What is the Residential Parks Forum?
The Residential Parks Forum brings together advocates and lawyers from across NSW to share information and advocate for improvements to the rights of land lease community residents.
The Park and Village Service (PAVS) originally convened the Residential Parks Forum (the Forum) almost 20 years ago. The purpose was to bring together those working to improve the rights of park residents including workers from the Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Network, lawyers and representatives from statewide or regional resident groups.
The Forum was a source of support for resident groups who were regularly representing their members at the Tribunal. It also provided a space for discussion about the issues affecting park residents and to plan policy and law reform strategies. Today the Forum is convened by the Tenants’ Union of NSW however the core purpose and values remain the same.
The Forum is membership-based rather than open to all. The main reason for this is to ensure that meetings remain manageable and useful and that everyone has the opportunity to contribute. Members continue to include representatives of state-wide or regional resident groups, Tenant Advocates (from Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Services) and specialist staff from the Tenants’ Union. Other members are residents of land lease communities with experience or an interest in advocacy.
The resident groups with active Forum members are: Tweed Residential Park Homeowners Association (TRPHA); Port Stephens Park Residents Association (PSPRA); the Independent Park Residents Advocacy Group (IPRAG) and the Affiliated Residential Park Residents Association (ARPRA).
Members of the Forum are active volunteers who work to improve the rights and lives of land lease community residents throughout the State.
What we do
The Forum meets four times a year for three hours. Because time is limited, a lot has to be packed into each meeting. The Forum is many things – an information sharing space, a place where knowledge and skills can be developed, where collaboration or consultation can occur and legal issues explored.
Information sharing is a large part of the Forum and usually falls into two broad areas – what is going on in land lease communities in NSW and what services are available to assist residents of those communities when issues arise.
The Forum assists the Tenants’ Union in undertaking our work. Member feedback ensures that the resources we develop are correctly targeted, for example factsheets and newsletters. Also that we are aware of how the law is being interpreted and what impact it is having on residents. With this information we are able to advocate for changes to the law or policies, or support residents to take issues to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to resolve disputes.
The other part of information sharing is getting to know what services are available to assist residents, finding out how those services work and how to utilise them to best effect. To achieve this guest speakers are invited to meetings. Guest speakers have included representatives from NSW Fair Trading Mediation Service, Fair Trading Complaints Service, the NSW Ombudsman and Community Justice Centres.
Inevitably at each meeting there is discussion about the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)– what type of cases Forum members are handling and how the Tribunal is behaving in terms of process. To assist Forum members with their work at the Tribunal the Tenants’ Union provided two days of training to Forum members covering everything from applications to appeals. We are currently working on a toolkit for new resident advocates.
The Forum also provides comradeship and this is perhaps the most important reason for its continuance. Resident advocates are volunteers who give their time to helping others. They are not lawyers but many of them represent residents at the Tribunal and negotiate with operators. At the Forum they are able to come together in a friendly space where they can share their experiences and receive encouragement and support from each other.
If you are interested in becoming more active in your community, the Tenants’ Union can put you in touch with people who can offer support.