Long before the acronym COVID-19 had ever been heard of Shelter WA had hit upon the idea of tying in inaugural sector awards to coincide with its 40 Anniversary in 2020 – acknowledging the present and leaving a legacy for the future.
Originally scheduled for July and then cancelled due to the aforementioned pandemic it is a minor miracle this event materialised.
But with a persistence the small Shelter WA team are known for it did, and on the night of Thursday, 26 November the uplifting voices of the Spirit of the Streets Choir led by Bernard Carney OAM could be heard wafting across Russell Square.
Welcome to Country
With an audience situated around the relaxed table settings Aunties Millie Penny and Murial Bowman, followed by the Wadumbah Indigenous Dance Group, took to the outdoor stage for the Welcome to Country as the sun began to set.
40 Years of Shelter WA
In his first official role since becoming Acting Chair, Kieran Wong took guests through a précis of the history of Shelter WA as detailed in a newly published book containing photos and stories from those involved with the organisation.
Contributors in attendance were acknowledged. Immediate past Shelter WA Chair; Kathleen Gregory, City of Perth Architect; Craig Smith, General Manager of Centrecare Inc.; Leanne Strommen, Senior Manager Grants Development & Partnerships at Lotterywest; Pauline Logan, Starick Chief Executive Officer; Leanne Barron and Street Law Centre WA Inc. Office Coordinator; Corinne Mercer were each thanked for sharing their stories.
After a performance by Monty Cotton it was time for the awards part of the evening to commence. There were ten awards judged by National Shelter Executive Officer; Adrian Pisarski, Lived Experience Advocate with the Council for Homeless Persons Peer Support and Education Program; Catherine Tran, Spokesperson for Everybody’s Home; Kate Colvin and Chief Executive Officer at the Community Housing Industry Association; Wendy Hayhurst.
The media award had the most nominations and was awarded to Josh Zimmerman from Seven West Media for his The Sunday Times article ‘Life Inside Tent City’ which contained “solid research linking housing policy failures with the reality of people living in tent city, and enabling people to tell their own story” according to the judges.
The judges noted the article challenged the “stereotypes often associated with people living on the streets” and the judges liked its lack of “judgmental attitude and sense of the historic injustice of under-funding of housing”.
Innovations for People Award
Ruah Community Services won the Innovations for People Award for their after-hours support service which ensures people have access to critical support services whenever they need it.
The judges felt the “support service with wrap around support from outreach workers and nurses has a big impact on supporting people as they transition to their new home”. The judges were impressed by the “funding partnerships and the independent evaluations driving continuous improvement”.
Innovations for Supply Award
A collaboration between eleven local governments and their communities, and the state, which led to 71 affordable living units being built across the Eastern Wheatbelt received the Innovations for Supply Award. The Central East Aged Care Alliance Seniors Housing Project constructs age appropriate houses to keep older people in rural communities through the provision of appropriate and affordable housing options.
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Award
The scale of activities being undertaken by the Southern Aboriginal Corporation and the level of collaboration with other organisations and within the Noongar community impressed the judges. Based in Albany the Corporation serves the Noongar community in the South West and Great Southern regions and provides tenants with quality housing options.
Local Government Award
The City of Rockingham impressed the judges with their Rockingham/Kwinana Homelessness Interagency Group and in particular the City’s investment in outreach services in partnership with the community sector. The group encourages community
support service providers to share information, form partnerships and advocate providing optimum services for vulnerable communities. The judges were impressed with the groups “real commitment to working collaboratively to end homelessness in their local area”.
Research Award Winner
The judges found this an incredibly difficult category to judge given the level of excellence of all the nominees. The award was presented to Dr. Amity James from Curtin University for harnessing the expertise of people with lived experience within her research work, her strong collaboration and the impact of her research on public policy outcomes.
Dr James has contributed to several projects funded by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute on topics including affordable housing delivery, the changing nature of the Australian private rental, access to this sector by low income households and the barriers which exist for them with the view of identifying opportunities and for delivering better outcomes.
Lived Experience/Co Design Award Winner
The judges felt the grassroots volunteer led movement for housing, Just Home Margaret River, delivers programmatic, practical and advocacy for the issues around social housing and homelessness. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Just Home directly supported 14 people experiencing homelessness into crisis or long-term accommodation. The judges acknowledged all the nominees for their incredible contributions and were very disappointed that there could be only one winner in this category.
Like the rest of the world we were taken aback by the COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of 2020. Many struggled during this time, but none more so than those people and services that were already overstretched before the outbreak.
For this reason, Shelter WA decided to present three additional awards that reflected extraordinary achievements through this period. They were:
- Private Sector Initiative Award
The four judges were impressed by Perth’s Pan Pacific Hotel as part of the “Hotels with Heart” pilot, to reduce the amount of people sleeping rough during the height of the pandemic. About 20 people experiencing homelessness stayed in accommodation.
The judges were impressed by the strong partnership with the community sector and government which led to learnings that will inform future initiatives.
- Rapid Response from the Sector Award
The Doorstop Dinners program by St Patrick’s Community Support Centre not only provided over 34,000 meals but supported local restaurants who were doing it tough doing the pandemic. The judges saw the effort as a “real win-win situation”. The rapid change in St Pat’s services identified the needs of emerging groups in the community.
- Community Goodwill Award
Connect Victoria Park won this award which was for an individual or community group that developed and implemented an innovative solution in direct response to COVID-19. The judges were impressed by the scope of the programs at Connect Victoria Park, in particular, the co-design process that has led to a focus beyond housing to engage and support older people through a range of activities that connect within and into the community.
Shelter WA Family
In her closing remarks, Chief Executive Officer of Shelter WA Michelle Mackenzie thanked everyone who has been part of the Shelter family over the last 40 years.
“I wish to thank our members and partners and make a special mention of people with lived experience of housing insecurity and homelessness who have worked with and supported Shelter WA in our policy and advocacy work,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“I make special mention of Jonathan Shapiera for his ongoing work in this area, Joshua Serafini, Trish Owen, Tara Le Flohic who is a member of the Shelter WA board and Craig Mathieson.