From instability to stability: how Victoria plans to tackle its homelessness problem

Source: Brooke Fryer, NITV News - 27/02/2020

Homelessness and instability is a reality for the lives of Aboriginal Victorians, but a new framework is hoping to lift the spirits of those struggling to find a home.

For the majority of Nicole Cassar's childhood and early adult life, home stability was something that she and her three siblings were unfamiliar with. 

Their mother was a victim of domestic violence, and it was often that during the late hours of the night, Ms Cassar's mother would wake her and her siblings up in their northern Melbourne home, pack a bag each and head on their way to a train station where they would travel out bush to a family member's home. 

But it was other times that they didn't stay with such familiar faces. 

"We've had to go and stay in a woman’s refuge and what happens is they house you in transitional housing and you usually stray there for six weeks," the Gunditjmara, Wotjobaluk and Maltese woman told NITV News. "I remember we stayed in the refuge two or three times." 

For years during Ms Cassar's primary school life, this back and forth was happening, until Ms Cassar's aunties stepped in and said "enough was enough". 

"I was missing out on school and my aunties said 'this girl has to go to school'," said Ms Cassar. 

Ms Cassar and her siblings then went into their aunties care, until eventually finding their way back to their mother around a year later.

At this point Ms Cassar was in her first years of high school. 

But with their mother still fighting against domestic violence, the four children were separated into two groups and put into foster care. 

"The two youngest got severely physically and emotionally abused by their foster parents," said Ms Cassar. 

"I aged out of the system at 16 and I went and got my brother and sister and brought them back to mum.

"I just made it happen… the carers knew if they tried to stop me I would expose them." 

After getting her siblings back to living with their mother, who was working in an Aboriginal hostel, Ms Cassar ended up boarding with people she knew, swapping and changing until the age of 30. 

Struggling to be accepted for a rental due to inconsistency in employment, it was at this time that Ms Cassar sought help from Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AVH). 

Because of that service, Ms Cassar is now in a stable home, in the Melbourne suburb of Kingsbury, where she has  been for the past 16 years and raising three children of her own. 

"I am absolutely grateful, the stability is amazing," she said.

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