Reprieve shows gaps

Elder Joan Woods, a hospital volunteer, was facing eviction. Photo by Steve Grant.

A 77-year-old Beaconsfield resident has been given a last-minute reprieve from eviction and homelessness after an Indigenous housing provider realised her issues were pointing to a major gap in support for WA’s elders.

Joan Woods had just hours to go before having to hand the keys to her Curedale Street property back to the Mandjah Boodjah Aboriginal Corporation when she got word it had relented on its original decision.

Ms Woods told the Herald her problems started when she was hospitalised and family members moved into her home, one of several along the street Mandjah Boodjah provides for elders.

After an extended recovery at a relative’s home, she returned to find neighbours had complained about disturbances at the house.

“I told them I wanted them to leave so I could settle down if I got a chance,” Ms Woods said.

The former hospital volunteer says despite settling things down, she was unable to find anyone at Manjah Boodjah to plead her case and ended up in court where a magistrate approved her eviction.

With Perth’s rental market still on a high and the only available places available at least double what she normally pays on her pension, Ms Woods turned to housing advocates James Spinks.

He told the Herald he spoke to other elders in the street and discovered they were sympathetic to Ms Woods’ cause and were willing to sign a letter calling for an extraordinary meeting of Mandjah Boodjah’s board.

At the meeting Mandjah Boodja chair Rishelle Hume stepped down and Mathew Wilson was appointed acting chair. 

Mr Wilson said he and the corporation’s volunteer directors were “devastated” by the situation.

“We regret that we were forced down a path not to renew Ms Wood’s lease, but our priority was to protect the wellbeing, safety and security of elders living in our neighbouring houses and to protect our close relationship we have developed with the surrounding residences who are longstanding inter-generational friends of Mandjah Boodjah,” Mr Wilson said.

The board decided to review the decision and sent in community leaders Megan Krakouer and Mervyn Eades, who spoke with Ms Woods and realised she’d fallen through a gap in services.

“There is a gap in outreach services available to our vulnerable elder population,” Mr Wilson said.

“Together with Megan and Mervyn, we are now exploring ways to provide wrap-around support to our residents.

“This could include regular outreach visits, regular locum doctor visits provided by Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, and a range of other psycho-social support services.”

“Aunty Joan is one of our most respected elders, someone who embodies the preservation of our Noongar culture, values and traditions,” Mr Wilson said.

“Megan and Mervyn have helped to take Manjah Boodjah on a journey, one which provides us with more holistic tools and a different perspective on how we can avoid situations like this in the future.”

Manhjah Boodjah said Ms Hume stepped down for personal reasons but would remain active in the organisation.

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