Meet a New Tenant – Tony Barnden

Fifty-three year-old Tony Barnden lives in Anglicare housing in Elizabeth Vale, South Australia. He has been a resident of social housing for seven years.

Northern suburbs, like Elizabeth and Salisbury, are best-known to locals as the one-time home of Holden’s Adelaide car manufacturing operations. The closure of the plant after decades of uncertainty has impacted quite heavily on the local community.

“When you look at the economic stats, it says everybody in this area is on a very low income. And that does affect [living here]. There are a lot more social problems, whether that’s just drugs or bad behaviour. It doesn’t matter where you go, you’re gonna get the same thing. It’s just that here [in the north of Adelaide], it’s a little bit more concentrated.”

Tony is eminently quali ed to talk from a tenant perspective about the impact of stock transfers.

“But there are so many good people around here, that it counteracts a lot of it. And people can’t really help, sometimes, where they live. They’ve just got to make the best of wherever they are. Sometimes, you’ll get an idiot next to you but you get them anyway.”

Tony is eminently qualified to talk from a tenant perspective about the impact of stock transfers under South Australia’s Better Places, Stronger Communities program because his Elizabeth Vale apartment complex formed part of a transfer from state government to Anglicare management. From his vantage point, the changes have been positive.

“Community housing is definitely far, far better than public state-controlled,” he says. “I don’t care where you come from, it’s definitely better.”

“It’s like chalk and cheese,” he emphasises. “Anglicare tends to be more on the ball and willing to help with whatever needs to be fixed, whereas previously, it was like, ‘Oh, we can put that off for another couple of weeks’. Then when they got guys around here, they would leave great messes, then go. So it has been a lot better maintenance-wise.”

“I live in a big, sprawling complex of 160 units. We’ve had all of the pine posts removed and bollards put in, because they were all rotted and faded,” he notes. “All of the lighting around the area has now been fixed – it was never fixed before. It didn’t matter how many times you reported it. And now we have LED area lighting and street lighting. Anglicare has done all that. The lawn mowing men that are contracted to do this area do all of the combing back of the bushes and that type of thing. It’s now more open.”

The buildings and surrounds aren’t the only elements being improved as the effects of the stock transfer take root. Tony has noticed a growing sense of community that was previously almost non-existent.

“Before, a lot the neighbours didn’t even know who their next-door neighbour was. Now, they’re coming out; they’re not afraid to come out the front door, or the back door and go for a walk. Before, they never did that because of the bad elements, which have now been removed.”

“It is a lot better than what it ever was. There’s a lot of migrants within the complex – Iranians, Bhutanese, African, Asian – there’s just a great mix. Everybody talks to each other. They might not be able to communicate too well but they still say, ‘G’day’ and all that.”

“I’m now part of a cooking group,” Tony proudly exclaims. “And there are craft groups, and there’s a women’s wellbeing group… There are little groups starting up as a result of the locals getting to know each other – know their neighbours – and everything else.”

As well as the community growing closer, Tony is sensing greater pride in his fellow tenants for where they live. He believes Anglicare’s commitment to consulting and involving tenants in decisions that affect their homes is helping people grow their confidence and independence. His involvement in a resident’s group has caused him and a number of his fellow neighbours to reconsider their role in creating a positive living environment.

“Anglicare’s been really good for us. We come up with plans we think are going to be beneficial, and they listen, and say, ‘Well, that might be a good thing’, and then they give us the funds or they’ll point us in a direction so we can do it. Anglicare are more than willing to stand behind us and say, ‘Yeah, that’s a good thing’.”

I’ll make positive changes if I can or try to nd out how I can.

The impact of being able to improve his living conditions is clearly important to Tony but it has also helped develop a can-do attitude that’s a metaphor for the Elizabeth Vale community.

“I’ll make positive changes if I can or try to find out how I can,” he enthuses. “It doesn’t matter what level of intelligence or ability [a person has] or anything else. That doesn’t mean anything, as long as you have a go. And if you’re going to complain about something, that’s fine – complain about it. But make sure you do something first.”

As we get to the end of our chat, it is time to ask Tony the most important question of the interview: Which would he prefer to see first, an AFL Adelaide Crows or SANFL Norwood premiership? (Yes, Tony is a Norwood supporter living ‘behind enemy lines’, so to speak).

“Oh, probably both,” he says almost immediately then pauses to think. “It’s a tough one, though, but probably… the Crows.”