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Tuesday, 26 January 2016




Costas and Panayiota (“Everyone here calls me Penny”) have been living in
public housing for 19 years. They are both 75 years of age.

Costas and Penny were both born in Cyprus. Cyprus is an international
country. Many people from Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Syria and Israel have
settled there.
Cyprus is a very scenic island. Millions of tourists visit Cyprus every year.
Costas urges you to visit his beautiful country one day.
Costas grew up in the city of Pafos. He comes from a family of seven
children. Costas’ father served in the army and later worked in local
government in an administrative position. His mother was busy at home
raising the children. Costas left school at 12 to become a painter, plumber,
carpenter; in short a “Jack of all Trades.”

Costas comes from a Greek Orthodox family. In his family there is a long
tradition of at least one child of each generation growing up and becoming a

Costas and Penny married in 1951.

Penny grew up in a village near Pafos. She also comes from a big family.
She has seven brothers and sisters; all of them are still alive. The family
lived in a home without gas or electricity. Light was provided by kerosene
lamps and the food was cooked on wood fires.

Their marriage was arranged by relatives on both sides. Costas jokes that it
was Penny who chased him and gave him their first kiss.

Together they have ten children.

After they married, Costas worked in the kitchens on a British army base on
the Suez Canal. This meant that he was separated from Penny but he sent
 money back to her regularly. When other work became available, he was
able to return to his family in Cyprus. In 1967 the family moved to Limasol
where Costas worked as a house painter and carpenter on a British airforce
base. It was a very large base, almost a small town, with many houses to
accommodate the airforce personnel and their families. The base had its
own school and hospital.

Imagine how hard Penny worked raising a brood of ten.
Costas remembers how difficult it was to make ends meet financially.
All those children to feed, clothe, and put through school. Costas is very
proud that he provided for them all.

In those days” he says, “children respected their parents and obeyed them.
 Today they don’t do as they are told and they even swear at their mother
 and father.”

All ten children grew up and married. 
Costas and Penny now have 35 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren!
They are living in Australia, Cyprus and San Francisco.

The couple came to Australia in 1987. For a year they lived with one of
their daughters. Then they moved into their public housing flat on the
Princes Hill Estate.

Their flat is very comfortable; full of plants, religious icons and

Costas keeps himself busy making furniture or fixing things around the flat.
It’s only a small flat and Penny is very long-suffering when Costas is busy
working on one of his projects on the kitchen table. With his hacksaw,
hammer and nails he creates a lot of wood-shavings and dust.
Penny just rolls her eyes and laughs.She is a strong motherly woman with a
warm hug and a dry sense of humour.

Costas and Penny believe in good nutrition. They go to the Victoria Market
every fortnight and come home with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat
 and fish. They don't eat take-away food. Costas says that if you try one of
his hamburgers you’ll never eat McDonalds again. They both love cooking
 and often cook together. Penny bakes all her own bread. Costas enjoys
making cakes. They are his speciality. Over the years, whenever there has
been a birthday celebration, Costas has made the birthday cakes for their
children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It’s a family tradition
which began in Cyprus and has continued in Australia. That’s a LOT of birthday cakes!

They both believe strongly in the tradition of marriage. Theirs has been a
long and happy marriage, though, of course, even happily married people
fight sometimes.

They both like Australia very much.
Living in their Public Housing flat has been good, but they have missed
having a garden to potter about in, and Costas a shed for his woodwork.

Over the years we’ve tried to be good neighbours. We are friendly. We
mind our own business. We don’t make trouble for others.”

They have both enjoyed good health throughout their lives. Costas has
always been a robust man but these days he feels himself slowing down. He
can no longer manage the stairs like he used to. Penny has health
problems and they feel that it is time for them to leave Australia and to
spend the rest of their days living with family back in Cyprus.

They will be missed by their friends and neighbours on the estate.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


I love working with Dee. She is like a matriarch. She has heaps of common sense, fairness, compassion and a warped sense of humour. And she has a twinkle in her eye- she really does.
She has been through a lot in her life and has come through it all a positive happy person.

Introducing DEE

Friends of Public Housing Vic from the Western Suburbs.

'I could tell you heaps of stories.

Years ago - I'd say 1975 -6 – I was living in Launceston in Tassie with my hubby and two kids. We'd been for years on the waiting list for housing. The Housing Commission it was called back then.

One day I went to the Housing Commission office and told them that we were splitting up. They told me that now I was no longer living with my husband, me and the kids would go back to the bottom of the waiting list.
I debated with them about it and got nowhere.

The Commission kept telling me - 'That's the rules' and I had to just get over it basically. I told them 'Just cos I've got a crumby husband I ain't going to the bottom of no list!'

