Tenant stories


Community connections

Growing veggies brings neighbours together

For public housing tenant Violet, gardening at her apartment complex in Gladstone has helped her to connect with the community and build close friendships.

“It’s peaceful and comfortable. The place allows me to do things in my own way.

“I love being out in the garden more than being inside,” she said.

Violet enjoys sharing her passion for gardening with Steven, her next-door neighbour and close friend.

Working together, they’ve successfully grown a thriving vegetable patch at the complex.

“When he moved in, we just clicked like mother and son.

“Steven usually tends to the vegetables, and I make sure to water them afterwards.”

Their gardening has been critically acclaimed at the department’s gardening competition, the My Home Awards.

“We’ve won a few times! The most recent award was for the best garden courtyard.

“It’s our tradition to travel together to the ceremony and have lunch afterwards,” she said.

Violet is grateful she can rely on Steven for help and support.

“It’s a great friendship, and I wish more people were like him.

“If something is broken around the complex, he always helps out to get it repaired.

“During the times when I have to go away for a few days, he also makes sure to look after my personal garden.

“He’s the best.” she said.

Garry grows a tropical paradise with neighbours

At Garry’s place in Nundah his neighbours all know his name.

“I look after their gardens for them. They give me ideas and I take them on board, moving plants around, separating plants clumped together and spreading them out across the gardens.”

Garry’s neighbours admire his gardening and like to joke with him.

“They tell me it looks like a tropical resort in our complex, thanks to the plants.”

Garry focuses mostly on growing flowers and likes to work alongside his neighbour Roy who grows tomatoes, paw paws and herbs.

“We work well together, fixing up the gardens. Roy moved in a few years before me, so I like to tell Roy he’s in charge, but he jumps back quickly to say, ‘No Garry, you’re in charge’.”

Garry spent 37 years working as a senior protective security officer for the Queensland Government but since he’s retired, he has taken up volunteering at the local community garden. He enjoys abstract painting and spending time with his grandchildren.

He says: “My home is my happy sanctuary. With my neighbours, we all work together to keep our part of paradise looking at its best.”

If you need housing help, call 13 QGOV (13 74 68), or visit your nearest Housing Service Centre.

Clermont couple’s garden offers connection to community

For social housing tenants James and Cynthia, their home and community make Clermont a great place to live.

“The best thing is the community and the security.

“Everyone looks out for you and that’s what I like about this community,” said James.

The duo loves gardening and the smiles they see when handing out their home-grown roses.

“We love the smell of roses, and we love to see the joy on people’s faces when we give them our roses,” said Cynthia.

“For a few years, we’ve regularly cut a bunch of roses and taken them to the doctor’s clinic nearby. The doctors appreciate it, but we do it for the patients that come in; it’s something nice for them,” James said.

James has been growing roses for 40 years and has some great tips for novice growers.

“Make sure you use plenty of fertiliser and that you prune your roses. I use potash liquid or pellets and I have roses flowering all year round,” he said.

Cynthia enjoys gardening with a variety of plants and has a great tip for making them thrive.

“Make sure you have quality soil that’s right for your plant. I make up my own soil and collect sand and other materials to make sure my plants grow,” she said.

James and Cynthia also grow an edible garden, which provides a healthy diet for them and their three children. Their crop includes yams, cassava, starfruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, cabbages and other vegetables.

“We have people comment to us all the time about how pristine our yard looks. We appreciate this home, and we try to keep our yard in great condition,” James said.

James and Cynthia won the House Garden category and were commended in the Connections category of the My Home Awards in 2022.

Sandra grows friendships in home produce swap group

Joining a local swap group for home produce has provided many benefits for Toowoomba social housing tenant, Sandra.

“The best thing about the group is that it cuts my grocery bill down and I’ve made loads of friends in the group,” she said.

“I joined the group 3 or 4 years ago after being told about the group on Facebook.

“I can swap eggs and pot plant containers for home-made soap or a home-made cake and there’s no money involved, it’s great.”

Sandra said that the appeal of the group is that it brings together people of different ages, abilities, and interests.

“We learn new skills from each other, and we ask for, and offer advice on different topics like gardening, sewing or cooking,” she said.

“We have a real mix of people in the group - members who are elderly, and some that come along with their kids.

“We meet on the first Saturday of the month at a community centre and it doesn’t matter if you can’t make it every time, you just come along when you can.”

Sandra said the group now had about 60 members and has provided her with a strong connection to her community.

“You can be a bit down in the dumps but going to the swap group really cheers you up.

“During COVID-19, the group continued the swaps but in a different way. We’d use Facebook to stay in touch and then swap through our letterboxes.

“We didn’t feel isolated or alone because we were still able to connect with each other.”

Sandra’s membership in the group has led to some great friendships, including Alan, another social housing tenant.

“Alan lives nearby, so if I’m passing by and he is out in his garden, I stop and have a chat with him.”

“He has been in the group a long time and he knows a lot about gardening. His plants are great!

“I go to his place to see what he has in his garden and ask him what some plants are called and then I go to get some.”

Sandra’s swap group friends have also benefitted her neighbours.

“One of my neighbours wasn’t well and didn’t have much food, so I told the group and they coordinated a big basket of fruit and veggies to help my neighbour out,” she said.

“Good neighbours help each other, and we all get on pretty well in the complex,” said Sandra.

“I collect mail for a neighbour when she is away and take the bins out for some neighbours who can’t.

“I also give my neighbours some of the veggies I grow too,” she said.

As well as being a good neighbour, Sandra raises money for charity.

“I have a plant stall out the front and sell plants to raise money for cancer and fibromyalgia charities.

“My neighbours offer flowers and plants sometimes to help raise money too,” said Sandra.

For Sandra, the best thing about her community is the people.

“Toowoomba is full of lovely people, it’s a really nice community.”

