Vale John Mant – supporter of TAAS

Leo Patterson Ross • 24/07/2021

VALE JOHN MANT, 1936-2021: The tenants of New South Wales owe a big thankyou to John Mant who died on 10 July, aged 84. He left a legacy still in the making, especially in the field of urban planning. With a passion for public policy and social justice, he claimed many distinctions as lawyer, planner, public servant, and politician. He was Gough Whitlam’s Principal Private Secretary on dismissal day, 11 November 1975.

Of particular note for tenants, in 1993 Mant was the author of a report that Robert Webster, the new NSW Housing Minister from the National Party, had requested to examine how client services should be delivered.

At the time, the Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS) had been defunded and for some years had been operating as a primarily volunteer network. This severely limited the amount of support people could receive. The Tenants’ Union had a proposed model of tenants' services into the future which Mant was generally positive towards and Robert Webster subsequently refunded tenants' services. The Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Program was implemented in 1994 and has received bi-partisan support to this day. Thank you John Mant for helping this to happen.

Of course, as with all things, the cost of providing the services that so many tenants need is growing as is the demand. At the time of TAAP being set up just under 25% of the population rented their homes, and 20% of those renting were in public housing. Now, not only is there more than a million additional households in NSW, more than 31% and less than 10% of those renting are in public housing with the additional security and greater affordability that public housing provides. 

The Tenants Advice and Advocacy Program is one of the most important support structures for the renters of NSW. Unfortunately between 2003 and this year there has been gradual reduction in the capacity of the services as funding hasn’t kept up with the cost of providing the services. This has seen growing frustration amongst tenants who aren’t able to receive the support they need. 

In great news though this year for the first time in a long time the services aren’t facing an effective funding cut. With the support of Minister Kevin Anderson, also of the National Party, an additional $1million per year has been allocated to the Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Program in the NSW budget bringing this support for renters to just over $13million a year.

There is more to do – restoring the program to meet the needs of the community requires expenditure of around $20million a year – but with the program nearing 30 years and well more than half a million tenants assisted this is an important step and recognition from government of the value of advice and advcacy services for NSW's renters.

Read more in this obituary for John Mant in the Sydney Morning Herald: Urban planner and policy leader ‘made a difference’