I went to the Tenants Union in Launceston. This guy who worked there as a volunteer was so great. He told me who to go and see and what to do. I went and visited a good Labor politician.

Then I got a letter saying I'd just been given the first newly built public housing unit in Georgetown. This block of flats ended up providing housing for single mums.

I went back to the Tenants Union to say Thank-you to the worker who helped me.
'I just got a place for me and the kids'
'Congratulations' he said, 'I just got the sack for giving you too much information'
'Well' I said 'I guess it's my turn to buy you a drink'

You have no idea what the stigma was like against single mums in those days.
If you put one foot wrong in their opinion, Welfare would jump all over you.

I've always stuck up for myself. I don't start fights – but I will finish them.
My kids say 'If you sewed your mouth up Mum, then everything would be all right'
My daughter's always telling me to Zip It.

I told them 'If you want me to behave like someone else's Mum, well sorry but that's not gonna happen.'

'No Mum it's alright. We'll take you just the way you are'
'Good, well stop judging me for being myself'

I never had a car in those days. I got around with a pram and a shopping trolley.

My daughter has a tattoo on her arm called 'Strength of Life' which features me.
I'm holding a skull and I'm wearing a dragon-coat. I guess you can't say I'm someone placid, cos I'm not.

I'm 61 and I'm still fighting government departments!
Things are still wrong all these years later. Things haven't changed much really from my younger days.

In my mind domestic violence, homelessness and public housing are all connected.
I love working on this campaign and I love being a member of Friends of Public Housing Victoria. It's an eye-opener how the government is trying to get rid of public housing. Very underhanded. They are doing everything under the radar.

I'm sussing things out in my area. Things don't always seem right. The vibes don't add up. I will look into things, either I'm wrong or I'm right, but I need to know.  

I come from a long line of Labor voters. I would like to tell Bill Shorten personally how disgusted I am that Labor is getting rid of public housing. It's an insult to the Australian people. Labor had better get back on board with this issue and do right by the public tenants. They should think about their reputation as a party that cares about people on low incomes.

Even though I'm 61, I decided to go back to school and get a diploma in Community Work. I've been doing this work all my life anyway.

I think they need people with my experience. I know how to talk to people in a crisis. Wherever there are tenants in need of help, I'll try and be there.'


Saturday, 16 January 2016



1. THE NSW GOVERNMENT - Unethical practice 

'Government downplayed death warning at Millers Point' AUG.2014 

'The NSW government ignored warnings that moving elderly residents from Miller's Point would increase their risk of death, and an official report was altered to downplay the potentially deadly effect of the public housing sell-off'

'Internal documents also show authorities changed the study methods used by consultants researching the social consequences of the sale, so the findings were concealed until after the decision was announced in March.'

'A source familiar with the research confirmed departmental officials were ''concerned about [using] the word ‘death’ '' in the final report, which the government used to demonstrate that the effect of relocations on vulnerable residents had been fully considered.'

'Documents obtained by independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich under freedom of information laws show warnings about an increased risk of death were either removed or altered in a social impact assessment, commissioned by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation.'


'Chronic stress, ill health, hospitalisation, death'

'We have seen a dramatic spike in hospitalisations, serious injury and illness and indeed the process is killing people as predicted.'
'Within weeks of the announcement an elderly neighbour who was somewhat reclusive but functioning well, having lived with her son in Millers Point for over 30 years, took her life'.

'A woman who had been battling cancer for some time and living in a house with mould that Housing NSW never remedied was moved out of her home on the Wednesday, went to hospital on the Friday and died on the Monday.'

'We have lost at least three others including a young man this week. Leroy was born and lived in Millers Point all his 26 years. He was well liked and involved in the local rec centre and a valued employee of The Rocks Pharmacy. He lost his mother just 12 months ago and was found to have passed away, the day before he was to be taken to his ‘new home’

'Following the suicide of the elderly woman above, a grieving friend erected a small memorial on behalf of her neighbours in sandstone saying ‘Angela lived here’. Housing removed it almost immediately, she replaced it, they removed it again.' 

'Protest banners are also ruthlessly removed from the area even if they are on Church property or a person’s private property.' 

3. The real-estate perspective.

'Millers Point home on the market again as owners expect to reap $590,000 profit' - June 2015

'The first Millers Point terrace offered for resale since the government’s sell-off of public housing has netted its owner about $590,000 after just 10 months of ownership.'





Sunday, 10 January 2016


Late last year a series of presentations were held for public tenants on the subject of Conflict Resolution, called THIS IS OUR HOME.

A group of members of Friends of Public Housing attended one of the sessions.

The purpose of these functions was to give examples of common conflicts neighbours experience which were then addressed in turn by a panel of people representing Office of Housing, local council, the police, Legal Aid and the Neighbourhood Justice Centre. This was a great initiative and we were keen to participate.

