By Garry Mallard, for the
During the National Tenant Support Network’s 17 years of operation, I have successfully resisted the urge to use its reach to express personal outrage. That is about to change….oh, how it is about to change!
Upon returning from a brief trip to Sydney last Friday, I found in my letterbox, the Housing NSW Christmas greeting for 2012, attached for your information. It takes the form of an A4 sheet of paper bearing the Family & Community Services – Housing NSW logo, beneath which there appears a short message in blue, red and green; the traditional colours of Christmas.
“It will soon be Christmas”, the letter begins in 16 point blue text. Looking good so far the letter continues, “We would like to remind all tenants that rent and water are still to be paid on time”, it continues, as though any tenant is not aware of this fact.
Housing NSW reverts to 16 point text to deliver its next threat in blue, “We are also working with the NSW Police to ensure that our communities have a safe and peaceful festive season. Please consider your neighbours”.
Moving right along, and in green now, I was greeted with the following, “Thankyou for your co-operation and we wish you a happy and safe festive season.”
As if I weren’t sufficiently incensed at receiving a patriarchal, stereotyping, demoralising and completely unnecessary warning right on Christmas, I discovered that some Einstein thought the warning should be printed on the reverse side of a ‘fact sheet’ bearing the logo and title of the NSW Police Far South Coast Local Area Command.
This little gem advises, amongst other things, that Housing NSW has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Police, which allows it to share all sorts of information with them. It further advises that the Police will be around for a visit during the holidays; the aim of the visit being to remind me of my responsibilities as a tenant, on behalf of Housing NSW, in particular, to advise me against activity which can constitute a criminal offence.
Well, for my money it’s a bloody shame the coppers will not be around Ashfield-way to remind Housing NSW big-shots about behaviour that constitutes a moral and ethical offence.
If I needed a reminder at Christmas, that Housing NSW views its tenants as a job-lot of naughty children that need a stern talking to by a policeman from time-to-time to keep them in line, then I’ve had it!
The 2012 Christmas message from Housing NSW constitutes a fail of epic proportions, which only serves to reinforce stereotypes that HNSW claims elsewhere to abhor. I am deeply offended by it; as is my partner, who found the note on our kitchen dresser and thought it so outrageous that it must be a gag from one of our many friends within Housing NSW, and I can see why. The letter ticks so many boxes in the “How to completely overlook the spirit of Christmas” manual that it’s hard to imagine how it could have been more offensive short of signing it “Stuff you, from Housing NSW”.
I have many concerns about the 2012 Christmas greeting from Housing NSW, but there is one error that I would like to address above all others. Despite your clearly deluded and overtly patriarchal belief to the contrary, you do not own the communities in which public housing tenants live. Communities are made up of people, not houses. You do not own the people, nor do you live in the houses, the configuration and condition of which, combined with short-sighted and socially irresponsible government policy, contributes so much to the antisocial behaviour your MoU with police was developed to address.
In closing, a Christmas greeting from me to you:
It will soon be holiday season. Tenants would like to remind Housing NSW and its Minister/s that maintenance and responsible social policy is expected on time.
PLEASE REMEMBER THAT YOUR OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE ACT DO NOT STOP AT CHRISTMAS. NOR DO THEY END SIMPLY BECAUSE SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS ‘OF THE DAY’ HAVE BEEN TOO SHORT-SIGHTED TO RESOURCE YOU WITH SUFFICIENT FUNDS TO MEET YOUR OBLIGATIONS.
To the many responsible, courteous and helpful people within Housing NSW and Government, who will be every-bit as outraged by Housing NSW’s latest social faux pas, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, safe and prosperous 2013.
Bega Valley, NSW