How long have you been an Aboriginal Tenant Advocate?
I’ve been working at the Northern Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service for 17 years now.
What area does the Northern Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service cover?
The service covers the area from Wyong all the way up to Tweed Heads then northwest to Boggabilla and down to Narrabri and all the way down to Muswellbrook.
Wow, 17 years is a long time, when did you feel that you really came into your own as a tenant advocate?
After about 8 years I became comfortable predicting the outcome of cases but in my line of work there is never a 'sure thing.' It depends on the ever-changing Residential Tenancy Act, also different tribunal members can make different decisions.
Tell us a little about your position and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
There are a number of different roles that I perform on a daily basis, mostly I advise clients over the phone about their individual tenancy issues. I also perform duty advocacy, where we go to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) and represent Aboriginal tenants.
What keeps you motivated to go to work each day?
The people that you work with and the support you get from the network of tenancy services across NSW. I’m also motivated by the satisfaction that you get
from helping Aboriginal people keep their homes.
What are the challenges in your job?
When there are changes to the law and you have to adapt to a new or updated Act, it means you have to do extra research and training. Sometimes you get
a new tenancy issue or work on a particularly tricky case that takes up a lot more time than simpler tenancy issues. Another issue is where tenants are unaware and unconfident to pursue their own tenants’ rights and this can make my job more challenging. It really is true that the more a tenant does to help their situation the better the outcome they will get.
Do you have a recent story that you would like to share?
I dealt with a 'noise and nuisance' matter, where there was an undercurrent of racism towards an Indigenous tenant. We worked in conjunction with Legal Aid, to review and then appeal the Tribunal’s decision. The tenant was appointed a barrister to do the internal appeal and in the end the tenant achieved a successful outcome.
Do you have any hobbies outside of your work?
I am a big fan of going to watch the local footy and supporting the young Indigenous players. I also enjoy hanging out with the family and especially supporting my kids and making sure everything is going all right with their schooling.
You help a lot of people maintain their homes, what does your home mean to you?
To me it’s not just about the house itself but the security that it brings with it. A home is somewhere you feel secure and having a home base helps to gain good health, education and employment for families.