A garden built on love and happy memories

Toowoomba public housing tenant, Perlita says she loves her garden for its beauty and happy memories as she built it from scratch with her late husband George.

“I’ve learnt all I know from George as he worked in a city council garden, and would guide me in our garden” she said.

“We won a number of awards for our garden over the years, and we would always get compliments.”

Adding to the accolades, Perlita won first prize for her garden in the 2021 My Home Awards for the South-West region.

The My Home Awards inspire public housing tenants to connect with their community, share their culture and take pride in their homes and neighbourhoods.

Perlita has a range of plants in her garden – succulents, orchids, bulbs, shrubs, flowers, lemonade and orange plants.

“It makes my home look nice, and I enjoy seeing the plants change colours through the seasons,” she said.

“In Spring, the flowers look beautiful.”

Perlita has some great tips for anyone wanting to start their garden.

“Just have a go, that’s what I did,” she said.

“Prepare your garden with a layer of gypsum, mix the soil and then plant.

“Read the instructions for your plant, water and use fertiliser.

“Water and TLC goes a long way.”

Perlita said even an experienced gardener can have some mishaps in the garden and it shouldn’t put you off.

“I still kill plants from time to time, but it can happen to anyone!

“You need to understand if the plant is happy or not – is it getting enough sun or shade or if it is in the right position,” she said.

Perlita’s next plan for the garden is more flowers.

“I’m going to add some petunias to the garden, so they are ready for Spring.

“I planted snap dragons last year and they are a good, tough plant and look lovely.”

As well as lovely memories with George, Perlita says she loves gardening for one simple reason.

“My garden makes me very happy.”

Giao's garden inspires joy in her community

Giao holds her award certificate while standing in front of one of her beautiful garden beds.When Giao moved into her public housing home in Inala in 2021, her priority was creating a lovely garden to inspire joy in her community.

“I decided to create a garden in the front yard because I thought it would bring more joy for all who pass my house and add value to the whole neighbourhood,” she said.

“I divided my garden into 5 sections: water feature, seasonal, mini cactus, roses and fruit trees.

“My favourite is the water feature area because it has a variety of flowers with different colours. It’s beautifully arranged with a crane, pagoda, and little ducks and many other people love it too.”

Giao is a first prize winner in the 2021 My Home Awards Community and Culture category in the Brisbane region.

The My Home Awards inspire public housing tenants to connect with their community, share their culture and take pride in their homes and neighbourhoods.

“The best thing about the My Home Awards is that it gives all public housing tenants a chance to share their gardening experience and inspire others to garden too,” Giao said.

“My neighbour felt motivated after I told her I was entering, and she said she will work on her garden and would like to compete in the next My Home Awards.”

Giao’s tip to creating a lovely garden is based on making the most of what you’ve got.

“I select affordable, easy-to-maintain plants that can produce flowers all year round,” she said.

“Having a nice garden doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

“You just need to care for your garden, and I take care of the plants every day with their watering, pruning and cutting dead leaves.”

Giao said her garden contributes to her health and wellbeing and adds to the friendly atmosphere in her neighbourhood.

“My garden helps me to stay healthy both mentally and physically and offers opportunities to talk to people in my neighbourhood,” she said.

For Giao, being a good neighbour and contributing to her community is important.

“Every time I move to a new place, I always make some homemade food and offer it to the neighbours so we can be friends,” she said.

“The best part about my community is that I have other people I can talk to in the Vietnamese language.

“We share our Vietnamese food, flowers to plant and help each other when needed. I help a lady nearby who is 80 years old to do cupping when she gets a cold; or I can ask a neighbour for a lime.”

Giao said her neighbourly attitude is part of her Vietnamese culture and has extended to her life in Australia.

“Vietnamese people have a saying: ‘better a neighbour near, than a brother far off’, meaning whenever in need, a close neighbour is there to help faster.

“This is very true because it has happened to me before. One time I needed help and my son was not available; my neighbour was there to lend me a hand.”

Garden grows family bond and community connections

Malakai proudly stands in front of lush pot plants on shelving outdoors.. For Mackay father and son, Clinton and Malakai, growing their garden has brought many benefits.

The duo started out with a few garden pots when they first moved into their public housing property 4 years ago and their garden has continued to bloom.

For 10 year-old Malakai, the best thing about gardening is the plants that he and his dad grow.

“We grow heaps of food – we started with cherry tomatoes and bok choy and now we have basil, rockmelon and lots of other plants,” he said.

“The best thing about Malakai’s passion for gardening is that it gives us an opportunity to spend time together as father and son; it’s relaxing; provides fresh air and exercise,” Clinton said.

“We’ve propagated plants, germinated from other plants and we’ve got nice neighbours in the unit complex, who have given us plants.”

The father and son have recently undertaken a project to build a raised garden bed.

“We are building it together and Malakai is learning how to use my power tools to build it, with my supervision,” said Clinton.

“I like to use dad’s power tools to make things for my garden and I like to recycle cans and collect wood for my garden,” said Malakai.

“We are now growing orchids and bonsais too.”

Malakai and Clinton have some great tips for starting a garden.

“Use fertiliser - the smellier, the better. Be patient and wait for your plants to grow,” said Malakai.

“Go for a walk in your local neighbourhood and see what other people are growing, ask your neighbours and other people in your community,” said Clinton.

“You can also test the soil and add or take nutrients as you need,” he said.

These tips have paid off for Malakai, who won first prize in the 2021 My Home Awards Children’s category in the Mackay area for his lovely garden.

The My Home Awards celebrates connections to home, community and culture and the positive contributions of public housing tenants.

“I won a gift voucher and I’ve used this to buy some fertiliser and plants for the garden,” he said.

Gardening has provided a connection into their community for Malakai and Clinton.

“We’re now going to other people’s yards in the community and helping them expand their gardens,” said Clinton.

“That’s another benefit of our gardening projects – we’ve got to know our neighbours and speak to others in the neighbourhood,” he said.

