Celebrating NAIDOC Week 2019 with Aboriginal Housing Victoria

As Australia heads into National NAIDOC Week 2019, we thought it timely to provide you with an update about the work led by Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV), to create an Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Policy Framework for Victoria.

Urgent work is needed in Victoria to alleviate the crisis being faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, who face homelessness at 11 times the rate of non-Indigenous Victorians. (Read more facts here.)

In developing the framework, AHV is aiming to improve housing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians across their lives. The framework will include a focus on building the capacity of Aboriginal organisations to own, manage and grow rental stock, and identifying innovative models that secure housing for Aboriginal Victorians, including pathways to private ownership.

“For governments to move beyond crisis management of Aboriginal housing to achieve equity in housing outcomes requires a new perspective, a fresh approach which addresses each of the drivers of housing outcomes,” says AHV CEO Darren Smith.

“The challenge is to reduce the incidence of Aboriginal homelessness, build the supply of social housing, increase access to the private rental market and build inter-generational wealth through growing home ownership. We need new tenures, new thinking and a rights based approach. Most of all we need self-determination to shape this work. That is why Victoria’s Aboriginal leaders are working with our community to develop the Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework.”

The AHV held a Housing Summit in April with over 130 participants, including Aboriginal community members, stakeholders and government representatives. It has released its report of findings from the summit as the next step in developing the framework.

“The work being done by AHV is essential. Most importantly it is being driven and managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples” says Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith.

“As a sector our challenge is to gain a deeper understanding of how to better support First Nations people to access the housing and homelessness supports they need. Addressing the shocking over-representation of Aboriginal Victorians experiencing homelessness, is a clear priority.”

There will also be an important conversation about the development of an Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework at this year’s Victorian Homelessness Conference on 14 & 15 October. The session will be facilitated by Jenny Samms, who is leading the development of the Framework with Aboriginal Housing Victoria. Early Bird rates for the conference end on 15 July.

Ending homelessness changes lives

Two tenants of AHV share their stories of what it means to have a home.
Sharyn has been a tenant of AHV for around 27 years, after first becoming a tenant at the age of 22, after having her first child. She now has four children and three grandchildren.
A member of the Stolen Generation, she was raised in a number of foster homes around Victoria, and experienced homelessness in her later teenage years and as a young woman.
Sharyn says that a home is somewhere she can feel a sense of stability; something she wasn’t previously used to, while living in foster care and on the streets. It’s somewhere she can put her feet up and can call her own. A stable home has helped her to improve other areas of her life.
Sharyn was a participant in AHV’s More Than A Landlord (MTAL) life coaching and well-being program, which aims to assist with the needs of its tenants.
In terms of changes needed to improve housing outcomes, Sharyn believes Aboriginal people need to be supported with better information, connections and the tools required to get into housing. This includes support with paperwork and fulfilling the requirements for getting housing.
Sharyn says it’s important for the community to have a “greater understanding of our stories and the increased challenges we face, including a lack of a sense of identity for many”.
Nicole is a mother of three children and has been an AHV tenant since December 2003, after being on the waiting list for over 10 years and living in private rental properties.
Nicole is self-employed with the greatest challenge managing cash flow, particularly in the first two years of going solo. When Nicole moved into the property she was receiving a parenting pension, but she has now returned to full-time work.
Nicole’s mother was a member of the Stolen Generations. Nicole is a second generation removed child and went through VACCA’s out-of-home care program. Nicole’s family often moved around, and Nicole lived in 13 properties over the course of her life and she went to seven different schools.
In comparison, her two eldest children have lived in five properties and attended one school before transferring to the local primary school. Nicole’s her youngest child has only ever had this one residence.
Nicole currently cares for her 7 year old grandchild, and will also care for her elderly mother who suffers from chronic illness and disability.
Nicole was determined during her third pregnancy to establish some stability for her young family. She persisted until she was able to secure an AHV property and for the first time in her life felt a real sense of security, knowing that she now had somewhere for her and her family to call home, without fear of having to move out in a year when the lease ran out.
To hear more about Aboriginal Housing Victoria and the work it undertakes, please watch this video.