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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9709

Ms LIVERMORE (Capricornia) (21:38): I want to speak tonight about an organisation in my electorate that is working to improve the lives of seniors. The organisation is the National Union of Retired Workers. Since its beginnings in Rockhampton in 2006 it has gained a strong following and there is great interest in the establishment of similar groups in other parts of regional Queensland.

The National Union of Retired Workers puts its motto of 'actively retired' into practice every day. The organisation is made up of retired workers and their spouses who feel they have something to contribute to ensure that seniors are able to live with dignity and respect. It could be as simple as taking someone to a doctor's appointment or mowing a lawn. Members also serve the community through work with other groups such as Lifeline, the Red Cross, the Leukaemia Foundation, the RSL and others.

Through their work in the community members have become increasingly aware of the problems older people, particularly those in the private rental market, are facing with the cost of housing. I know that the case of one 80-year-old woman has particularly angered the retired workers union. The woman had rented a property from her elderly landlord for 20 years. Apparently they were both happy with the arrangement, and after so many years the property was her home. Following the landlord's death his family could see that in the present conditions the property could command rent of up to $400 per week, which she could certainly not afford and so this 80-year-old woman was given four weeks to vacate the property.

As an 80-year-old pensioner her only option was to enter a low-care aged-care facility. But this was not a choice suited to someone who was not ready and who had no medical reason to give up the freedom and independence of living in her own house. The retired workers union have told me that the woman passed away just six months after her move. One can only imagine the feelings of helplessness and anxiety that she struggled with in that time.

They have told me of other cases where people have had to choose between paying their rent and purchasing medication. They have concerns about the nutrition of people in these situations and the isolation that results when people are too anxious to spend money on social outings. This has led to the Union of Retired Workers pursuing a role as a provider of affordable housing. On May 11 this year the National Union of Retired Workers launched their affordable rental housing project. The union are being assisted by the Banana Council Support Centre who have their own housing project in place with the support of their council. A steering committee has been formed and includes a lawyer, an accountant and representatives from the Spinal Injuries Association, Life Without Barriers, Anglicare and the Central Queensland Regional Tenants Association.

The vision for this project is that seniors who are not eligible for public housing and who are renting in the private market and paying more than 30 per cent of their household income on rent will be able to apply for rental accommodation under the scheme. Other criteria will require that the applicant be in receipt of Centrelink benefits and that they have references from previous landlords. A selection panel will assess applications and a tenant liaison officer will be appointed to adjudicate any concerns. Ideally, the project will see two-bedroom duplexes or houses built to be totally accessible for people with disabilities and meeting high environmental standards. Two bedrooms allow for the homes to accommodate a carer if necessary in the future.

I am pleased to say that on 26 July the Rockhampton Regional Council offered its support for this project, and the retired workers union hope that this support may extend to the council making available land for housing when the project reaches that point. The retired workers union also met recently with the Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek, when she was in Rockhampton, and I know that they have been receiving good support from state ministers as well. I commend the National Union of Retired Workers for the initiative they have shown in driving this project so far. It will certainly meet a need.

Figures presented at the Housing and Homelessness Area Network workshop in March showed that there were at least 431 seniors waiting for public or community housing in the Central Queensland region. The projections for our ageing population make the situation even more urgent, with an estimate that one in four people will be aged 60 and older within 20 years.

Currently the retired workers union are waiting on their deductible gift recipient status to be confirmed and fundraising is underway. I wish the members of the National Union of Retired Workers well with this project and will continue to work with them to look for any opportunities that might bring them closer to their project's fruition.

Question agreed to.

House adjourned at 21:44