Shelter WA in the Wheatbelt

Shelter WA continued its focus on the Wheatbelt in July and August.

Regional Engagement Manager Rhiannon Bristow-Stagg visited the Wheatbelt Development Commission, Shire of Northam, Evoke Living Homes, Share and Care Community Services, Wheatbelt Community Legal Centre and local stakeholders at the Dowerin Field Days.

Modular Housing

Northam-based Shelter WA members Evoke Living Homes build regionally and deliver across Western Australia.

Housing Minister John Carey announced Evoke Living Homes as one of six building companies appointed to the state-wide modular build panel in May 2022. The establishment of the panel will assist with the delivery of the Modular Build Program, which aims to deliver 150 new social homes in regional WA.

At the time, Minister Carey said: “We expect the establishment of the modular build panel will reduce delivery timeframes by a further four to six weeks, as we’re engaging companies that have been through a rigorous assessment process, and been pre-approved to deliver modular housing projects.”

Legal Support

The Wheatbelt Community Legal Centre (WCLC) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that provides free legal and tenancy advice to community members within the Wheatbelt Region.

Based in Northam, two outreach workers also cover a large area, travelling to Moora, Merredin, Jurien Bay and Narrogin, with the added challenge of working across three different court districts.

One issue in the region is ageing, poor quality or not fit for purpose housing stock, often the only option left to avoid homelessness. A general lack of housing stock is also proving a barrier in instances such as family reunification.

“Empowering the people of the Wheatbelt.”

WCLC also offer community legal education sessions and workshops to community groups and organisations on a range of legal issues. “My passion is empowering the people of the Wheatbelt,” said Manager and Principal Solicitor Robyn Lord.

Community Services

Founded in 1975, Share and Care Community Services Group Inc. (Share and Care) now average 60 staff and offer 23 services, with plans to expand their footprint in the Wheatbelt to cover this growth.

Share and Care have the challenge of covering a huge 250,000km2 in the Wheatbelt (including coastal areas) and upper Great Southern, including towns and centres such as Northam, Wundowie, Narrogin, Moora, Merredin and Southern Cross.

“To ensure a holistic approach we offer emergency relief, financial counselling, mental health, and other services onsite. Services needed not through Share and Care are always referred to local providers and a shared case management process follows,” explained Carol Jones, CEO Share and Care.

Share and Care’s transitional housing time has tripled as options for permanent housing have evaporated, and while the workload increased at the end of the rental moratorium, living pressures are now spreading further to new demographics such as small business owners.

Initiatives in Northam and Moora

The private rental vacancy rate in Northam has been below 1 per cent since October 2020 and is still sitting at 0.1 per cent (as of July 2022), while the waitlist for social housing in the wider Wheatbelt region is 78 weeks (as of April 2022).

A range of initiatives happening in the Wheatbelt will be followed up by Shelter WA, with the Shire of Moora investigating affordable housing initiatives and the Shire of Northam pushing ahead with initiatives and promoting a preference for affordable housing development on appropriate sites.

The Second ‘Story’ shop fronts project involved an audit of empty lots in the Northam Town Centre, underdeveloped lots and fit outs and alterations. A focus was empty second storeys on main street shops with ground floor commercial or retail tenancies, with this project complementing the Shire’s existing Business Redevelopment Fund.

Place-based Models

Holyoake’s Wheatbelt Community Alcohol & Drug Service (WCADS) operate across the region, with the WCADS Prevention Team aiming to provide an evidence-based, evidence-informed Prevention Plan to support key stakeholders to develop, implement and evaluate promotion and prevention activities. The team also publishes a newsletter called Yirra Koorl which showcases all prevention and wellbeing activities in the Wheatbelt.

As part of this, the Wheatbelt Suicide Prevention Project (WSPP) is an integrated, place-based project managed by Jo Drayton at Holyoake. It runs throughout the Wheatbelt, covering 188,000 km2 and 43 local governments. Six of these local governments now have place-based Community Wellbeing Plans.

The Wheatbelt visits are informing Shelter WA’s development of a regional engagement framework, a project funded by Lotterywest. For more information on Shelter WA’s work in the regions visit our  Regional WA page.