VIC_HS_Summer 2022 12p - web

Summer 2022

In this issue:

Victorian Government Power Savings Bonus P3 Home is Where the Art is P4 Ready to Connect digital literacy workshop P6

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From the General Manager Hi All, Welcome to the Summer edition of Home Stories . This edition is “jampacked” with amazing updates from your new Community Development Team, who some of you may have already met through our resident meet and greets Coralene and Liam have been hosting. If you haven’t, sit tight as they’re planning more in the new year. Including travelling across Melbourne and regionally to offer plenty more community programs. This is the first

This edition also features some of the amazing entries into our annual ‘Home is Where the Art is Competition’. I love looking at all the artworks as it reminds me of how many talented residents we have. This edition also includes a wonderful resident story about 94-year-old resident, Irene. Irene found herself homeless at 89 prior to securing housing with Housing Choices, and her story shows it’s never too late to find your dream home. I wish you all a happy festive season and encourage you to have a read through all the amazing initiatives Coralene and Liam are working on.

Visits to Gorge Road South Morang, Guilford Lane and Gallaghers Place and Therry Street Melbourne, Hodgkinson Street Clifton Hill, Mary Street Preston, and Chetwynd Street are occurring up to Dec 2022. Visits for QV Queen Street and 116 Little Bourke Street are planned for January 2023. The team very much enjoyed meeting everyone and look forward to the upcoming visits and exploring how they can best support our residents experiencing living in Housing Choices homes as well as social connection in the local neighbourhoods and wider community. This newsletter features a fantastic article introducing Coralene and Liam to residents, and they’re both very excited to be on board and looking forward to meeting as many residents and support agencies as possible in the coming months.

time since COVID that we’ve been able to run these programs so it’s very exciting!


Melissa Palframan General Manager of Housing Services

Cover image: Gavan is an active member of the Victorian Resident Advisory Committee (VRAC) and is eager for other residents to join him on the Committee. Read more on p10.


Victorian Government Power Savings Bonus Still Available

The Victorian Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning are currently offering a $250 Power Savings Bonus through the Vic Energy Compare website to eligible households to assist with energy bills stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You will need your: • Centrelink Customer Reference Number • a copy of one of your recent electricity bills to complete the application. (You can choose to either upload a copy of your electricity bill to your application or enter the details from the bill manually into the online form).

Eligible households are those that have a Victorian residential electricity account and either a: • Centrelink Pension Concession Card • Department of Veterans Affairs Pensioner Concession Card • Department of Veterans Affairs Gold Card • or are in receipt of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance Abstudy or Austudy. This is a one-off payment, but if you have not applied already, you can apply online by visiting: https://compare.

Click on the grey button labelled ‘Submit a Power Saving Bonus Application’ and follow the prompts. As one of our residents remarked, “The application takes (literally) 5 minutes. You get an email confirming the application, then an email notifying you when you have been approved, then you go to a secure section of the government website to give your bank account details!”

Need assistance?

Housing Choices Community Development Team: Phone : 1300 312 447 Email: communitydevelopentvic

If you need any assistance completing your application, please contact the Housing Choices Victoria Community Development Team via the details below. We are even able to lodge an application on your behalf if you don’t have regular or reliable access to the internet, an email address or are unfamiliar with online forms. We just need a copy of your recent electricity bill (which you can send to us via mail, photo text or email) and we can obtain your consent over the phone to apply on your behalf.

Mail: Community Development Team

Housing Choices Australia Level 3, 350 Queen Street Melbourne 3000



1. Ebony Lyons

– Finding My Wings

2. Susan-Paxton – Mariupol 2022


Home is Where the Art Is Housing Choices annual ‘Home is Where the Art Is’ competition is an amazing opportunity to showcase the wonderful talent of our residents. This year’s theme was Freedom and we had an array of amazing submissions across six categories. The youngest entrant was just 10-years- old and our oldest resident to submit an artwork was in their 70s, truly showing that this competition is accessible for everyone! There was incredible talent on display in many different mediums, including mixed media, painting, drawing and photography. Inspiration for the artworks came from pets, to ageing and growing. The winners in each category received a $200 voucher towards something of their choice and professional framing for their artwork. Second prize winners received a $50 voucher of their choice, and third prize received a $25 voucher of their choice.



