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April 5, 2011  |  Second Reading

Residential Tenancies Amendment (Public Housing) Bill 2011 Part 1

I am pleased to speak on the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Public Housing) Bill 2011. What do I know of these matters and what involvement and interaction do I have with public housing communities in order to make an informed contribution to this matter?

I live in the Olympic Village in West Heidelberg where more than 50 per cent of the 3081 postcode area consists of public or social housing. My neighbours are public housing tenants. As a Banyule city councillor for five years, having been elected twice by the West Heidelberg community, I worked with the community to raise what was critical to local residents to improve their neighbourhood in relation to the behaviour of their neighbours.

This bill aspires to improve the community and the neighbourhoods of public housing tenants, and it is that link that I want to relate my comments to. My electorate office is in the mall, which is in the heart of the West Heidelberg community and the public housing estates. But what do the residents make of the proposed changes that the government has put forward? What do they talk to me about with regard to their public housing? We chip away together on maintenance issues.

We work together with neighbourhood renewal, which is a fine and lasting program and an initiative of the previous Labor government, to give residents of public housing an opportunity to have a stronger voice and a say in their neighbourhoods to make sure that there is greater accountability from state and local governments and the agencies of government in the Department of Human Services and the Office of Housing to provide a better standard of support and advocacy for those residents who live in public housing. That work continues to this day, and I look forward to some ongoing contributions and commitments from the government in relation to the work that neighbourhood renewal does in so many communities in Victoria.

The first few constituents who came to see me in my office after my election raised matters in relation to public housing.

They related to maintenance issues, they related to appropriate accommodation for large families and they related to support they needed from either the Office of Housing or the Department of Human Services with regard to substance issues or mental health issues and to other family issues they were dealing with. All these matters intertwine and relate to some of the reasons why people require the support of public housing.

Whether it is through the residents groups or through the Wednesday night barbecues at the housing estate in West Heidelberg led by the Exodus Community through Brother Harry Prout and Sister Sally Bradley, there are many in our local community who seek to improve the lives of residents of public housing in West Heidelberg.

Cases relating to drug trafficking in public housing have been raised with me by local residents.

Often they are concerned about raising those issues because they fear repercussions, just as they fear raising issues of maintenance on their properties and just as they fear at times raising matters in relation to what type of accommodation they have because of their concerns about repercussions and what level of support they will get from the Office of Housing or from their community.

Labor does not oppose the bill, but the concerns raised by people in my electorate of Ivanhoe relate to their interaction with the Office of Housing. They relate to their desire and need to be treated with respect by that office, to have their maintenance issues attended to and to have their priorities in relation to their local community dealt with, including other housing issues. These are the sorts of things that people constantly raise with me as their priorities. The number of people who come to talk to me about drug trafficking in the public housing estates in West Heidelberg does not bear mentioning.

I am looking forward to hearing from the government about what further investment and support it is going to provide to residents of public housing to change their circumstances in relation to where they live and the neighbourhoods and communities they live in. This is an important issue. The Labor Party does not oppose the bill. We seek to support these arrangements to strengthen the communities in West Heidelberg and all communities in relation to making sure that they have an appropriate and respectable place to live. But ultimately the improvement that is going to result in people who live in public housing having strengthened those communities — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The time appointed under standing orders for me to interrupt the business of the house has now arrived. The honourable member may continue his speech when the matter is next before the Chair.