Susan fosters respect and close friendships in her community

“We fit around each other’s routine, and we try to make sure everyone is okay.”

Social housing tenant Susan says she enjoys being part of the tight-knit community in the 18-unit seniors’ complex at Yeppoon.

“I like to refer to my one-bedroom unit as my bunker. It has a lot of privacy and it’s protected by my friends living around me,” Susan said.

Being respectful and mindful of others are common behaviours by members of her community, according to Susan.

“Everyone looks after everyone else. When someone has to go away, we step up to look after their cat or garden.

“If a neighbour hasn’t been seen in a while, we knock on their door and check to see if they’re okay.”

Susan is more than happy to share her gardening tips and be a helping hand around the complex. 
“My neighbours refer to me as the garden guru. They come over if they have any questions or need some advice,” she said.

“I’m a do-er so I love to help out. If someone takes the bins out, then I’m the one who takes them back in.”

In return, Susan is grateful she can rely on her neighbours for help. 
“When I had COVID-19, they checked on me regularly and offered to bring groceries and medicine,” she said.

Knowing it can be hard for new people moving into the complex to settle in, Susan makes sure they feel welcome.

“We once met a new tenant who didn’t have anything at their home,” Susan said.

“So, I rounded up everyone around the complex who could spare a few items. We managed to collect a blanket, mugs, pillows, saucepans, and other items we thought they would need and left them at their door.”

Susan has great advice on how to be a good neighbour.

“Say hello and have a cuppa with your neighbours.”

When caring neighbours make it a special place to live

Public housing tenant Katie Ferguson believes being a good neighbour is about helping someone out when they ask for it but giving them their own space when they need it.

She moved to her complex in Nundah, Brisbane, four years ago and says she would never want to move out as her neighbours make it a special place to live.

“My neighbours are beautiful – I could live here forever. We all look after each other. If someone is sick, we would always go get them something,” she says.

“Being a good neighbour is about good communication – saying ‘hi, how is your day going?’”

Katie, who has quadriplegia, is a provisional psychotherapist and is in her final year of her master’s degree in mental health. She also works as a National Disability Insurance Scheme champion for people with disability by providing mental health and peer support.

She is close with her next-door neighbours Brian and Cheryl who are both deaf.

Since moving into the complex, she has learnt sign language so she can communicate with them and provide them support.

Katie says she will interpret for her neighbours when visitors, such as maintenance workers, come to the complex.

“I wanted to learn (sign language) so I could help them. They can only understand with sign language.

“The other day they gave me the sign for ‘fire’. I called emergency for them, and the emergency services came out. It was all fine as their safety switch had gone off but there was no actual fire.

“If I am stuck, I get my sign language book out to help me,” Katie said.

Katie, who is studying a master’s degree in mental health, moved out of home when she was 22 because she wanted her own independence.

She says she feels extremely lucky to have her own home which has been modified so she can live independently.

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Been in this house for about four years now, and I love it here too. For me, I think being good neighbour means to me, being polite, being respectful, being dignified, and also lending a hand when people need it. And just telling people if something's going on. So, we all help each other. And that's what makes it a really good place to live.

For example, my deaf neighbour, who is profoundly deaf and his wife, he puts my bins out every week because he knows I can't. I can't physically do that. So, he just does it for me. We’ve all learnt sign language for them, so that's how we communicate. Learning sign language has been one of the greatest gifts because we now can talk to our neighbours. Like if we've got friends coming over and having a get together, invite them too. If you can help them, do so.

I don't think it's really that hard. I think it's a case of doing the simple things.

Margaret’s move means a garden and community connections

Public housing tenant Margaret is grateful for her patch, a two-room unit at Boyne Island, south of Gladstone, with a garden out the front and back.

She sits in her garden oasis, listening to the birds and drinking tea from a mug that reads: ‘Pets and plants before people’.

Life is quieter now for Margaret, 77, who raised eight children on her own in Gladstone before downsizing and moving to Boyne Island once her children grew up and started families of their own.

“When I had to leave my house, I was really worried about where I’d end up, but the housing staff reassured me there are other nice places,” said Margaret.

“I was so happy my new place had a garden,” she says.

She’s been living in Boyne Island for ten years now and says the locals know her as the ‘lady with the plants’.

Margaret’s garden boasts bromeliads, begonias, cordylines and mother-in-law’s-tongue. Succulents are her latest passion.

“My dad was a gardener. He grew veggies and he gave me my own little patch to look after. Then I became a chef and started to grow things to cook. The garden gives me a lot of pleasure. It’s my place of peace.”

She says her garden also enables her to connect to her neighbours and local community.

“When I’m sitting outside, my neighbours come over for a chat and people on the street often say hello.”

“When you live alone, you rely on good neighbours to help out. Ben, my neighbour, noticed the wheel on my wheelbarrow was flat. He’s bringing me a new tyre which I’m really pleased about. I use my wheelbarrow all the time.”

A neighbour who lives two doors up helps Margaret with the things in her home she can no longer manage alone.

“We are like a family”, says Margaret. “I feel like I’m part of the community.”

Margaret gives back to her neighbours too – giving away plants, driving neighbours to the shops when they can no longer drive themselves, baking butterscotch puddings and cooking meals.

Managing a household on her own with eight children taught Margaret to be resourceful. Tea bags are dried, their leaves scooped out and saved, potato peels ground up and eggshells crushed, all going into the potting mix that nourishes her plants.

“I just feel so blessed for my lovely little home, my fridge with food in it and my garden.”

Margaret’s children have all moved away now, following work down south. She misses them and they want her to move too but she says she’d rather stay put.

She says there are: “Too many cars and not enough plants.”

Her plants need her more, and she needs them too.

Margaret’s butterscotch pudding recipe

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 60grams (2oz) of butter
  • 1/2 a cup of milk


  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups of boiling water
  • 30 grams of butter


Sift sugar, salt and flour into bowl. Melt butter. Add to flour mixture with milk and combine thoroughly and place into a well-greased grease-proof dish.

