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.
This year we are celebrating our 21st year of operation. We opened our doors as part of the North and North West Community Legal Service on 1 October 2002, before we became independent on 1 July 2010. As we turn twenty one this week, we have assisted 21,334 tenants in 27,759 matters over 55% of NSW. We have closed our office in Broken Hill and opened one in Tamworth. We have always been innovative in our service delivery and are using the upgraded AVL systems to offer remote duty advocacy to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. With Tribunal hearings returning in person, we are finding new ways to assist the tenants affected. Over the years our staff have won TAAPstars for outstanding work, and the Golden Warren an unprecedented six times for the Service’s contribution to housing policy and law reform.
We have seen changes in staff, with those who leave us taking with them a commitment to excellence and justice in their work. NEWTAAS staff have always punched above their weight to achieve outstanding results for clients who seek our advice and representation. There are four workers, however, who have formed the backbone of the Service. Our Service Manager, KerryAnn Pankhurst in Armidale, Assistant Service Manager Tamara Newstead in Dubbo, and Linda Grady, founding Tenant Advocate also in Dubbo. Neil Scholes-Robertson, our Finance Officer has been with us for more than 15 years. What these staff have in common is a commitment to social justice, to excellent service, to fairness and to helping people build better lives for themselves and their families. Chelsea Knife in our Armidale office who joined us during the pandemic demonstrates those values in all of her work.
We have welcomed two new staff members - Sean Maguire in our Armidale office and Marti Dennis in our Tamworth office. Both Marti and Sean have shown themselves to be quick learners on their way to becoming NEWTAAS Tenant Advocates. We have been very grateful for the long assistance of Mark West and Julia Murray who have worked remotely for us since the start of the pandemic and farewell them this year with much gratitude.
We have been pleased to see commitments by federal and state governments to fund more social and affordable housing. However, it does not address the immediate housing shortage which will take some innovative problem solving by all concerned. We have finally seen movement in upcoming proposed legislation to end no grounds terminations, and are pleased that KerryAnn is a member of the Roundtable of technical experts who are assisting in the reform of the legislation.
On behalf of the Management Committee, I would like to thank the staff for their ongoing dedication, commitment and professionalism. NEWTAAS is better for it. I would like to also thank the Management Committee members, Elizabeth, Jenny, Marjorie and Noel for giving up their time to attend meetings. I really enjoy being a part of the NEWTAAS team as I am surrounded by committed and passionate people, who all have the same goal of making life better for the less fortunate amongst us.
Service Manager's Report
Once again, it has been a busy and rewarding year at NEWTAAS. Our twenty first year! After a brief funding extension and a thorough application process last year, we have now been funded until 30 June 2028.
This security meant that we were finally able to successfully fill the vacant positions in March 2023. Fortunately, Julia Murray and Mark West were able to continue with us remotely. Mark left us in February 2023, but returned to put together the electorate reports and write an analysis of the impact of the declining number of NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal published decisions.
Marti Dennis started with us in Tamworth in April this year, and Sean Maguire in Armidale in mid-May. Marti has long been tenancy adjacent, working in community services and government on homelessness and support services. Marti has written a brief article on her introduction to the work we do and how we do it, and you will find that on page 38. Sean has come to us through a different path in disability service delivery, bringing a new view.
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. This year I’ve also included a breakdown of the applications to NCAT in our region by local government area. It is a pithy illustration of the need for change in the legislation, particularly the Residential Tenancies Act, and in how housing law and policy operate in this state.
The NSW state election was super exciting for us – at last, renting was an election issue. The demographic changes that decrease the capacity of generation rent to buy into the market mean more renting families and children growing up in renting households. Later breakdowns in relationships are pushing more older singles into marginal tenancies, often only a step away from homelessness. This year all of the major parties recognised the need for change and committed to ending no grounds terminations.
Please read our submission to government that illustrates the chilling effect of no grounds termination notices. As ever, the case studies throughout the report show the uncertainty and anxiety facing renters. The electorate reports show a different perspective on our work.
In this, our twenty first year, the work we do is more important than ever. Helping people navigate the intricacies of the housing system and wherever we possibly can, keeping roofs over the heads of children are Tamara, Linda, Chelsea, Neil, Mark, Julia, Marti and Sean, my colleagues at the front. They are remarkable in their commitment and steadfastness.
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 us, the staff to continue our work. The vision and guidance of the Committee are the underpinning of our focus on service delivery.