2017 AHI ACT AWARDS FOR PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE IN HOUSING

AHI Members from the nation’s capital turned out for this year’s AHI Professional Excellence in Housing Awards on 17th October. Hosted by the AHI NSW Director, Francis Brazil, the event coincided with the ACT Government’s Housing and Homelessness Summit at the QT Hotel in Civic.

To get the evening rolling, the first award was Leading Community Engagement Practice, which was taken out by the ACT Government’s Housing and Community Services’ (HACS) Linking Into New Communities Taskforce and the Transforming Communities Partnership. 

Residents going through the renewal program have, overwhelmingly, reported the experience as positive.

The ACT Government is currently in the midst of its Public Housing Renewal Program. Over the next four years, more than 1,280 of the Territory’s public housing dwellings will be upgraded to more modern, contemporary-designed and energy-efficient properties.

To make this herculean task less painful for the affected tenants and communities – many of these being long-time residents with specific support needs and strong connections to their local community – the ACT’s Housing and Community Services (HACS) team established their Linking Into New Communities Taskforce and the Transforming Communities Partnership.

Collaborating with a number of key community sector organisations, the Partnership aims to ensure this highly vulnerable group of public housing tenants have access to people that can keep tenants informed, engaged and supported throughout every stage of the transition from their old dwelling into their new home. So far, residents going through the renewal program have, overwhelmingly, reported the experience as positive.

“We were collectively delighted to win the award that recognised the unique collaboration achieved between government and community service agencies achieving good outcomes for clients,” says Frank Duggan, Senior Director and Chief Operating Officer at the ACT’s Housing and Community Services Directorate.

When asked from where the success of the partnership stemmed, Frank says he believes that putting tenants first played a major role: “The partnership has been based on developing a client-centric approach that’s guided all interventions leading the partnership. This guiding principle allows the leading key worker (government or community sector) to intervene and lead the relocation process, and creates equity within the partnership.”

A strong field of nominations contested the Leading Housing Development Project. In the end, the award was taken out by the ACT Government’s Mura Gunya project.

Meaning ‘pathway to home’, Mura Gunya is a purpose-built development of five two-bedroom units, designed specifically for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, delivered through a partnership between the ACT Government and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elected body.

Mura Gunyah also acknowledges the importance of family relationships and country to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The development is the first of its type in the Canberra region and provides single-level Class C adaptable units for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50 years of age. The design is environmentally and economically sustainable and boasts a minimum 6-star energy efficiency rating.

Mura Gunyah also acknowledges the importance of family relationships and country to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and both are critical elements in the development’s design. The five units are clustered around a central communal area that is shaded by native trees, and includes a covered barbecue area and fire-pit for social and cultural events.

Mura Gunya older persons’ units will support tenants to age in place.

 “It was great to win the inaugural ACT award for this development,” says a happy Senior Manager, Capital Delivery in Housing ACT, Matthew Kennedy. “The project team was delighted and, most importantly, the new tenants love their new homes.”

When asked about their chances at the National Awards, Matthew was cautiously optimistic: “I am sure there will be a strong field of excellent developments, and we’re in the mix.”

Loss of independence and isolation are real issues for the residents at Ainslie.

Ainslie Village is home to over 170 people who have experienced the hard knocks of life. Most do not own cars and struggle to access services like supermarkets and the post office. Loss of independence and isolation are real issues for the residents at Ainslie.

The Cycle Workshop is the brainchild of Ainslie tenant and winner of the AHI’s 2017 ACT Tenant Led Initiative award, Jeff Scott. Despite his own personal battles, Jeff saw the impact that a lack of transport was having on the lives of residents and – with support from Argyle Community Housing, ACT Bike Jam and the Defence Forces – he established the Ainslie Village Cycle Recycle Workshop in September 2016.

Ainslie residents can now buy a bike for $30 or have their own bike reconditioned at an affordable rate, with all monies go back into the workshop to purchase spare parts and tools. Jeff believes this enterprise has improved resident morale, strengthened independence and decreased isolation.

Ainslie residents can now buy a bike for $30 or have their own bike reconditioned at an affordable rate.

“I’m a former CEO from Melbourne,” said Jeff in his truly emotional thank you speech on the night. “I’ve had some bad business ventures, which cost me a lot of money that I’ll never see again and that is the reason I moved to Canberra. So, on that note, I’d like to thank Canberra for helping me get back on my feet.”

“At the end of the day, helping others that are less fortunate than I am is important to me,” he continued. “I get to go home to Melbourne and tell my Mum how many people I’ve been able to help. This is really sentimental and emotional to me.”

Jeff admits to HousingWORKS that the emotion of his acceptance speech almost got the better of him: “I almost mushed out! I was really taken aback because I’ve tried to get a lot of stuff off the ground but I’m always running into red tape and bureaucratic hurdles.”

He is keen to train other residents and sees this as an important aspect of the sustainability of his project. He plans to mobilise his workshop to include schools and other community organisations to support vulnerable people: “It’s about helping others so they don’t end up where I was.”

Jeff’s workshop is his way of giving back to the community that supported him and it has become an integral part of the social fabric at Ainslie Village.

“I don’t want people experiencing the same kind of depression and anxiety, especially severe anxiety and depression that I did. I wasn’t in a good place 12 months ago but that’s what I do these projects for. The gratitude is overwhelming and it makes me want to do more.”

The Common Ground projects across Australia have been an outrageous success, and it was no different in the ACT, with Common Ground Canberra taking out top honours in the Excellence in Social Housing award category.

Situated in Gungahlin, the Common Ground building opened in 2015, and is Canberra’s first social housing development providing high quality, secure, permanent housing with support services to the formerly homeless and low income earners. The program is a partnership between Northside Community Services, Argyle Housing, ACT Government, the community and the A Canberra Housing Proposal Board (Common Ground Canberra).

Common Ground’s tenants have been able to improve their lives through education, employment and study, and turnover of tenancies remains low through active tenancy management. They have also engaged with community groups to develop programs for tenants.

“Winning this award is very exciting as we start to plan for the second Common Ground in Canberra,” says Kate Dawson, Executive Officer, Common Ground Canberra Board. “Our greatest strength is creating a home for the most vulnerable in our community. Of our tenants who were previously homeless, 92 percent feel Common Ground was their home, 80 percent describe their move to Common Ground as life-changing and 67 percent have accessed new employment.

Click here to access pictures from the ceremony.