Parliamentarians hear lived experience of homelessness at ‘Under Cover’ doco screening

From left to right: David Pocock, Sue Thomson, Margaret, Josh Burns, Angie Bell, and Adam Farrington-Williams.
From left to right: David Pocock, Sue Thomson, Margaret, Josh Burns, Angie Bell, and Adam Farrington-Williams.

Australia’s federal politicians heard the impact of Australia’s housing crisis first-hand at a parliamentary screening of Under Cover, which included a panel discussion with one of the women in the documentary, Margaret, who remains homeless.

The documentary, narrated by Margot Robbie, explores the rising numbers of women over 50 who are inadvertently falling into homelessness due to deep structural inequities across society.

The March 19 event was attended by almost 50 politicians and housing experts, including the Parliamentary Friends Group on Housing which is led by MPs Angie Bell, Josh Burns, and David Pocock.

But it was the inclusion of Margaret on the panel, who was able to ask questions and provide a window on the lived experience of homelessness, which heightened the screening’s impact.

“She brought the heart and soul to that whole event and, with the Q&A at the end, it was very emotional,” says Sue Thomson, who produced Under Cover alongside Adam Farrington-Williams. “She said this is making her feel like she has a voice even though I live in a van.”

Margaret is one of ten women from diverse backgrounds featured in the documentary. There are a range of reasons behind the surge in older women experiencing homelessness including the gender pay gap (exacerbated through lower superannuation savings), the unequal burden placed on women to perform unpaid labour and caring roles, domestic violence, as well as rising rents and general cost of living increases.

The parliament screening was enabled by a one-off grant by the charitable Wicking Trust after the documentary was completed. A rising number of philanthropic organisations are supporting documentaries which tackle social justice issues.

Thomson and Farrington-Williams are now working on their next documentary which will delve into an equally challenging issue: how Australia cares for its ageing population.

“We all age and we all need housing,” Farrington-Williams says. “It’s a natural extension of Under Cover and housing and the need to care for our citizens as they grow older.”

Under Cover can be viewed on ABC iView.

Disclosure: The author, Brendan Swift, provides writing services for Equity Trustees, which manages the Wicking Trust.