thing."

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