3. Samantha Standaar – Wing of Change 4. Constantinos Papageorgiou


5. Juliette Kent – Change the Light-bulbs 6. Tracey Murray

– My Spirit’s Guide




7. Rosalie Fitzsimmons – Ageing Gracefully 8. Guruswamy Perumal 9. Alex Brown – The Pie 10. Christine Ryan – My Cat Jarvis



We hope to host a Housing Choices Australia Resident Art Exhibition in 2023. Please enjoy looking at just some of the amazing entries in this newsletter, and keep your eyes peeled for the next iteration of

‘Home is Where the Art is’, with a brand new theme! Next year’s competition will also be expanded to include haberdashery and ceramic categories.


Contact Liam at or call 1300 312 447 to find out more.


Ready to Connect Digital literacy workshops leave no one behind Residents in North Melbourne have been busy building their digital literacy skills through workshops provided by Housing Choices Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to go online to access critical services while Melbourne remained in lockdown. From online shopping and banking to telehealth appointments, many Melburnians started using the internet to access services they would have done in-person before. For older people with limited digital skills, the crisis was

a catalyst for change, forcing them to embrace the digital world or miss out on support they need. But those who didn’t already know how to get online, they were at risk of being left behind. This was the dilemma facing many Housing Choices Australia residents, but not for long. To combat digital exclusion, Housing Choices applied for one of the City of Melbourne’s Connected Communities Grants to deliver a series of digital literacy workshops for residents of our North Melbourne, Docklands and CBD properties.

needed to help bridge that digital skills gap.” “The Ready-to-Connect workshops provided participants with access to free digital literacy education, increasing their confidence, and improving their quality of life.” With most participants aged over 55, the workshops taught participants how to get the most out of their smartphones, including video-calling, taking photos, sending email and scanning COVID-19 check-in codes. Importantly, the workshops also taught residents how to avoid online scams. “Before the workshops, our residents were reluctant to use the internet due to concerns around security. People with low incomes are even more at risk if they fall victim to an online scam,” said Naomi. The residents, who largely live alone, also relished the opportunity to mingle with new people post-lockdowns, reducing social isolation.

Former Housing Choices Community Development

Officer, Naomi Board said the workshops helped people build skills that can change their lives. “We noticed that our residents would phone us with their building maintenance requests, despite our encouragement to submit them online for faster resolution,” said Naomi. ”We soon learned that many residents didn’t even have an email address, and realised we


Good Neighbour Awards Do you have neighbours who make a positive difference in your life? This is your chance to recognise them and their positive impact! Maybe they helped you with your groceries while you were unwell? Or fed your pets while you were away? Or are they just a friendly face who brightens your day? The Good Neighbour Awards recognise that good neighbours help make a great community, and we want to encourage and celebrate the power of good neighbours through these awards. Those nominated for a Good Neighbour Award will go in the

Left: (Left to right) Zelkja Mariani (Croation interpreter), Kathleen Barnes (resident), Angelica Varas (Housing Officer), Linda Newman (resident), Faudin Mujkanovic

(resident), Hasib Letic (resident), Fadila Letic

draw to win one of 12 x $250 vouchers, and all residents who place a nomination will also go into a draw to win one of two x $100 vouchers. If you have a neighbour that comes to mind for this award, please let your Housing Officer or Liam from the Community Development Team know who you would like to nominate. You can contact your Housing Officer by calling 1300 312 447 or you can contact Liam by calling 1300 312 447 or emailing communitydevelopmentvic

(resident), Juliette Kent and Matt (Ready Tech Go trainers) .

“Being together and seeing others who similarly struggle with technology boosted their confidence, and made them feel less alone,”said Naomi. “It was wonderful watching the workshop participants celebrate their individual successes as a group and encourage each other to learn.” After the workshops, most participants felt more confident using their device for everyday tasks. “Increasingly, government services such as MyGov and My Aged Care rely on individuals having access to computers and the internet,” said Naomi.

Resident Communications Survey

Thank you to all those who submitted their

communication are. We also use the survey to understand what content you like to see from us in Home Stories. For those who haven’t had a chance to complete the survey, but are wanting to provide feedback, you can do so via the URL: https://www.surveymonkey. com/r/VZTYLDP

“But you must have the basic skills to get online first.”

responses to the Resident Communications Survey included in the last edition of Home Stories . The survey helps the Communications Team understand how to best communicate with you, our residents, and what your preferred methods of

Anyone who needs help getting online can visit North Melbourne Library at 66 Errol Street, or Be Connected .


