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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

On homelessness and affordable housing

The Beagle Editor, In 2014/15 era of Council Councilor Gabi Harding put a motion forward in Council to make Eurobodalla "a refugee friendly zone". I spoke in Council and raised the fact that we had a "homeless issue within the shire and were unable to provide for many residence in our shire". I personally witnessed many people were living in make shift structure some under tarps tied to backs of cars at the Moruya Airport camping ground which has no shower facilities. This issue has been compounded with the bushfires and floods. I have been told that the Planning Department in our Council is in disarray and many builders and private planners have sent the General Manager a detailed letter with a list of complaints that need addressing with a threat if things aren't rectified they will take their complaints to the Office of Local Government. The issue that Mayor Hatcher has raised is just one of many issues within our shire. Unfortunately with this new group of Councilors they do not come with "the magic wand" that is required to fix the many problems. We can only hope that this time around we may have a group that have "the can do attitude" and a group that will tell the establishment "We want to hear HOW it can be done rather than WHY it can't be done". Trish H. Below: Extract from Public Forum : Trish Hellier October 27th 2015 Good morning Mayor Brown, Councillors, General Manager, Staff, Gallery and those who are comfortably Live Streaming at Home. My name is Patricia Hellier from Bateman’s Bay. I have come here today to speak on Item No. NOM 15/109 being a proposal for a “Refugee Welcome Zone in the Eurobodalla “and I hope to be able to provide a balanced perspective on this issue. While I believe I understand the reason for the proposal I have to question the logic of it given the area that we live in with high unemployment and very low permanent rental accommodation. Only last week I spoke to a real estate agent who told me that he had 2 houses advertised for rent and had 40 applicants apply. I note in the previous proposal from EBCF they have mentioned the “Dropping off the edge 2015 that identified Eurobodalla as one of the most disadvantaged area in the State” – for those of us that live in the area we do not need a report to confirm this. Bear with me as I will attempt to describe an example of what I have observed as “local disadvantaged” that I believe should be taken in consideration with this proposal being put before Council. In March this year while collecting names on a petition at the Moruya Markets a resident suggested to me to go to the Moruya Airport Camp Ground and talk to the number of locals living there. On arrival I found various forms of camping from comfortable to what I can only describe as primitive and this I believe was quite unacceptable in 2015 especially given that there were children involved. I spoke to a number of these people most of whom told me that they were hoping to get housing accommodation after the Easter holidays even if it was only FOR a 6 month period. Now these people ranged from some that had become unemployed to others that had jobs but had to relocate in the December because of the holiday rentals. Amongst those living there was a daughter of an ex councillor living with her partner and their son, an unemployed Dad raising 2 children, some had casual employment at the weekends that they said would only last while the tourist were around. They just did not have accommodation. There were one couple there whose story will always haunt me. They were sleeping in the back of their station wagon, they had a make shift tarps taped together as a tent – they had moved out of a rented house in December and had been living in different houses with friends and families and had been at the airport for 2 weeks – they had a little girl aged 2 –both her hands and arms were bandaged. Apparently at night they had a camp fire for cooking and the child knew not to go near the fir – but unfortunately one morning she fell hands first onto coals that were still hot – this child had to be flown to a Sydney Hospital. The mother told me their possessions were being stored in different friend’s houses in the area and it was very hard to live like that especially with a child. In Batemans Bay there is a lady in Surfside who leaves her downstairs area unlocked at night as she knows a lot of what she describes as “the regular street kids who sleep under the bridge”. She has a bathroom area downstairs, she provides towels soap etc for the kids who “come and go” she provides clean clothes for them in plastic bags, they leave their soiled clothes in a bag, she washes the clothes for them, and leaves their clothes in a bag for the next time they return. There is another lady in the Bay who regularly has kids come and stay with her after having disputes with their parents she called it “couch surfing”. There are many parents desperate for their kids to get jobs in the area, and this was raised a number of time at the meeting on the 9th May. Our Community is already struggling, what system will be put in place to see the refugees have a meaningful contribution to the community? What social issues may arise due to the pressure of a new group in the community? I have read an article that stated “The refugees we are accepting into Australia are the ones who have borne the greatest pain”. What support structure will you have in place for those who have experienced trauma? Do we have enough psychologists/psychiatrist and hospital beds to provide the care for those who maybe experiencing such trauma. Qualified Life Coaches can support people through adjustment stress. Will the Life Coach be local to these people’s cultures and needs? Will they understand their cultural values and bias, are they also trained in mental health or will they only work with those who are not at risk? I have attached a copy of an article called “Anyone can be a Life Coach, so is it time to ask, who is really coaching you? What risk assessment will be conduct to see what types of trauma these families may have experienced? How are you going to identify those at risk of violence or adjustment stress? How will you support them through cultural difference in adjustments etc? Given the mental health is a huge issue generally in Australia – it is commonly known that help for this condition is not readily available especially through Medicare and particularly in this area. How will you ensure there is no divide of “US v THEM”. What support will be given to the local community to learn the culture of these people so there is no division and how will you help the locals change their mindset about different religions and beliefs that are unknown to us. What type of skills will these people be bringing with them – i.e. are they already trained as doctors teachers etc. or will the community be providing the training, if so, is there enough support in education services to train them. What support will be given to the refugees to fund business, will you be training them to start up their own business so they become self sufficient? And where will the funds come from? I note in this proposal that there will be 8 jobs pledged by the Batemans Bay Chambers of Commerce for those refugees who it appears will be living in Narooma. I note that there is travel being provided but logically is this really going to work given the distance? I also have to wonder what is behind the pledge for accommodation by De La Salle Brothers in Narooma. Are there really any qualified people in the area to cope with workshops to cover anxiety, depressions and other mental health issues , can we guarantee that these people are going to get qualified people to conduct these workshops. Will these people need an interpreter? What language service will be available to help these refugees? Are there enough spots in the local schools for the children? Will you have an English and second language support person in the schools to help integrate the children into the Australian school system. Will there be local community centres for them to go? What religion beliefs do they have? Will we have to build mosques or other buildings to support their cultural beliefs? Will the Eurobodalla be able to provide all of these services? Councillors there are many ways to help refugees. Is it practical to locate them in an isolated area? Or would they be better off in a more highly populated area that can offer them the ongoing support that they will need and possibly area that may have better connections to families, extended families, friends and their culture and easy access to experienced, qualified professional help. Councillors please ask yourselves is Eurobodalla genuinely equipped to help these people rehabilitate. Have we access to the qualified people to accomplish this? How many of you councillors are personally prepared to guarantee that these refugees will received the qualified professional help they many need? THANK YOU.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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