NEWTAAS Annual Report 2022
Spiralling rents threaten many tenants with homelessness if they lose their homes. Many tenants are being evicted for no reason (no grounds terminations). NEWTAAS Tenant Advocates assess a client's risk of homelessness based on income and the tenant's experience in sourcing a new home. In 2021-2022 tenants and risk of homelessness rose by more than 80%. The threat of homelessness means many are forced to keep quiet about serious maintenance issues.
In the New England, North West, Western and Far West areas of New South Wales, the New England and Western Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (NEWTAAS) works to:
- increase access to the legal system for the most disadvantaged people in the communities we serve,
- help clients be better informed of their tenancy rights and responsibilities and the options available to them,
- refer clients to other services when our Service is not able to assist them with their issue,
- work towards a more just, equitable and accessible society for all people, and
- ensure staff in our Service maintain high standards of professional conduct and service delivery.
Well, if last year wasn’t challenging enough, can I say that this year has proven even worse for our clients, staff and community, with people being made homeless through floods, COVID and misfortune.
We were very grateful to have the extra position provided as part of the government’s response to the COVID pandemic extended for the year. We were also glad to see a permanent boost to the 0.5 EFT position re-funded.
The statistics for this year have been confronting as the people at risk of homelessness increased from 20% to 28% of our clients this year.
Our staff have visited the region’s Members of Parliament with our support to lobby for more social and affordable housing in the face of rental crisis that we continue to face.
KerryAnn had a fantastic folder of statistics to present to the local Members of Parliament to show how desperate the housing situation is across our region. In the meeting I attended with her, I could see how impressed the Member was with the work of the service.
However, it’s a complex problem at both federal and state levels, and there are no easy or quick solutions. This year, not much obvious progress has been made to increasing the social housing stock by Government, and to open up other options for more flexible and accessible housing. In the face of climate change enhanced natural disasters, the need is more desperate with each passing month.
Our staff have gone above and beyond this year and the Management Committee have expressed their appreciation to the staff on a number of occasions at the outstanding commitment shown by our staff.
I want to say a big thank you to KerryAnn, Tamara, Linda, Chelsea, Mark and Julia. We have said goodbye to Michelle and Emma who have left us to take on the work of disability advocacy, and to Melissa who has gone to advocacy for Aboriginal families with children facing custodial sentences.
I would also like to thank the members of the Management Committee for their ongoing support and commitment. I am most grateful to Elizabeth, Jenny, Marjorie and Noel. We hope to see the Committee expand this year. We remain committed to delivering an excellent service, and we look forward to continuing that.
– Anne Wolfenden, NEWTAAS Management Committee President
Service Manager's Report
Every year I seem to start my report by saying it’s been a remarkable year, and this year is no exception. Like every organisation in NSW, we have been, and continue to be, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, often in unexpected ways.
We were very glad last May when the Minister for Fair Trading announced that every tenancy service would receive funding for one year to employ an extra person to cope with the pandemic, and the new world of working from home remote service delivery. We were so grateful that Mark West and Melissa O’Donnell were able to continue with us to help carry the load.
Julia Murray was able to continue with us this year to our great relief. Melissa, who worked remotely, finished with us in November 2021, and Emma Knight in the Armidale office and Michele McGoldrick in the Tamworth office both finished in June 2022. Both Emma and Michele have gone to work for Disability Advocacy NSW, so they are continuing to make an outstanding contribution. I have told Heidi in the Tamworth DA office that they’re not allowed to poach any more of our staff! Chelsea was successful in applying for the Armidale position, and we are so delighted she is continuing with us. So our normal small band of warriors has been supplemented this past year, and Tamara, Linda, Chelsea and I are grateful for the willing hands that have helped us to undertake the serious work we do. Dedicated and thoughtful staff are the backbone of the service, and I am so very grateful for them all.
I am looking forward to the certainty of a funding contract for five years so that we can stabilise our staff in Tamworth and Armidale. It’s very difficult to employ highly skilled and qualified staff without the certainty of a long-term contract. I was very glad to submit our application for the funding!
As is usual, you will find in this report a selection of statistics and case studies that tell the life of the Service and the stories of our clients. It’s very easy to think only of the numbers, or of the economic impact, but these case studies show the chaos and anxiety for families renting their homes in so many ways. There are also reports from the electorates that we cover that provide an interesting perspective on our work.
As ever, I am so grateful to our Management Committee for their ongoing dedication to the Service. Anne’s support and commitment, and the support of Elizabeth, Brian, Jenny, Marjorie and Noel has been essential to enable the staff to continue their work. The vision and guidance of the Committee are the underpinning of our focus on service delivery.
– KerryAnn Pankhurst, NEWTAAS Service Manager