Volunteering is such a rewarding experience, and according to Robert Gough, it has been invaluable to where he is now.
Robert started volunteering at Shelter WA in the last year of studying a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Urban and Regional Planning at Curtin University. Dr Shane Greive his lecturer at the School of Design and the Built Environment first introduced him to Shelter WA in 2012. Dr Grieve had been in discussions with Shelter WA about how he could increase their knowledge in urban planning.
“Shane was impressed with some of the background research I’d done in the organisation, and was happy to recommend me for the role, after a number of students had showed interest.” said Robert.
“I started as a volunteer in 2012, and for almost a year, I volunteered for two days a week.”
Over his first year at Shelter WA, Robert produced a ‘Local Government Guide for Developing an Affordable Housing Strategy’, which outlined how local governments could increase and retain social and affordable housing in their local communities.
This guide helped Shelter WA engage with local governments and also led to other opportunities for the organisation. As a result of the guide, Shelter WA was asked to present at the WALGA Mayors forum on affordable housing in 2014.
“I was also really excited that Shelter WA received a letter of commendation from the Office of the Premier and the Director General of the Department of Housing for the project.”
But, for Robert, Shelter WA wasn’t just about research and policy development, it was about engaging with communities to understand their issues.
“One of the best experiences I had was traveling up to the Kimberley to discuss Aboriginal tenancy issues with some amazing people around Fitzroy Crossing.”
Robert also managed a critical project for Shelter WA, undertaking consultations with seniors to inform a Senior Housing Strategy for WA.
“We spoke with a few hundred seniors around WA about some of the challenges they had, especially in the rental market, as they aged. I feel that by sharing the personal stories with policy makers and the public we were helping to inform a better housing system.”
While at Shelter WA, Robert also managed WA Homelessness Week in 2016 and 2017, and also supported Homelessness Australia in hosting events Australia-wide.
“Homelessness Week is working to raise awareness of homelessness and is helping to push community action to end homelessness in WA.”
Even after Robert has left Shelter WA, he still sees many of the same housing issues remain for people on low to moderate incomes.
“Unfortunately, the housing system is still not working for people that are doing it tough. A lack of crisis accommodation, long waits for social, and insecure affordable housing is still the norm.” said Robert. “I believe we need a collaborative and coordinated approach from all levels of government and the not-for-profit sector to see significant change.”
Even with some significant challenges, Robert has seen encouraging signs of change.
“I was around when the WA Alliance to End Homelessness began, and it really seemed to be gaining good support in working towards the goal of ending homelessness in WA.”