2017 AHI Queensland Awards for Professional Excellence in Housing

Nominees, guests and Queensland AHI Members joined AHI President Andrew Davis – along with special guest Hon. Mick de Brenni, Queensland’s Minister for Housing and Public Works – in the offices of McCullough Robertson Lawyers in Brisbane for the state’s Professional Excellence in Housing Awards on Tuesday 2nd May.

The first award to be handed out on the evening was the state’s Inspirational Team Member, with the winner, Murray Thomson from Churches of Christ Housing Services, singled out from three nominations in the category.

Having begun with Churches of Christ Queensland (CofCQ) in 2011, Murray made significant inroads into developing a stronger community at what is arguably the organisation’s most challenging housing complex in Brisbane. His very human initiatives, such as resident barbeques in an effort to reduce isolation, could be considered nothing short of inspirational.

But, far from seeing himself as the inspirational one, Murray said he finds the trust and confidence the residents place in both him and his chaplaincy team to be his own source of inspiration.

“Everyone needs to be cared for,” he tells HousingWORKS. “The trust and rapport we build with residents assists them to start to rebuild their lives. The Chaplaincy Program is independently funded, and this independence allows me and the chaplaincy team to remain connected over the long-term to both the people and the communities we serve. These long-term relationships are key to gaining some really significant outcomes for our residents.”

From a field of four nominees, a novel and highly creative project by BHC called ‘Social Buttons’ was given the nod in the Leading Community Engagement Practice category.

These giant, colourful 3D buttons have become a feature at BHC’s senior’s development, Caggara House, where theywere conceived by residents in consultation with Jason Grant and team from Queensland design studio Inkahoots. The buttons illuminate with scrolling text, allowing people to choose events from a list of social activities, followed by the selection of a location and then choice of a day of the week or time for the activity to take place.

“To receive such incredible recognition from the AHI for this project is humbling, to say the least,” says Calvin Garrett, Strategic Projects Manager, BHC. “We’re thrilled to accept this award on behalf of the tenants, Inkahoots and our colleagues at BHC. Winning this award also reinforces the idea that we made the right decision by committing and investing in this project.”

Intended as a fun and easy way for residents to meet and further foster friendships – while, at the same, making technology less daunting to seniors – Calvin believes Social Buttons would have stood out in the judging because it is not your run-of-the-mill engagement project.

“[The buttons] offer our residents social engagement options that have been defined and chosen by them, not for them,” he says, before adding the much-less scientific observation that Social Buttons are, simply, “a lot of fun.”

A highly competitive field in the Leading Housing Development category saw the judges award top honours to Specialist Disability Accommodation Bundaberg, Regional Housing Limited, while the outstanding work of Homes4Life – Sippy Downs, Coast2Bay Housing Group Ltd, Ausmar Homes Pty Ltd and Synapse did not go unnoticed with all recognised with a commendation.

For someone living with disability, the features that residents at Regional Housing Ltd’s Specialist Disability Accommodation in Bundaberg have at their disposal are more than just simple convenience. Accessible and adjustable kitchens, raised power points, LED lighting, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, wider hallways and step-free entry paths mean these dwellings offer greater independence and raise the overall quality of life for the development’s 16 residents.

“It’s wonderful to have our disability housing developments, and the two years of hard work that went into them, acknowledged in this way by our peers and industry professionals,” remarks Brett Hanna, CEO, Regional Housing, “But the greatest reward has been in seeing this housing improve the lives of both our residents and their families.”

Brett and his team are taking what they’ve learned from their Bundaberg development and gearing up for a busy period with the implementation of the NDIS.

“We want to leverage our experience and learnings from these developments to craft finance and partnership models that will be attractive to private investors and create new, robust housing designs that cater to an even wider range of disabilities.”

CEO of Coast2Bay Housing Group, Andrew Elvin, was thrilled to see his organisation recognised for their work with a Highly Commended award.

“Receiving this commendation really helps us demonstrate our commitment to providing housing for those living with a disability,” he explains. “It encourages our staff and really promotes the organisation among other agencies in our region and across Queensland.”