For the sauce, add boiling water, butter and golden syrup in a bowl and stir until combined. Gently pour the sauce mixture over the pudding mixture.

Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

You can serve with custard or ice cream. Enjoy!

Great neighbours offer Grace friendship and support

Social housing tenant Grace has experienced homelessness in her life but now finds the greatest support and friendships come from the neighbours in her unit block.

“My cooking wins me a lot of friends,” Grace said.

“My neighbour, Les, says he’s never eaten a bad meal from me. My other neighbour, Kevin, tells me ‘Oh you’re spoiling me’ and I tell him ‘But you’re worth it!’

“Both give back to me in their own way and I accept graciously.

“Les has a car so I’ve seen so much of Brisbane thanks to him. He takes me to the shops and picks me up, especially since I’ve been unwell,” she said.

At 57, Grace has been happily living in her current Taringa unit since April 2020.

“It’s a miracle I’m where I am today and I’m very grateful I have a roof over my head,” she said.

“Going through hardship myself has made me a better person; it’s made me more compassionate. People don’t like to talk about their hard times but when you are open with people, they open up about their own pain or struggles.”

Grace’s other neighbours in the unit block look after the communal gardens and host morning teas for residents.

“Ruth and Sue do a great job in the gardens. They’ve even created a tribute garden to a previous resident, Bridie, who loved gardening,” she said.

Grace says friendships with neighbours start with small acts of kindness and chats.

“When you bump into them, in the garden or carpark, or taking out the bins, usually you have an opportunity to have a short chat. If you make time to have a conversation when you see them, that’s how it all starts.

“I feel safe here. My neighbours are house proud. When I got the place, I felt very blessed,” she said.

When caring neighbours make it a special place to live

Public housing tenant Katie Ferguson believes being a good neighbour is about helping someone out when they ask for it but giving them their own space when they need it.

She moved to her complex in Nundah, Brisbane, four years ago and says she would never want to move out as her neighbours make it a special place to live.

“My neighbours are beautiful – I could live here forever. We all look after each other. If someone is sick, we would always go get them something,” she says.

“Being a good neighbour is about good communication – saying ‘hi, how is your day going?’”

Katie, who has quadriplegia, is a provisional psychotherapist and is in her final year of her master’s degree in mental health. She also works as a National Disability Insurance Scheme champion for people with disability by providing mental health and peer support.

She is close with her next-door neighbours Brian and Cheryl who are both deaf.

Since moving into the complex, she has learnt sign language so she can communicate with them and provide them support.

Katie says she will interpret for her neighbours when visitors, such as maintenance workers, come to the complex.

“I wanted to learn (sign language) so I could help them. They can only understand with sign language.

“The other day they gave me the sign for ‘fire’. I called emergency for them, and the emergency services came out. It was all fine as their safety switch had gone off but there was no actual fire.

“If I am stuck, I get my sign language book out to help me,” Katie said.

Katie, who is studying a master’s degree in mental health, moved out of home when she was 22 because she wanted her own independence.

She says she feels extremely lucky to have her own home which has been modified so she can live independently.

Gardening and compost make life richer for Gold Coast neighbours

Lori smiles in her garden holding composted dirt in her handsFor the residents of a public housing complex at Palm Beach, their communal garden brings more than just fresh herbs and a shady spot to gather. Their garden is a place where they talk, share memories, and solve problems.

Lori, one of the residents and avid gardener, says the garden is a place that brings her neighbours together.

“We all agree that our lives are better because of our garden,” says Lori. “We are healthier than most folk in our situation because of the affordable rental and because of our garden. It gets us out of our units, and our heads.”

The garden was established nearly 30 years ago and is the result of contributions from many residents over the years, many who have now passed away. Lyn says many of her neighbours a part of the garden.

“Those who do not actively garden contribute food waste to the compost bins, they encourage the more active gardeners with positive words, a cutting, a pot, the gift of soil, manure or mulch.”

The garden is a no-dig garden and regular mulching keeps the weeds down. The gnomes use grass clippings from the contractors who do the mowing, and as a result have a very healthy compost.

“Our compost is highly prized. An avid gardener friend gave us most of her worms. We’ve triumphed in producing soil of choc cake consistency quite a feat in this heat.”

Lori says the two garden benches in the complex are the focal point of the complex and morning talks in the garden have become commonplace.

“The benches host daily conversations and passers-by comment on the garden. Laughter and whistling is heard often. Surely these are indicators of better mental health,” says Lori.

“Life can be tough and it’s better shared. We need not be lonely.”

Lori’s gardening tip: only garden to the extent that you are able to maintain. Share and enjoy.

Moana’s art inspired by her island home

Moana sits barefooted with a selection of her artworksSocial housing tenant Moana is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman. When not working as a Queensland Police Liaison Officer, she spends her spare time creating artworks inspired by her home on Thursday Island.

“I grew up always loving art and creating new colourful things. It always makes me happy,” Moana said.

“I am inspired to create something special because my home overlooks the ocean. I love creating my artworks around turtles because they represent me being free to express my creations.

“The green turtle is our most loved—as our main source of food, as one of the main Torres Strait Islander totems and as a pet.”

While Moana promotes her artworks on her Facebook page, and occasionally does a pop-up stall on the main street of Thursday Island, she donates most of her artworks.

“The community love my work because it is bright, modern, and makes them happy. My art brings life to any wall space one could have,” Moana said.

“Many local families and friends have my artworks, more so than the passing visitors. For this I’m blessed.

“People are drawn to Thursday Island from all corners of our beautiful world. My dream is for all to have a piece of my creations in their homes or office around the world.”

Finding the beauty from tragedy

Clem sits in his wheelchair with pet dog and his painting on the wall After a confronting and life changing health diagnosis in 2017, Clem has slowed down, and is making the most of his life.