Dealing with conflict is one of life's challenges. Obviously conflict affects everybody -not only public tenants. It is important to get it right when it comes to conflict, addressing problems early, rather than letting situations fester, and coming up with solutions which are fair and hopefully even result in strengthening communities.

Conflict can arise in public housing because people often live cheek by jowl and furthermore Public Housing houses many people with high and complex needs who are often overlooked by the private sector and 'community housing' businesses. Sometimes this can have ramifications as you will see in the example given below.

By the same token we should not exaggerate the problem of conflict within public housing communities, which are overwhelmingly harmonious and of course law-abiding. People who believe otherwise are being taken in by a biased tabloid-style media.

I think the government has sometimes vacillated by being too neglectful and dismissive of conflicts that come to their attention, or else far too punitive by introducing a three strikes eviction policy which is probably unlawful under the Human Rights Charter.

Before the meeting started, we chatted with a member of the panel and told her of our intention to raise the matter of the 3 Strikes Eviction Policy. We were told that this was not the right forum to bring up the three strikes eviction policy. Why not?

It is always the right time and place to bring up matters of concern to public tenants and especially to address issues of social injustice. We all know that if we don't open our mouths when the opportunity arises the right forum never materialises anyway- and another opportunity is lost. We raised the subject and afterwards the same person told us that she was glad that Friends of Public Housing attended because our contribution had been important.

One benefit of being a tenant of the government is that we can have a say in developing and shaping policy – that's the idea anyway. Since the forum addressed a topic relevant to public tenants it was very well attended with translators present. This is another argument why we are much better off staying with the public system rather than becoming 'community housing' tenants.

Afterwards we chatted to our fellow public tenants. They shared with us their worries and frustrations. I've always found public tenants to be lovely people – friendly and genuine without pretensions or guile. It is a disgrace how public tenants are being constantly vilified in the media.

One lady held my hand the whole time she was telling me her story. She was troubled. Her previous neighbour had been evicted and although on the one hand she was relieved that he was no longer living on the premises because his behaviour had been disruptive and noisy, she also said that he was 'more mad than bad'. It sounded as though his behaviour – roaming alone at night and shouting - had been driven by his delusional state. He had no support structures and no family that she knew of. She was a kind person and was troubled that her complaints had contributed to him becoming homeless.

Evictions do not include plans to help you find somewhere to live. The locks are changed and you are given two pamphlets which tell you about homelessness services available and that's it. Apart from perhaps making arrangements to collect your things, further discussion with the Office of Housing will not be entered into.

If people are being made homeless because they are exhibiting symptoms of their illness which is out of their control, then they are being discriminated against. At the same time their neighbours need peace and quiet and sleep. How to address these human problems?

One thing that would immediately alleviate the pressure on the public housing system would be for the government to stop allowing Community Housing businesses who own the titles to cherry-pick their tenants. They can refuse to house 'unsuitable' tenants without defining what this means. They are not required to take tenants from Segment 1 of the public housing waiting list ie those in greatest need. In any case only 'up to 50%' need to be taken from the public housing waiting list anyway. This was later amended to 'eligible to be on the waiting list' and Community Housing Organisations who own the properties are now able to use their own resources to fill these vacancies, bypassing the waiting list altogether. 

Considering that they have been given the titles of desperately needed public housing this is unacceptable.

If you ignore the hype from those with vested interests in the stock transfers, and just look at the facts it is not hard to see that giving away the titles of public housing is not in the public interest at all and will lead to rising poverty, food insecurity, gentrification and increasing homelessness.

We are already seeing this…

But the Andrews Labor government in Victoria is planning to hand over even more titles
which will only make matters worse and contribute to further inequity.

Of course, it falls on the Public Housing system to continue to try and take up the slack of housing people according to need and without discrimination - and with precious little public housing available. If we end up with pockets of ghettos and dysfunction in public housing, people should realise that government policies are creating this situation.

Public Housing is being given away with very loose 'guidelines' attached to these gifts - guidelines which seem more like loop-holes for big business and developers

These housing policies amount to social engineering. 

Then the media points the finger at the dysfunctional and dreadful public tenants, further dividing our society, and justifying hating on a group of people. It is all very hypocritical.

It is a testament to our strong, functional communities that in spite of these assaults, public housing is still doing so well.


Moira Rayner- Barrister and Human Rights expert on the Three Strikes Eviction policy says it is 'probably unlawful under the Charter because mandatory rules are inherently arbitrary.'