Horizon Housing beat out a strong field to claim the top honour in the Leading Innovation Award category for their Australian Affordable Housing Securities (AAHS) Collaborative Investment partnership with HESTA and Social Ventures Australia.

The initiative is the first-large scale investment by a top 10 Australian superannuation fund in the delivery of not only social and affordable housing but also products that boost pathways to home ownership. The project saw the purchase of a rent roll of 1,000 NRAS properties – and the shared investment with Questus Limited and Social Ventures Australia – into the creation of Australian Affordable Housing Securities. Profits generated from Horizon’s investment will be used to develop new social housing.

Horizon Housing CEO Jason Cubitt was ecstatic about the win: “We’re exceptionally proud that our landmark financial investment model with HESTA and Social Ventures Australia has been acknowledged with this prestigious award. We really hope this model inspires future partnerships with industry superfunds to deliver benefits for the most vulnerable people of our community.”

Still revelling in their Leading Community Engagement win, BHC again had cause to pop champagne corks when they received the AHI Queensland gong for their Green Square Art Project in the Tenant Led Initiative category.

“Winning this award was amazing!” admits Gerard Bargo, a BHC affordable housing tenant and driving force behind the project. “I thought I had no chance of winning so to stand up there and see everyone smiling and acknowledging me in the community was an amazing feeling. It was great knowing I had achieved my first goal.”

Gerard – a proud Indigenous artist who has been with BHC for the past five years – had been keen to start an art group at his housing complex for a number of years, a group where individuals could come and work on their art in a safe and friendly environment.

Initially starting out as only a small gathering for BHC tenants at the Green Square complex, Gerard’s art initiative has expanded and now welcomes tenants from across the entire BHC portfolio, as well as members of the local community.

“Since winning the award, we’ve had more people at Green Square interested in getting involved with the group in different ways,” explains Gerard. “I feel like this award has opened doors, allowing a lot more residents to open up and get involved. Winning this award gives me reassurance that anyone can achieve their goals.”

Judges also faced a tough decision in the Excellence in Social Housing category. From another strong field of nominees, Mission Australia’s Supported Accommodation facilities in Cairns took out top honours, while Compass Housing receiving a Highly Commended acknowledgement.

Mission Australia’s Supported Accommodation provides supported housing with individualised case management for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults who have experienced long-term chronic homelessness. The facility provides a stepping-stone to tenants developing the skills they need to move from temporary accommodation into sustainable, independent housing. It also helps integrate residents back into the community and develop pathways into the workforce.

“It was on honour to receive the award on behalf of the team of people behind what is making a huge difference in peoples’ lives,” says Natalie Musumeci, Mission Australia Program Manager. “It confirms all the hard work that went into finding a model that truly works for the people we’re supporting.”

The win aside, Natalie and her colleagues say they felt a real sense of community among their AHI colleagues on the night: “We felt supported on the night with people congratulating us and the work we do. It was also a great experience to have the Hon. Mick de Brenni MP not only be there on the night but also to present the award to us.”

Compass Housing emerged as an influencer of housing policy through 2015 and 2016, first through the creation of a major discussion paper analysing the issues facing Australia’s housing system, and then as a participant in the United Nations Habitat III Conference, at which the Australian Government committed to a new set of global housing and urban development standards.

As the recipient of a Highly Commended acknowledgement in the Excellence in Social Housing category, Compass Housing CEO Greg Budworth says, “Compass believes social housing is about creating communities, just as much as it is about providing accommodation. Our Queensland team works with some of the most complex and high-needs cases in the social housing system so it’s great for the team to have their efforts recognised by the AHI in this way.”

“We’re extremely excited about expanding our Grow a Star youth scholarship program in Queensland because it can be such a transformative experience for the young people involved,” concludes Greg.

Congratulations to all of the nominees, and here’s wishing the winners all the best at the AHI National Awards for Excellence later in 2017.

Photographs from the reception are available here.

Click here for more information about AHI’s Professional Excellence in Housing Awards.