Clem was living in Tasmania, and working at a medical centre, when he received the news he had Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis—a neurological condition that progressively affects movement. There is no treatment or cure.

“I used to go bushwalking every weekend,” Clem said.

“I’d been limping on my left leg for a while, and it wasn’t getting better so my doctor organised an MRI and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.”

“I was told I’d be in a wheelchair within 2 years – it took 3 years.

“I was a nurse for 38 years and had a wonderful career. I was the carer and now I am the cared for.”

After his diagnosis, Clem took some time off work to travel. As his condition worsened, he realised he wouldn’t be able to return to work.

He moved back to Queensland, to be closer to family, and applied for help through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and for wheelchair-accessible social housing.

Clem receives 30 hours of support per week through the NDIS. His carer Joey provides domestic help including cooking, laundry, cleaning and transport to appointments. He has also helped Clem create a balcony garden and rediscover his passion for painting.

“My left hand doesn’t work anymore so I need help setting up my easel and opening tubes of paint,” Clem said.

“I do oil painting, but I am also taking a watercolour class.

“When I am painting, I am in the moment. I sit there and concentrate it on it. It’s a nice escape and it’s something I love doing.

“It will be too hard in the future.”

Clem has had to adapt to some major changes in his life, but it’s given him a new perspective on life.

“I have had to slow down. Everything looks different now. I see more beauty. I still get out in nature in my wheelchair. Everyone talks to me.”

“I am also in a wonderful online support group for people with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. We look after each other.

“I am grateful for the good things.”

New home offers hope and community connection

For public housing tenant, Andy, his accessible home in Nundah has offered him more than just a place to live.

“I love my new home; things are so much easier now. The barriers have been removed and it’s given me hope,” said Andy.

Andy has mobility issues and previously lived in a unit that wasn’t located on the ground floor. He said that this made it difficult to get out into his community.

“I felt like I was locked away in my old place because it was so difficult to get outside and I couldn’t walk far because of the pain,” he said.

Andy worked with his support workers and staff from his local Housing Service Centre to find the right option to suit his needs.

Some of the features in Andy’s ground floor home include grab rails, a shower chair, and a shower hose.

“The lady that helped me from the Housing Service Centre went out of her way to help me. I wasn’t just another number, she cared about finding something right for me,” said Andy.

Andy used to live in Nundah years ago and already has plans to connect with people in his community.

“I’m getting a mobility scooter soon and once I have that combined with being in my ground floor unit, I’ll be able to get out into the community,” Andy said.

“I know people in the area, so I plan to go and visit them and say hello. I’m hoping that I can reconnect with some friends in the community.”

Andy also has a group of supportive friends online.

“I like online gaming and I have a group of friends that I’ve met through that platform who are very supportive. We help each other out and make sure we are all doing OK.”

“One friend lost everything in bushfires and our group supported him when he was dealing with that,” he said.

As well as being a supportive friend, Andy said it’s important to be a good neighbour.

“I use headphones to listen to music or watch TV so that I don’t disturb the neighbours,” said Andy.

“I try to be a good neighbour and that means being respectful, thinking of others, don’t cause disturbances and help out where you can.”

“I haven’t met my new neighbours yet, but I’ll say hello if I see them.”

Andy’s new home has given him a new lease on life and he now enjoys getting outdoors and planting veggies and herbs in his garden.

“I’m practical so I like to plant things you can cook with. I’m hoping that I can add to my garden and grow tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, spring onion and anything else I can think of,” he said.

As well as getting active in his garden, Andy is setting goals.

“I’m hoping to get back into swimming, it will take time, but I feel the more I get out into the community, the easier it will become to do these things and reach my goals,” he said.

Good neighbours make friendly community

For Sherwood social housing tenant, Christel, her neighbourhood is a great place to live.

“We’ve got some great neighbours in the street and it’s a friendly community,” she said.

Christel says that for her, a good neighbour means looking out for each other and being friendly.

“I always say hello when I see other tenants in the complex and I say hello to the neighbours surrounding our unit complex when I take my dog, Lily for a walk each day,” she said.

“People in the community are really nice and they care. A tenant from our complex, Robbie, usually sits out the front and waves and says hello to surrounding neighbours who walk past. The neighbours in the street noticed he was absent for a while so when they saw me, they stopped to ask me if he was OK and asked me to pass on their best wishes. I thought that was really nice.”

Christel has lived in her social housing home for a few years and during that time has built some friendships.

“Tristan is one of my neighbours in the complex and he’s a similar age to my kids. Tristan has MS and uses a wheelchair so sometimes I help him by opening up his meals, helping him get into bed and I help him with cleaning his unit. We get on well and I’ve introduced him to my kids and he’s now friends with my kids as well,” said Christel.

As well as helping Tristan, Christel offers some of her neighbours a lift to the shops when she’s going and helps others in the complex to take out their rubbish.

“If you can help your neighbours, it’s a good thing,” Christel said.

Having neighbours you can rely on is important for Christel.

“I have locked myself out of my home a couple of times, but I now have spare keys with a couple of my neighbours in case it happens again. I trust them and I know I can rely on them,” she said.

“I’ve also had a neighbour offer to walk Lily and look after her for a few hours when I’ve needed a hand.”

“Home is what you make it. It’s a nice and caring community with good neighbours,” she said.

Caring community makes new place feel like homeInala public housing tenants, Abrahet and Sare

Inala public housing tenants, Abrahet and Sare love living in their new home, thanks to their caring community and the good location.

“We are very happy to be here, it’s a good place to live.”

“The best thing about our home is that it is in a central location, close to the shops and everything we need,” they said.

Abrahet and Sare lived in Eritrea before they made their way to Sudan where they lived in a refugee camp. They then came to Australia as refugees in 2014.

They moved into their unit in Inala 3 years ago and say that Queensland is a great place to call home.