'Allocation, eligibility and rent setting in the Australian community housing sector' p22,24,41


Friday, 1 January 2016


Read about the privatisation of public housing ( known as council housing in Britain ) as experienced in the UK.  In Victoria we are going down the same path of stock transfers. In fact the process has been well underway in Australia for years. Homelessness nationally is escalating - but nobody is joining the dots ... Instead of open, reasoned debate and accurate information, we get endless spin and whitewashing, accompanied by propaganda against public housing / public tenants.

In Victoria public housing has been estimated to be an asset worth 18 billion dollars.

Corporate Watch : Newsletter 17 : Registered Social Landlords - The new Corporations

Keith Parkins
'Housing associations, or Registered Social Landlords as they are now known, are becoming a powerful oppressive force within our communities.' - Mike Lane, campaigner.
'You get videos showing how marvellous your house will be, fantastic bathrooms with palm trees on the wall - they're a delight to the eye. But it isn't true. Tenants from Tameside will tell you the promises weren't fulfilled, repairs weren't done, their homes weren't renovated.' - Austin Mitchell MP

'Some of their new housing is hideous to look at. Some of their relationships with tenants are poor. Their record in repairs is not necessarily one of the best and their responses to queries can be slapdash, when supplied at all. In being accountable for what they do, they have a poor record.' -

Gerald Kaufman MP
'Tenants' campaigns against stock transfers, promoting alternative council housing manifestos and demanding improved public services are, in practice, an integral part of the growing international movement against the WTO. It may start with opposition to Labour's privatisation plans but it is rooted in wanting a better world for all free of exploitation, commercialism, greed and corruption.' - Dexter Whitfield, 'Defend Our Council Housing'

Much of what we take for granted - free health care, welfare, social housing - we take for granted without a second thought. Yet none of it existed in the 1930s. Illness could lead to debts for life, housing was back-to-back slums, and if you were out of work, you starved.

Then came the social reforms of the 40's and 50's. But the rot started to set in again under Margaret Thatcher, and has accelerated with a vengeance under her inheritors, Tony Blair and New Labour. Until Thatcher, social housing was under the council, and nobody envisaged anything else. Then came the 'right to buy'; when, in an attempt to undermine labour councils, housing was sold off at prices which bled the community chest dry.

And now, following on its heels, the wholesale transfer of the remaining council housing stock to Housing Associations. They are so-called social housing landlords, but often, in practice, are closer to property companies, and becoming synonymous with fat cat salaries, deteriorating properties and rising rents.

But this has not stopped the process. Take Tyneside, for example, where the social housing is still council owned - just. The council has amassed a £4 million war chest to lower council taxes for the next election: meanwhile, its estates are in an appalling state of repair. Tenants have been told that privatisation is the answer.

In fact, the transfer of council housing to a housing association or company threatens tenants' rights. Council tenants' secure tenancies are replaced with less secure 'assured' tenancies, making eviction easier. Rents are, on average 17 percent higher than council rents. There is little, if any,
accountability. Tenants have no automatic right to representation on a Housing Association board of management, and tenant board members are often excluded from decision-making. Large salaries are the norm rather than the exception. By 2001, the pay of Housing Association chief executives increased by almost three and half times the rate of inflation.

Forty-seven percent of Housing Associations breached government rent guidelines for 2001/2. There is also increasing evidence that Housing Associations are contributing to the growing homeless crisis. According to the Housing Corporation, evictions rose by 36 percent between 1998 and 2000. In Scotland, Housing Association evictions rose by 64 percent in two years. There was also a large rise in the use of the controversial 'Ground 8', which, under an Assured Tenancy, allows for automatic possession orders for thirteen weeks' rent arrears, even if these are due to housing benefit delays.

Transfer of housing stock to Housing Associations is, say campaigners, nothing less than back-door privatisation of social housing. And as with PFIs and PPPs, the cost to the tax payer escalates, and tenants suffer deteriorating services at higher costs. This has to be seen within the context of WTO/GATS wholesale transfer of public services to the private sector, where private greed overrides public need (and removes any form of democratic control or accountability). Of the 106 areas to be liberalised (ie opened up to the private sector), housing is one. All transfers of housing stock will be subject to open competition and could be acquired by international private landlords. Such 'liberalisation' may even specifically prohibit Tenant Management Organisations, which could provide a democratic, accountable alternative to both housing associations and council housing.
Campaigners opposing the privatisation of our social housing should also be opposing GATS. And vice-versa. It is our complacency which is letting what we take for granted be, not eroded away, but wrenched away.

'We are told that the private sector can raise the money to invest in modernising and repair the housing stock - creating a utopia in social housing. I never realised that the bankers, brokers and consultants were philanthropists, moneymakers with a social conscience. But the housing transfer scandal is not solely about handing over public assets to the private sector - it's about the dismantling of our social fabric, removing public assets from democratic control' - Mick Graham, housing rights campaigner.