Creating permanent housing for homeless people is an approach that is working in Finland and may be adapted for Australia, Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor says.

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“(Australian service providers) tell me that we need to break the cycle, and we’re not doing that effectively and we need to intervene early and we could do that better, and Finland provided certainly some examples,” Mr O’Connor told ABC radio from Finland, where he is investigating the issue.

Acting Housing Minister Julie Collins said tens of thousands of Australians were sleeping rough.

Domestic violence was one of the reasons women and children sought help from refuges, Ms Collins said as she launched National Homeless Persons Week at Ladder, a Melbourne service for homeless young people.

The latest figures showed 60 per cent of people seeking assistance from shelters were women, almost half were under 25 and around one in five were children under 10, Ms Collins said.

Mr O’Connor said Finland had the most effective strategy in the world and had managed to cut its homeless rate in half over the past 20 years.

“Those in Finland believe … that we need to give people long-term, sustainable or permanent accommodation first and then attach the appropriate services to assist them,” he said.

The measure provided permanency and privacy, improving social and employment outcomes and getting people out of homelessness system, he said.

Mr O’Connor said he would broach the issue at a meeting with state and territory governments and service providers in August.