24 March 2023
Murra Mia Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service has recently been awarded the contract to provide support for Aboriginal renters and public housing tenants in western NSW.
This means the ALS will cease operating the Western Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (WATAAS) after its current funding expires on 30 June 2023. Murra Mia will begin operating the tenancy services in western NSW starting from 1 July 2023.
The Aboriginal Legal Service has auspiced WATAAS since 2016 and we're very proud of the difference our team has made in the lives of thousands of people and families. While we are disappointed in this government decision, we are determined to make the transition as smooth as possible for our clients, community and staff. The WATAAS team will support all current clients to wrap up open matters or transfer them to Murra Mia before 30 June.
Please note that the Greater Sydney Aboriginal Tenants’ Service (GSATS) has not been impacted by this decision and the ALS will continue to support Aboriginal tenants in the Greater Sydney region through GSATS.
A proud history of helping our people avoid homelessness
The network of Aboriginal tenants’ advice and advocacy services was established in 1994. The ALS has auspiced WATAAS and its Sydney counterpart, GSATS since 2016.
These services support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander renters to fight for their housing rights, with the goal of helping mob to maintain safe and appropriate housing while avoiding homelessness.
Our tenant advocates help renters to negotiate with their landlords and housing providers; resolve issues with repairs and maintenance; go to the housing tribunal (NCAT); lodge appeals and compensation requests; and access other specialist services.
Last financial year alone, our dedicated WATAAS staff worked on 380 housing matters. They helped people to avoid homelessness in 57 cases, prevented eviction in 31 cases, and secured $25,000 in compensation for their clients. We remain extremely proud of their work and achievements.
Over the years, the WATAAS team have helped to transform many lives. We recognise their impact by sharing some of their stories below. (Please note clients' names have been changed to protect their privacy.)
One of the hundreds of people supported by WATAAS last year was ‘Kayla’, a young Aboriginal woman who was living in public housing with her baby. Kayla’s partner was living with them but was not a legal occupant of the property. When he became violent, Kayla fled the property with her baby and began couch-surfing with family members.
The WATAAS team referred Kayla to a local domestic violence support worker, who assisted her to take out an apprehended violence order against her partner and have him removed from the property. They were then able to advocate with Housing on Kayla’s behalf, successfully helping her move to somewhere safe and securing a waiver for $1,571 in property damages caused by her ex-partner.
“Without your help I would be still couch-surfing and living in fear and probably homeless,” Kayla told us.
Last year the WATAAS team also assisted a woman in her late 50s who was in a really bad place in her life – the culmination of mental illness, trauma from past domestic violence, chronic alcoholism and gambling issues. We’ll call her ‘Trish’.
Trish hadn’t been paying her rent and had lived without electricity for months. When she came to WATAAS, she was two days away from eviction.
The team sprang into action, completing a ‘set aside’ which bought Trish some more time. They were able to set up a realistic case plan which involved Trish going to rehab for two months and receiving additional support for her gambling and domestic violence trauma. They got Trish’s rental arrears reduced from $5,000 to $1,500 and created a payment plan allowing her to pay it off incrementally. The team’s negotiations with the housing provider meant Trish was able to keep her home.
Three months later, Trish’s life had been transformed. She said: “WATAAS saved my life. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have hope.”
Contact the WATAAS team
For any questions or concerns, you can reach the WATAAS team on 1800 810 233 or (02) 6881 5700.