Homeless People

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Legislative Approaches

The law-and-order approach employs reactive policing, supported by various forms of legislation, in order to forcefully remove Indigenous people from public places. Experience in a number of urban centres demonstrates that such law-and-order approaches may only be partly successful and even totally unsuccessful in eliminating Indigenous public place dwelling. They are likely to result in temporary or local displacement, whilst overall cycles of incarceration, alcohol abuse, and public place dwelling continue, and also risk breaching antidiscrimination legislation. Forced physical removal to distant remote settlements is also equally repugnant and a violation of civil liberties. As a general principle, any movement of Indigenous people from the public spaces they occupy due to conflicting public needs should be carried out through a process of negotiation no matter how protracted, and supported by a planned set of alternate accommodation and servicing options acceptable to all parties (Memmott 2006).

Implementation of such a law-and-order approach has often been the result of a law-and-order crisis as perceived by politicians and the local press. However, a key finding of several studies is that the blame for such a crisis has at times been erroneously directed at Aboriginal public place dwellers. When people, whose codes of behaviour are little understood by the general public, are leading a culturally different lifestyle, and simultaneously enacting some visible antisocial behaviour, they are only too readily made the scapegoats for all local crime. Many Anglo Australians believe people camping in public places is unacceptable behaviour and seem to have forgotten, or do not know of, the Great Depression of the 1930s when the drastic economic downturn of the period forced many white Australian people to camp in public places while searching for work in whatever location they could find it (Coleman 2001: 166; Eastgate 2001; Memmott 2006).

A key finding of recent research is that social problems impact differently on a range of cultural and urban sectors and require analysis and solutions that incorporate the social values of all groups. Cross-culturally, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups are likely to see one another’s positions quite differently and a problem definition, if it is to be complete, must incorporate both perspectives. Similarly, if there is to be a solution to the problem, it must be articulated from opposite sides incorporating values that are at least tolerable to both. Not to take such a cross-cultural position in approaching social problems is likely to fuel already existing racial tensions.

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