Housing Choices WA is part of the Housing Choices Australia Group of Companies

Tenant stories and art headline NAIDOC Week celebrations

12 Nov 2020

Access Housing was pleased to welcome two of our highly valued tenants – Sydney and Leanne – to our Rivervale office on Wednesday 11 November to speak to staff about their lives, connections to country and journeys as artists as part of the company’s NAIDOC Week celebrations.

NAIDOC Week is an annual celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that is being celebrated this year between 8-15 November. The theme of NAIDOC Week 2020 is ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ and aims to acknowledge that Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have occupied and cared for this land for more than 65,000 years. It also emphasises the strong spiritual and cultural connection Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold to this land as original custodians.

Sydney and Leanne have been regular contributors to Access Housing’s Tenant Art Display in the foyer area of our Rivervale office since the commencement of the display in 2018. To celebrate NAIDOC Week, Access Housing is proudly displaying collections of Sydney and Leanne’s work.

Following a welcome to country ceremony conducted by Jo Collard from Birrdiya, Sydney and Leanne shared stories with Access Housing staff about their lives, connection to country and art.

Sydney (pictured) credits Access Housing for helping kickstart his artistic journey via our inaugural Tenant Art Display in 2018. Since then, Sydney has taken strides in his journey as an artist. He has had his artwork displayed at galleries, hosted art talks and is now working with JAK Films to create a feature film about his art and connections to country called ‘Finding Moort’. A 10-minute short of the film can be viewed by clicking here. Sydney closed his talk by saying his aim is to help build understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians and help people to come together rather than be divided.

Leanne spoke of how her art is linked to spirituality and identity and that her art is an expression of her journey towards wholeness.

“Despite everything, beauty exists,” she said.

Within our NAIDOC Week Tenant Art Display, Leanne (pictured) set up an exhibit featuring various items from her home that are of real importance to her, as well as some of her equally important paintings. She explained why;

“Access Housing gave me a home in 2009 when I was homeless, and I wanted this space to feel like I was giving a piece of my home to them.”

Access Housing staff valued the opportunity to learn from Jo, Sydney and Leanne and connect with them and their stories during the event. Leanne reflected on the event, calling it ‘an awesome day of reconciliation’.

“I really enjoyed the day and it was wonderful to hear Sydney speak and to see his journey also.  Equally, it was wonderful to hear Nyoongar spoken to share stories with the staff and to get to know them and their stories also.”

Access Housing General Manager Natalie Sangalli used the event to provide staff with an update on the progress of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) the company is working on in partnership with our Housing Choices Australia colleagues following the merger of our organisations in July this year.

“We have made strong progress on our Reflect RAP and have had many staff undertake cultural competency training,” Natalie said.

Natalie extended her thanks to Sydney and Leanne for coming to share their stories with Access Housing staff.

“This event marked Access Housing’s first NAIDOC Week event and was an important step in our journey of cultural understanding and the work we are doing with the RAP,” Natalie said.

For more information about NAIDOC Week, please click here.