On 9 January 2018 Christina Steel passed away after a long illness, which she fought to her last day. She was hoping to see the end of Game of Thrones and she almost made it.
Christina had many roles in her life and she gave herself willingly and wholeheartedly to each and every one of them. We at the Tenants’ Union came to know Christina when she took the role of advocate with the Port Stephens Park Residents Association (PSPRA) and began attending the Residential Parks Forum.
Janice Edstein, a long time friend and co-conspirator told us that Christina became involved in PSPRA quite by accident. She approached Janice for advice about a term of her site agreement and they became close friends. Janice then talked Christina into joining PSPRA and before long she took on the role of Tribunal Advocate.
Stepping up and representing park residents in front of the Tribunal is a daunting task for anyone who hasn’t done it before. You are expected to know about the law, evidence and how the Tribunal operates and you also have to manage the hopes and aspirations of the people you are representing. Christina approached the role with enthusiasm and without fear. She was passionate about the rights of the people she was entrusted to represent and this carried her through.
Over the years Christina obtained some great results for the people she represented in the Post Stephens area. She negotiated when she could and when she couldn’t she presented the evidence and legal arguments to the Tribunal.
In 2015 Christina took an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) on behalf of herself and other home owners at Sea Winds Village. The residents were seeking orders that the rent increase was excessive and argued for a Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase. Christina also raised a legal point about a rent increase term in some of the site agreements. She lost on the legal point and the Tribunal awarded an increase of 5.2% whereas a CPI increase would have been around 2.8%.
Christina believed the Tribunal got it wrong and with the support of PSPRA, the Tenants’ Union and the affected residents she appealed the decision. Some people advised her to get a solicitor to run the appeal and she was offered the services of a solicitor for free, but in true Christina style she took it on herself. Christina presented her arguments about the rent increase and the term of the site agreement to the two-Member Appeal Panel and she was successful on both points.
Christina did not limit her advocacy to the Tribunal. When the residential parks legislation was under review Christina worked with her colleagues Janice Edstein and Ron McLachlan from PSPRA and other organisations around NSW to try to secure some last minute improvements to the Bill before it became law.
And, when Christina found out the day before the new Act was being announced in Tweed Heads she immediately swung into action. She, Janice and Ron took an overnight train and then a bus to ensure their Association was represented at the event. Later that afternoon, they were back on the train to Port Stephens.
Sandy Gilbert of the Tweed Residential Park Homeowners Association remembers that day and remarked “that is what I call dedication.” She also said of Christina “the knowledge and support she handed on to others was truly remarkable and I am so proud to have shared a part of her journey in life, not only through advocacy but also as a beautiful friend.”
Woman of the Year
In March 2016 at an event celebrating International Women’s Day Christina was announced as Port Stephens ‘Local Woman of the Year’ by the Port Stephens MP Kate Washington.
Christina was recognised for her outstanding achievements supporting and advocating for the 3000+ park residents in the Port Stephens area, and for her campaigning to improve the rights of residents.
Christina also had a great sense of fun and the ability to laugh at situations that would make others want to cry. Throughout her illness she was able to relive the good times and laugh with her friends about their past antics. Janice visited Christina often during this time and said that they always ended up laughing at some silly thing. They had many adventures together over the years and Janice will remember Christina as “the most generous, kind, thoughtful and faithful friend one could ever have.”
Those of us who were fortunate to know Christina through our work, or personal lives miss her immensely. She was a remarkable woman and she will be long remembered. Farewell friend and colleague.