2019-2020 AHV Annual Report
It is with great pride that I present the Aboriginal Housing Victoria 2019-20 Annual Report. It is difficult to recall a year that had more unforeseen challenges. Together we faced devastating bushfires, floods and we continue to manage within a global pandemic that represents an ongoing threat to the safety of our tenants and every Victorian.
During these enormous threats, Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV) continued to deliver for tenants and to grow our policy reach. In February 2020 the first comprehensive Aboriginal housing and homelessness policy framework in our state’s history was presented to and accepted by the Victorian Government. It was the result of an 18-month project led by AHV. The Framework Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort (Every Aboriginal Person has a Home) was shaped by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people, with self-determination at its core. The Framework is already shifting thinking within senior levels of Government by bringing Aboriginal housing and homelessness aspirations into critical focus in state policy.
The COVID-19 outbreak has stretched our organisation as we work to achieve all of the levels of service previously delivered from remote working arrangements. The COVID-19 outbreak has presented opportunities as well as challenges. In another first for our organisation, AHV led a collaborative process with 20 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, Traditional owner groups and Aboriginal Trusts to develop the $35m Aboriginal Rapid Housing Response Program proposal to deliver repairs and upgrades to Aboriginal community housing across Victoria. The proposal will contribute to the Victorian wide economic stimulus agenda.
During the challenges of 2019-2020, we have worked more closely than ever before with the State Government. I thank Premier Andrews and his Ministers for their confidence in AHV and for their trust in our policy leadership and our abilities as a major Aboriginal housing provider. By continuing to work in partnership with Victoria’s Aboriginal leadership and the state, with self-determination as our guiding principle, together we can build the housing opportunities needed.
As always, I would like to thank my fellow Board Directors: Daphne Yarram, Ian Hamm, Mark Lipson, Rob Leslie, Bevan Mailman and Alan Herrman. I would also like to thank our first Associate Director, Duean White for her contribution during the year. The Board has once again demonstrated great commitment, vision and diligence in 2019-2020. I thank them for their support. I would also like to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of AHV’s management and staff during 2019-20. During a period of intense demands and growing responsibilities, we once again improved operational performance and business systems.
Finally, I would like to thank our tenants. It is the Aboriginal community that gives purpose and meaning to our organisation. We exist to serve you, and you are the beating heart of Aboriginal Housing Victoria.
Tim Chatfield, Chairperson
As I reflect on the last twelve months, it is has been very much a year of "two halves".
In July 2019, around 2,200 people attended AHV's NAIDOC event at the Collingwood Children's Farm, marking 20 years since the first AHV event was held there. AHV staff participated in a range of community events including hosting Community BBQs with tenants in Bendigo, Mildura and Robinvale over the September 2019 school holidays.
I was extremely proud of the way AHV staff collaborated with Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal and mainstream housing organisations and specialist homelessness and support organisations to inform the Framework, Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort (Every Aboriginal Person has a Home). We delivered a policy framework in February that reflects the voices and lived experience of First Nations Peoples while outlining a roadmap for greater self-determination and housing independence.
In another major achievement the refurbishment of Aboriginal housing’s home, Narrandjeri House in Scotchmer Street, North Fitzroy, was completed in December last year and Melbourne based staff started moving back in in February. Narrandjeri House has been AHV’s central base for several decades and refurbishment provided the opportunity to modernise the office and show case Victoria’s culturally rich Aboriginal art and design.
Unfortunately, we are yet to complete our move back to Narrandjeri House. From March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak changed the way people live, work and interact around the globe. I am very proud of the way AHV staff adapted to the rapid and significant changes needed to continue to deliver our activities and services safely.
I also want to acknowledge the resilience of AHV tenants. I commend the responsible way tenants reacted to the pandemic despite many overwhelming challenges by keeping safe, looking after their families and communities and sustaining their tenancies. Isolating from family and kinship groups goes against the core values of Aboriginal culture. Still, we have done so to protect our Elders and the most vulnerable members of our communities.
The pandemic in Victoria has raised broader community awareness of the inequities within our society and has been a catalyst for social change. We welcomed Government responses to issues previously considered too challenging to resolve. JobSeeker allowance was increased to a level more consistent with a "living wage". Hotel accommodation and support were provided to rough sleepers. Further, the Black Lives Matter movement gained global mainstream momentum. Victoria’s Aboriginal communities have banded together and managed to avoid the most devastating health and economic impacts of COVID-19 that in other countries have weighed most heavily on the poor, and marginalised peoples.
AHV is committed to working with all Aboriginal communities, mainstream organisations and Government to build on the momentum for change. We want to see better outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians, through the Federal and State Government's economic stimulus programs.
To our community, continue to stay safe and strong during these challenging times. AHV's Board, Executive Team and staff are committed to working with, and on behalf of you, our tenants and the Victorian Aboriginal community more broadly. Our resilience, cultural strengths and ability work together and support each other will ensure we emerge from this crisis stronger and more committed.
Darren Smith, CEO