Irene’s Housing Choices Family

Despite being the oldest resident in her building, Irene’s cheeky sense of humour and strong-willed independence leave people shocked to learn she’s the sprightly age of 94. Her Preston unit is homely and filled with life. Irene’s balcony is brimming with lush greenery and cute figurines and sculptures. The longer you look, the more and more cheeky “bits and bobs” are revealed; showing off Irene’s playfulness. Irene was born in Blackburn, and has lived all across Melbourne, with her longest stint 50 years living in Heidelberg at a housing commission home which she then went on to purchase. After her children were grown, Irene sold her house and built herself a granny flat at the back of her youngest daughter’s property in Preston.

Following the breakdown of her daughter’s marriage, Irene’s ex son-in-law sold the property which Irene’s unit was at the back of, and Irene found herself without a home. “Things went from worse to worse. He sold the house and sold my unit and left me with nothing. So, it was very stressful at that particular time.” Homeless at 89, Irene was linked up with Housing Choices through her support services. “I came here, and the nicest people are here, they are just wonderful,” said Irene.“I’ve got a new family here.” The past year has also been challenging for Irene due to some complications with her health. “I was down at that time. I’ve had bowel cancer,

which was stage four and I’ve lost mostly all the big bowel. And then just this year, I’ve had my hand done a couple times. And I had cancer in my face taken out and also had my leg operated on. So I was pretty down,” she said. To lift Irene’s spirits, the Preston Housing Team organised a surprise for Irene. Irene is an avid Richmond Football Club supporter, and her apartment is emblazoned with Richmond FC memorabilia. One Sunday, Francis Bourke, an iconic former Richmond footballer who played in the 60s to 80s, knocked on Irene’s door and paid her a visit. “They said to me, are you going to be home on a certain day…as soon as he walked in the door I recognised him,” said Irene.


“They did it as a surprise because they knew how upset I was. And it was really lovely…he was here for about an hour, chatting.” There are other ways the Housing Team go above and beyond for Irene. Because of her health issues and surgeries she’s had on her hand, she struggles to get the gas stove working. “They’ve decided to give me a new oven. Electric instead of gas, which will be easier for me. If they don’t do it, they don’t get cakes, so it’s on them,” Irene said mischievously. Irene has also formed lasting friendships in the building.

“I have a beautiful neighbour across from me, Bonnie, she’s a New Zealander. She takes me to bingo up at Epping,” she said. “At Christmas time we had a Christmas party here and it was rather great. You know, when you get to my age, people think you don’t need company. But you do, I go downstairs (to the Preston Hub office) and I get on really well with the girls down the corridor,” Irene said. Also a member of the Darebin RSL, Irene frequently pops down for a meal or to participate in the monthly raffle.

“My birthday was a couple of months ago on 26 September. The girls from the club wrote me a lovely letter. They told me they were proud to have me as their friend,” she said. Irene is an integral part of both the Preston Hub building and the wider Preston community, and the organisation feels lucky that Irene has found home with Housing Choices. “I think for all the heartache and trouble, I’ve come home. I can do what I like, I can say what I like, I can go where I like, and I don’t have to report to anyone.”


Meet VRAC member Gavan

Why do you like being on VRAC? I just love it. We all get on well together and we’re friendly. It’s a good chance to get to know new residents. Why do you want people to join? There aren’t enough of us to make decisions, we need a lot more people!

VRAC meet regularly, and participants are compensated for their time with vouchers they can use for grocery shopping or other items. The VRAC also have fun social events throughout the year, including a Christmas party just for VRAC. It isn’t a huge time commitment – but it is very rewarding.

Gavan is an active member of the Victorian Resident Advisory Committee (VRAC) and is eager for other residents to join him on the Committee. VRAC meet regularly and below Gavan shares why he loves being a part of this initiative. How long have you been a member of VRAC? Six or seven years, but there have been people on the Committee who have been on it for 14 years plus. What do you do on VRAC? We discuss matters happening locally and in the city. We provide advice on how to best communicate with residents and help approve grants for residents wanting to make improvements to their home, like putting a new garden bed in. But our membership’s dwindling. We need new people, new blood.

Want to have your say in how Housing Choices operates?


The Victorian Resident Advisory Committee is a group of residents who provide feedback on Housing Choices’ policies, procedures and programs. Members of VRAC represent the resident voice, providing invaluable insight and input. They also bring attention to issues that affect the collective resident experience.

