In Western Australia, the high drama of families being tossed on to the streets continues because of the controversial three-strikes-behaviour management policy - another large family about to be evicted. Recently, a family of eleven were evicted from their home of more than five years. This time it is a family of fifteen.
In both instances there are young children; infants and toddlers. The hard line three-strikes rule introduced only 18 months ago has seen a huge rise in evictions – more than double. Aboriginal families are disproportionately hit, but everyone, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, is suffering, and with a significant proportion of those evicted finishing up homeless.
Western Australia has one of the nation’s highest homelessness rates, and it is rising. Western Australia has the nation’s highest eviction rate – WA is fast becoming known as the nation’s backwater. It is the wealthiest jurisdiction in the nation, reaping wealth from a mining boom and the State has the world’s highest median wages but yet of all the nation’s States and Territories, WA appears harshest on the poor, troubled and marginalised.
The family of Noongars Robyn Stratton and Athol Michael said they have been working around the clock to meet the standards set by the Department of Housing. But it seems the major issue is that they are well behind on their State housing rent, in the many thousands of dollars. The Department has stated that it has undertaken the decision to evict them.
Recently, Kimberley parliamentarian, Kija woman Josie Farrer intervened when the Department of Housing in Kununurra threatened to evict an 86 year old Aboriginal lady for non-payment of a disputed $500 water bill.
“Where was this 86 year old lady supposed to go? Where is the compassion and the common sense?” said Ms Farrer.
In Kalgoorlie, Wongi Pastor Geoffrey Stokes has fought for a number of families who have been evicted in recent years by the Department of Housing. Pastor Stokes has fought many battles for these families to be allowed to return to their homes. “My pleas fell on deaf ears, instead the families have gone to nearby Ninga Mia, young children sleeping under corrugated iron and cardboard. It breaks my heart. These Department of Housing bureaucrats should come and speak to me and I’ll take them to Ninga Mia, a hovel of human resilience but also of human despair. Ninga Mia is without electricity and water, where effectively our children are dumped.”
“This is racism, we have lived it from beginning of life and we live it to the end of our days.”
“May we all someday walk on our Country with the dignity that belongs to us, may we find a time we live with compassion, all of us together.”
The young child of Ms Stratton and Mr Michael is only five months old.
“What more is there that we can do to show the Department we are doing our best?” said Ms Stratton. The family has undertaken alcohol prohibition, and is working with all agencies to send their young and older children to school and training programs.
“This home is our stability, it is our hope, if it is taken away from us, then some of our children will go homeless, drift into drugs, into crime, the consequences are obvious to all of us. What we have done to move forward for this family is through the stability of this home.”
“We have nowhere to go. Many of the children will be homeless.”
“And I don’t know where they will be in a year, I don’t even want to imagine, because if I do, I do know where some of them will be.”
“Our home is hope, and it has ensured that my children do not finish up in detention, in jail, but that is what will happen without our home and our family working together.”
But the Department reported that there had been 46 complaints of disruptive behaviour in addition to the rental arrears. “Would some of these neighbours have complained about anything had they known the devastating consequences for our family? People should think twice before making things worse,” said Ms Stratton.
Mr Stratton and Mr Michael are hoping to appeal the Department of Housing’s court secured order for them to leave.
“Leave to where? To the cold streets of Perth? This order not only will cause our eviction but destroy this family. Cannot people see the good that we have achieved in staying solid, in keeping our family intact and on track. But our worst nightmares now stare at us.”