Complex tenants too unruly

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
A boarded up property on the lot.
Camera IconA boarded up property on the lot. Credit: Toby Hussey

A major Albany-based indigenous Australian organisation will relinquish responsibility for a local Aboriginal housing complex, citing unruly tenants and a lack of wraparound support services as the reason for the move.

Southern Aboriginal Corporation will hand the Paddy Coyne Complex public housing site to the Department of Communities in the coming weeks, less than six years after taking responsibility of the site from the department.

SAC chairman and traditional landowner Glen Colbung said antisocial behaviour, fuelled by a lack of support services for residents dealing with addiction and domestic violence, had led to the decision.

“A lot of these younger people (are) involved in drugs and other things,” he said.

“After a while it got to a situation where the tenants were basically uncontrollable — it became impossible for SAC to police everything that was going on.”

Asha Bhat and Glen Colbung say they can not control public housing residents at the Paddy Coyne Complex.
Camera IconAsha Bhat and Glen Colbung say they can not control public housing residents at the Paddy Coyne Complex. Credit: Toby Hussey

Land has long history

SAC is a not-for-profit organisation which provides support in housing, health, employment and education for indigenous people.

The Paddy Coyne Complex, near the corner of Hanrahan and Serpentine roads, was developed in the 1980s as permanent accommodation for homeless Aboriginal pensioners.

The nine residences have since become traditional housing for Aboriginal Australians.

Down a narrow driveway leading to the site, a white Holden Commodore sits immobilised under a shelter, its windows smashed and tyres slashed.

Outside one nearby empty property, its windows boarded up to prevent break-ins, rubbish is strewn across a garden.

SAC took management of the site in 2013, but Mr Colbung said social problems had since grown out of control, allegedly including threats to visiting SAC employees.

A smashed car at the complex.
Camera IconA smashed car at the complex. Credit: Toby Hussey

Problems are deep-rooted, says chairman

Mr Colbung said issues were exacerbated by Federal government changes to welfare payments, specifically the 2009 scrapping of the Community Development and Employment program, in which recipients received a wage for work.

“As soon as that program was cut, they had all this time and nothing to do and one thing led to another,” he said.

The Federal Government also ceased funding SAC’s $365,000-a-year Safe and Resilient Families Program this year, and SAC has so far failed to obtain Commonwealth support for a rehabilitation centre in Albany.

SAC chief executive Asha Bhat said her staff were not trained to deal with major social issues and called for greater co-operation between non-profit groups.

A trashed garden at the complex.
Camera IconA trashed garden at the complex. Credit: Toby Hussey

More scrutiny is needed - tenant

A Paddy Coyne Complex resident, who asked not to be named, agreed support services available to residents were lacking, but said SAC was not without fault.

He said he believed the organisation was unprepared to manage the site, which was exacerbated by approving unsuitable tenants.

“They’re sticking needles up their arms. I have grannies that come up here throwing needles around,” he said.

“They should not be putting them here . . . the tenants in this complex have to deal with them.

“Tell (the Department of Communities) I want them to take it back as soon as possible.”

The resident said not all tenants were violent or had drug issues.

DoC assistant director general of regional and remote services Rachael Green said the handover would occur within weeks.

She said there were no plans for evictions.

Recently appointed Aboriginal Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said he would work to ensure Aboriginal Australians had “the same protections and access to service as any other Australians”.

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