For more information, email


Left: Coralene and Liam.

What are you most excited about bringing to Housing Choices? “We’ve both come into these roles at a similar time and are both fairly new to Housing Choices. Post-COVID, I feel there’s exciting opportunity and scope to strengthen things and do what we do better or differently, while capturing residents’ voices and listening and incorporating their lived experience,” said Coralene. Liam is “excited to expand our garden program and create great environments that are conducive to communities to meet in and enjoy.” “Also change, in a positive way. I’m keen to look at how we work alongside residents and connect residents with residents. Not only in their neighbourhoods, but also residents with other residents in communities. I see there’s opportunity for new things!” added Coralene. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know residents authentically and to make that connection. We will be out and about in your neighbourhoods,” she said. “Look out for us in the coming months and please say hello!” said Liam. Coralene and Liam are both avid St Kilda Football Club supporters and are always happy to have a chat about the almighty Sainters.

“My previous role was COVID-19 support and education for residents in high-risk housing in the outer north,” Liam said. What brought you to Housing Choices? “I’ve been researching Housing Choices for about eight years and how they’ve grown and developed. I admire their ethos and work and that’s why I expressed my interest to work here,” Coralene said. Liam says he “has a desire to help a larger group of people and not be so concentrated on COVID-19.” What do you like about the organisation so far? “The people, the culture, it’s very much a ‘can do’ attitudes and people genuinely work together here,” said Coralene. “The comradery amongst staff and the genuine care they have for residents” is what Liam likes about Housing Choices.

Meet your new Inclusive Communities Program team Coralene (Team Leader of Inclusive Communities) and Liam (Community Development Officer) recently joined Housing Choices as Victoria’s new Inclusive Communities team and are excited to meet residents. Both caught up with the Communications team for a Q&A to introduce themselves to you. What were you doing before Housing Choices? “I have over 15 years of

community development programs management

experience, and have previously worked in social and community housing, justice – youth justice, out of home care – Indigenous out of home care, homelessness, and mental health and suicide prevention,” said Coralene.

To reach out to your new Inclusive Communities team or to just say hello, send them an email on or call 1300 312 447.



Community garden program

Christine has been a Housing Choices resident since 1998 and wrote a beautiful poem about her pet cat. My Fuzzie Wuzzie Friend He is my Pal and friend His name is Sammie He watches out the window for my safe return He is my Fuzzie Wuzzie friend He wears a tuxedo and white socks He came from the R.S.P.C.A. He was saved from euthanasia He is my Fuzzie Wuzzie friend He makes my house a home He loves my garden for a run He curls up in front of my heater He is my Fuzzie Wuzzie friend Janet gave us a home He doesn’t know Janet but he loves her He is my pal A fuzzie and wuzzie as he is He is my pal He and I are happy together in our new home My cat Sam is my Fuzzie Wuzzie Pal

Summer is approaching, and with it comes a great opportunity to get outdoors and into the garden! Housing Choices has a well-established gardening program for its residents. While the program took a pause during COVID, the end of lockdowns means we can restart this fantastic initiative. The program involves a grant from Housing Choices for supplies and regular meetings with residents, so they can plan and action their gardens. The garden program is open to any group of people living in the same block who wish to beautify the

communal areas with plants and flowers. Through the grant, residents can learn and improve their gardening skills, and these new skills will stay with them forever and can entertain and most importantly, help you feed yourself. Our residents at High Street, Preston have cultivated a wonderful garden over many years and have been recognised for their efforts by the Victorian Government’s Victoria in Bloom Competition, which celebrates the gardening efforts of social housing tenants.

Whether you wish to make a new garden at your residence, or you have a previously established garden that wants to re-engage with the program, contact Liam on 1300 312 447 or email

Disclaimer: To the best of Housing Choices Australia’s knowledge (Housing Choices), this information is valid at the time of publication. Housing Choices makes no warranty or representation in relation to the content or accuracy of the material in this publication. Housing Choices expressly disclaims any and all liability (including liability for negligence) in respect of use of information provided. Housing Choices recommends you seek independent professional advice prior to making any decision involving matters outlined in this publication.

General Enquiries 1300 312 447 Maintenance 1300 321 185

Head Office Level 3, 350 Queen Street Melbourne VIC 3000

Preston Office 137 High Street Preston VIC 3072

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