“We find that the people in Queensland are very nice and we like the weather, even when it’s raining. We came from Africa, but we consider this to be our home,” said Sare.

Abrahet and Sare have family and friends that live close by and like to catch up with them in their home.

“We have a traditional way of making coffee. You boil it 5 times, and this gives you a chance to have a chat with your friends and gives you a more mellow coffee,” Sare said.

Good neighbours also make their Inala community a great place to live.

“Our neighbours are respectful, and we respect them. We look out for each other and make sure everyone is OK. We all talk to one another and when we see each other around the complex we know they are fine,” said Abrahet.

Sare was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years ago but modifications have been made in their home to make it more comfortable and accessible.

“Our unit was already on the ground floor, but we had grab rails installed in the bathroom and kitchen and a ramp installed. This makes it easier for me to move around with my condition,” said Sare.

“Our home is very comfortable, we can get fresh air inside with a breeze and we have a good view,” Abrahet said.

For Sare and Abrahet, sharing culture contributes to making a great community.

“We took English classes recently and for the final ceremony we brought our traditional food to share with the class, it’s a way to keep traditions and culture alive. We made Injera, a traditional bread like a pancake and it was a nice event,” Sare said.

Another large part of a creating a great community comes from helping others.

“I help others by interpreting or translating for them if they can’t speak English. This is a good community because we respect and help each other and you can get support if you need it,” Sare says.

Amy’s sporting achievements inspires community

Gold Coast public housing tenant, Amy, is proving that amazing things can be achieved by people of all abilities.

Amy competes in wheelchair racing and race running, which involves the use of a specialised device, similar to a bike that allows her to ‘run’.

“I train in race running and have competed in wheelchair racing too. I love race running and I help kids and adults participate in the sport. It’s great to see their enjoyment and their sense of achievement when they first do it,” Amy said.

For Amy, race running is more than just exercise.

“What I love about race running is the freedom that it provides.”

“Everyone associates having cerebral palsy with not being able to walk let alone run, so it’s a good feeling to show what I can do.”

“People tend to focus on what people with disability can’t do instead of what they can do,” said Amy.”

Amy is full of determination and doesn’t let anything hold her back. She’s participated in many competitions and has many medals to prove her sporting achievements.

“I really like competing and now I’m training for the 2024 Paralympics,” said Amy with a smile.

While Amy sets a high bar for her sporting achievements, she has also accomplished great things in her community. As well as helping others with a disability participate in sport, she’s also raised money for charities helping tackle youth suicide and kids affected by cerebral palsy and has participated in events as a guest speaker, sharing her experience and inspirational journey.

“I love being able to make a difference and it’s rewarding to help adults and young people achieve their goals and show what people with a disability can do.”

Amy’s advice for anyone out there with a disability looking to get into a sport is simple.

“Go for it!”

“It opens up a world and not for just people with a disability but for able-bodied people as well so they can see the things we can do and what we can achieve, we just do it differently,” she said.

For Amy, her home in Burleigh has helped her maintain her independence and supported her to achieve her goals.

“It’s nice to be able to train locally and keep fit.”

“Having an accessible home means I have my independence and I have a choice about how my home is set up. My unit is on the ground floor, has an automatic door and has everything I need.”

Neighbours create caring community

Brisbane public housing tenants, Gloria and Harold are great neighbours. They met over four years ago and have created a caring community within their unit complex.

Gloria said, “When I met Harold I said, you all know where I live and if you need anything just yell.”

“When we see each other, we always say hello and have a little chat,” said Harold.

The pair have created a friendly atmosphere in their unit complex by helping their neighbours and making sure they are OK.

“Sometimes some of the neighbours don’t understand their bills because they don’t speak English as a first language, so they come to me and I help them to understand their bills and help solve their problems,” said Gloria.

“Because we’re friends, we know someone’s there for us. In case something happens, we’re there to help one another,” said Harold.

Gloria said that having good and caring neighbours provided a piece of mind when living by yourself.

“It’s just knowing that there’s a lot of people around you when you’re on your own, that if anything happens and they don’t see you around, they’ll come looking.

”COVID-19 hasn’t been able to reduce the care and compassion in Gloria and Harold’s complex

“We do social distancing, but we still check on each other and look after each other,” said Gloria.

Duration 00:01:12 |

Since I came here about a bit over four years now, and we saw one another out there, introduced ourselves, I’m Harold, I’m Gloria and we go from there.

When Harold come, I said oh well you all know where I live, and if you need anything just howl. Because Harold lives right at the back of mine and if I can hear him always moving around, you know, I know he’s alright.

We always, when we see one another, we say hello, we’re there, we have a little chat.

It’s just knowing that there’s a lot of people around you when you’re on your own, that if anything happens and they don’t see you around, they’ll come looking.

Because we’re very friendly towards one another, we know someone’s there. In case something happens, we’re there to help one another.

I’ve got Michael who’s in a wheelchair too, I try to cook a couple of meals for him now and again. The lady underneath has got dementia, and if the Blue Care don’t get there, I just make her sandwiches and that. So, I mean if we all help each other like that, you haven’t got to worry.

No place like home when you have great neighbours

Public housing tenant, Michele loves living in her home. Find out how neighbours make a difference in her life.

Duration 00:00:35 |

Yeah, I’ve been here some twenty years now.

When I first came in to see the place, I took one look and… I’m home.

Everyone was just so friendly.

I have regular morning tea on Wednesdays. We do sit there and really enjoy each other’s company.

I really do love living here. It’s peaceful.

Sue connects to her community through art and craft

Townsville public housing tenant, Sue, creates art, crafts and works in her garden to help her connect with her community.

“I find working on an artwork relaxing because you have to concentrate on it, so you are only thinking about what you are doing,” Sue said.

Sue is interested in all types of art and craft and has been creating unique artworks on a shoestring budget for more than 10 years.

