The Western Sydney Tenants’ Service (WESTS) has been servicing the Western Sydney community for over ten years and have built and maintained relationships with stakeholders and individual members of the community. This is something that WESTS prides themselves in.
On Friday 21 May 2021, WESTS held a community engagement event at the Skye Hotel in Parramatta to reconnect with key partners of the organisation. The event was a great success.
There were over 60 attendees at the community engagement day who were able to finally reconnect with WESTS after a long-period of physical isolation dating back to the COVID-19 lockdown in March last year.
Attendees of the event heard from several guest speakers. Ms Julia Finn, MP spoke on the need for key legislative reforms in tenancy law, particularly the abolishment of no-grounds evictions.
Robert Mowbray from the Tenants’ Union provided an interesting background on the history of the development of WESTS and the provision of duty advocacy at the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). Read Robert Mowbray's talk here.
John Dauth from the Department of Housing, Gina Manna, Park Manager of Wallacia Caravan Park, and Rachelle Morris, a Senior Real Estate agent at Richardson and Wrench, all gave accounts on the crucial and productive relationship between WESTS and themselves (as representatives of landlords) over the years and how it has resulted in beneficial outcomes for all the parties involved in tenancy disputes.
Former Tribunal Conciliator Phil Marchionni spoke on the success of WESTS’ Advocates at the Tribunal and how over 80% of the tenants assisted by WESTS at Tribunal conciliations reached an agreement and avoided cumbersome formal hearings.
The event concluded with the crucial reconnection of important stakeholders involved in tenancy law and the prevention of homelessness, such as Legal Aid; Director and Registrar for the Tribunal’s Consumer and Commercial Division, Pauline Green; the Western Sydney Community Legal Centre and its auspice programs; the Tenants’ Union; and more.
Recent Education/Information Sessions Provided by WESTS
Furthermore, though WESTS continue to provide advice and at times, advocacy, and representation to tenants for matters at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the service has also committed to educating the community and caseworkers of various organisations regarding tenancy rights and obligations.
Educating others in their tenancy rights and obligations is crucial – there have been many cases where clients, unaware of their rights under the Act have been coerced to accept unfair conditions or are misled to believe that they have no rights under the Act (Residential Tenancies Act 2010).
WESTS have also engaged in information sessions for owners and tenants of residential land lease communities within the Western Sydney area regarding the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013.
Organisations and individual members of the community alike have commented that the community education and information sessions provided by the WESTS team have been beneficial in providing tenants with the confidence to exert their rights, or for individuals to advocate for other vulnerable clients, friends, and families.
One of WESTS' Tenant Advocates, Francesco, recently attended a community education/information session with a culturally and linguistically diverse group, guiding them through the changes to the Moratorium that had ended on 26 March 2021 in response to COVID-19, and how to negotiate a rental arrears repayment plan or specific performance order to 'save their tenancy'.
In the past, the Tenant Advocates of WESTS have engaged in sessions for victims of domestic violence wishing to terminate their lease, spoke with recently arrived migrants renting a property in NSW for the first time, and informing clients on how to self-represent themselves at the Tribunal.
Navigating the state legislation and regulations along with the bombardment of information across various forums regarding tenancy is quite daunting – but WESTS are here to help to guide tenants on the right path!
If you are a Program Manager or an Organisation that is interested in knowing more about WESTS' program and whether the service has the capacity to engage in a Community Education session with your service – email WESTS at tenancy [at] wsclc.org.au