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Mary’s Big Housing Debate speech

On 21 April Link Wentworth hosted the Big Housing Debate in partnership with Western Sydney Community Forum. Mary, one of our residents, delivered a brave and passionate speech about the challenges she encountered as a single mother facing homelessness. Mary is a strong supporter of Link Wentworth and a member of our Tenant Advisory Group and Resilience Committee.

She has also participated in our advocacy projects such as the Western Sydney Heat and Social Housing Project. In June, she won a Zest Award because of her tireless work to help us advocate for more social and affordable housing funding so that we can do more for our residents and those who need a place to call home. A section of her speech has been included below.

After my youngest son was born, I found myself as a single mother with two boys—eight and a half, and 12 weeks old. It happened without any warning. I was living in Newcastle. The journey for me and my two boys was not easy. I moved to the Hawkesbury due to a short reconciliation with my ex-husband, but it fell apart and I found myself and my two boys needing a roof over our heads.

I then applied for housing, feeling afraid and enormously concerned. I felt like a failure as a mum and a person. It was not easy when I applied for housing. I wanted to live closer to my family in Bankstown but I was told it was a nine-year wait. Hawkesbury was a shorter wait so I chose the Hawkesbury as we needed a roof over our heads.

I waited 12 months for a house, paying private rent which was 60% of my income. Being able to pay my rent [in social housing] meant I had stability and having stability allowed me to volunteer with the Women’s Cottage in Richmond, and also volunteer at my son’s school. This gave me purpose. I was soon in a position where I could take on paid work, so I got a part-time job as a seamstress at the local drycleaners.

It hasn’t always been easy but I count myself as one of the lucky ones. I try to remain positive about my situation. As I reflect back, I now understand that the decisions I made were based on the information I had at the time. It would be good to see more housing available for people who are on benefits or low income.

It would also be good to see more variety of housing in all different parts of Sydney—it was disappointing to have to live so far from my parents, where they couldn’t easily help with caring for my kids. Without support, it made it difficult to get work. The Private Rental Market was and is too high. I understand landlords and companies want to make a profit but sometimes this is just greed.

My goal as a teenager was to own my own home. I have not fulfilled my goal. But I am grateful for the roof over my head.

I do not live in the street. I live in my house.

This article originally appeared in the June 2022 edition of Link Wentworth’s resident newsletter.

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