“The best thing about making art is that you can use your imagination and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Anyone can have a go,” she said.

Sue said she likes creating artworks out of recycled materials because you can turn everyday items into something else.

“My neighbours always offer me things before they dispose of them,” Sue said.

“A while ago I made ‘home sweet home’ signs for my neighbours from recycled materials and they really liked them.”

Sue has built up a network in her local community to source items that people don’t want anymore.

“I find out who is painting their house and has leftover paint and repurpose the paint for my artworks,” Sue said.

Recently, after a friend asked her to join a craft group, Sue tried her hand at basket weaving.

“I made some decorative baskets and some new friends. I now attend the craft group once or twice a week.”

Over the years, Sue has tried her hand at other crafts.

“I went through a candle making phase and joined a group where we knitted items and wrapped them on lamp posts in the local community.”

Sue values opportunities in her community to learn more about art.

“I enjoy visiting public art galleries and museums and seeing interesting exhibitions,” she said.

Sue is passionate about her garden and her artworks often find a place in the garden.

“I love my home. It’s my piece of paradise.”

“I’m currently making a raised veggie bed from recycled pallets,” she said.

“I’m going to grow some ginger as well as turmeric and some different herbs and see what comes up.”

Sue’s advice to gardeners is much the same as her advice to aspiring artists.

“You don’t have to spend lots of money.”

“Try and get cuttings, feed your soil and then go for it!”

Barry’s green thumb brings joy

Public housing tenant Barry has a green thumb and a garden full of surprises. What makes it so special? Check out his video.

Duration 00:01:30 |

Originally when I came here there was a few plants, but I decided to put in a vegetable garden in here.

There’s a lemonade tree just there and we have had some lemonades.

But only to eat. We haven’t had enough to make jam out of.

But the papaya, I have made papaya jam. I ended up with about 150 papayas last season that it fruited.

I have bought some plants here. One’s a mulberry. I’ve already had a couple of batches of them.

I have a passionfruit vine. When I get so many of them, I pass them out to different people.

I have also made passionfruit jam and I freeze it and use it for different things like icing.

So, it’s become quite an edible garden and when I make pickles, I need a lot of tomatoes. So, in here I’ve got a heap of tomatoes.

I also have some rosemary and sage and some of the other products that I’ve been growing.

It’s something I just enjoy…I’ve got a green thumb. But it’s not just for me, it’s for everyone in the whole complex.

Design innovation supports independence

 Caption R-L: Susan, her neighbour, Bevan and her carer, Birthe .
Caption R-L: Susan, her neighbour, Bevan and her carer, Birthe

Public housing tenant, Susan found her independence the day she moved into her wheelchair accessible unit in Townsville. She moved from the family home almost 2 years ago, allowing her to make a home of her own, develop friendships within the community and with neighbours nearby.

Susan uses a wheelchair for mobility and receives assistance through the NDIS to support her independent living.

Her mother, Lynne says that moving to the unit has made a big difference in Susan’s life.

“The unit is wonderful. Susan continues to flourish and expand her social networks now she has her own home,”says Lynne.

Susan’s unit is designed to the Livable Housing Design Guidelines Platinum Level standard which means it has wider doorways and hallways, extra clearance space, level access in the bathroom and no step down onto the balcony. Susan is happy she can move about her home with ease.

“The design features make it easy to live in my home without falling and the bedrooms are really spacious”, says Susan.

The unit complex has 8 Platinum Level units and 8 Gold Level units.

Overall, Susan says the move to her home has been a wonderful experience.

“My ragdoll rescue cat, Molly loves living in this unit as do I.”

“The location is great, it’s got a large shopping centre close by, there’s a bus stop right in front of the units and the Riverway is across the road, where lots of festivals and events happen” says Susan.

“My neighbours and I go across to some of the festivals and I help Bevan, one of my neighbours, water the gardens within the complex and take out the bins on bin day.”

“One of the best things about having my own home has been the friendships I’ve developed with neighbours and people I’ve met at my local gym.”

“I have friends I can call on if I get worried, if I need support or want some company”, Susan says.

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Garden produces great veggies

Alan holding a vegetable in his outside garden.

When you ask experienced vegetable gardener Alan what his planting advice is, he says with a smile “talk to them nicely”.

Alan grew up on a farm in Toowoomba with 11 brothers and sisters. With that many mouths to feed, his mum became an expert in growing vegetables.

“Mum had a 12-month supply of potatoes. I learned a lot from her about gardening,” Alan said.

Alan now lives next door to his childhood home.

“Back then, it was farmland. There were dairy cows on this block. I used to take them down the road before school so they could have some water, and then I’d bring them back up after school,” Alan said.

Alan now spends most of his time in his garden, which is filled with an assortment of vegetables, some quite unusual.

“I had a New Guinea bean growing at one stage. They grow very long if you leave them, and I remember once walking up the road carrying a bean, and my neighbour saw it and said, ‘that’s not a bean, it’s a baseball bat’,” Alan laughed.

Alan’s most challenging vegetable to grow is the little-known cucamelon.

“It’s a Mexican gherkin. I didn’t like that one very much,” Alan said.

“For the past few years, I’ve also been growing the chia plant.”

At first glance, Alan’s chia plant does not look particularly appealing, but it produces an edible seed that is known for its nutrients.

“You just rub your fingers on the dried flower head and all of the seeds fall off, ready to eat,” Alan said.

Alan also produces his own mulch and worm castings.

“I find gardening very relaxing, and it means I’m doing something useful and productive with my time,” Alan said.

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Gardening brings community for Greg

Woman in garden with her dog

Some people garden for fun, for exercise or to keep their surroundings neat and tidy. For Greg, gardening has meant so much more.

For years, public housing tenant Greg, has nurtured his magnificent garden at his home in Morayfield, a haven of birdlife, flowers, vegetables and garden projects which he has created with his support workers Sally and Lilly.

Greg suffered a major head injury in a car accident many years ago, but this hasn’t stopped him from living a full life in his community.

Gardening has been a part of Greg’s life since he was young, growing up on a farm. Since then he has worked and volunteered as a landscaper in many organisations.

When Greg realised that a gardening club for people with a disability didn’t exist, Greg and his support worker Lilly decided to start their own. The gardening club has been running at the Caboolture Special School for almost 2 years, and through this, Greg has inspired and educated many young students

It was important for Greg to have a place where you weren’t judged, and he has created this through the garden club. Every fortnight students gather at the school to create gardening projects together and create community. Through the process he has inspired many young people with a disability and helped them realise that anything is possible.

Greg says the best thing about gardening is planting seeds and watching the plants grow.

“I like to give back to nature and my community,” says Greg.

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Housing help brings freedom and flowers

Woman in garden with her dog

When Jo was living in a nursing home because of an Airforce accident, she was just living. But 18 years ago, when she moved into her home in Ipswich, she made a life, and this brought her freedom and flowers.

One of Jo’s favourite places in her home is her garden. Filled with beautiful and multi-coloured roses, it is easy to see that this space brings her a lot of joy.

“I love roses”, said Jo. “When I was growing up we were not allowed to plant roses and now that I’m in my own place, I can plant whatever flowers I like.”

“When I was in a nursing home, I couldn’t have a garden and I couldn’t have my dogs with me, so when I got into this home, it changed my life.”.

“This place has brought me freedom and my garden brings me so much peace and enjoyment”, said Jo.

With the help of the department’s occupational therapists, Jo was able to have her home modified to suit her needs, with lower benchtops, lower oven, a pulley system and a higher toilet to accommodate her wheelchair.

Jo moves around her home with ease but loves spending a lot of time in her garden, especially in the lead up to the My Home Awards. Jo enjoys the competition, not just for the pleasure of gardening, but for the social interaction at the awards ceremony.

“The My Home Awards are great, they give you a chance to get out, talk to fellow tenants and see what other people are doing in their gardens, the ceremony is really lovely”, Jo said.

Jo is looking forward to this year’s My Home Awards and will be on track with the supervision from her two German Shepherds, ICE and Finn.

“These two keep me company and love being outdoors while I’m in the garden. I’m really looking forward to this year’s My Home Awards”, said Jo.

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Lyn’s life-changing volunteering experience

Meet Lyn, a public housing tenant and volunteer who is making a big difference in her community.

Lyn volunteers one day a week at the Riding for Disabled centre on the Gold Coast where she teaches children how to ride horses.

Lyn became a volunteer after a bout of depression and says volunteering helped her through a really difficult time.

“I was isolated, I didn’t get out and visit friends much,” Lyn says. “A friend suggested I help out at the riding school, and I loved it.”

“Being there made me feel needed and lifted me out of the depression because I was fulfilling a role. If I didn’t do that I would be sitting at home whereas going there, I’ve got friends, the kids, the horses.”

Not only has volunteering helped Lyn, but her work also helps others.

“Being with the horses and helping the kids was amazing because you see the changes that happen. Some of these kids say their first words when they’re on a horse. It’s such a buzz.”

Lyn says that anyone can volunteer, and you don’t need specific skills or abilities.

“You make lots of friends, and you learn a lot. Volunteering is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Find out about volunteer opportunities in your area by visiting the Volunteering Queensland website.

Find out more about TenantConnect.

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Duration 00:01:41 |

I went through an episode of depression because I was isolated, I didn’t get out and visit friends much.

I ended up having to go through intensive therapy, and the lady who was doing that with me suggested that I find something to volunteer at.

One of my friends knew about Riding for Disabled and I loved it.

Being with the horses and helping the kids was amazing because you see the changes that happen. Some of these kids say their first words when they’re on a horse. It’s a real buzz.

Our little centre is very much family orientated. Being there made me feel needed and lifted me out of the depression because I was fulfilling a role. If I didn’t do that I’d be sitting at home, whereas being out there I’ve got friends out there, you know, the kids the horses.

Volunteering is the best thing that has ever happened to me. There’s many different types of volunteering out there, you don’t have any qualifications because we actually teach you on the job.

You meet lots of friends along the way, and you learn a lot.

100% it’ll change your life.

New neighbours become good friends

Julie and Lynn drinking coffee together Six months ago, Julie and Lyn didn’t live near each other or know each other. But after meeting at Bilin Place, a new social housing complex in Beenleigh, the two have forged a strong friendship.

Julie and Lyn both downsized from three-bedroom houses to one-bedroom units, offering them the opportunity to get to know their neighbours.

“Lyn and I got on right from the start,” Julie said.

“When I was living in a house, I was cut off from neighbours, but now that I live in a unit complex, I’ve met other tenants and made friends, so we can help each other out.”

“Lyn is a great friend, she makes me laugh and she’s down to earth,” Julie said.

With Neighbour Day on Sunday 31 March, Lyn believes a good neighbour is someone friendly you can call on for help.

“Julie and I met in the lifts, soon after moving in, and just began talking. We got on very well,” said Lyn.

“She is a lovely lady and has offered me containers for the freezer and other pantry items to help me since moving in.”

“We have lots of fun together and share lots of laughs,” said Lyn.

The theme for this year’s Neighbours Day is Loneliness – what neighbours can do to create connections. Julie and Lyn have both found the benefit of creating these connections, enjoying cuppas, chats and going to the shops together.

“This isn’t just a complex but a community,” Julie said.

“Get to know your neighbours and do little acts of kindness for them if they need some help.”

“We know some of our neighbours have been unwell, so we check in on them to make sure they are fine, and they really appreciate it,” said Lyn.

Julie and Lyn are both enjoying their move to the new complex and the opportunities for new friendships it has bought them.

Find out about other tips on being a good neighbour at the Neighbour Day website.

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