Tenant stories


Community connections

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.

Juleen’s creative passions helps her road to recovery

Portrait of Juleen in her homeBeenleigh social housing tenant Juleen suffers severe rheumatoid arthritis, but she doesn’t sing the blues – she prefers country music.

“I enjoy singing songs by Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and some older rock and roll tunes,” Juleen said.

For many years Juleen has sung at various clubs in south east Queensland with a live band backing her up. She said there’s no better feeling than being on stage.

“It makes you feel good, and you make other people feel good,” she said.

Juleen hasn’t performed recently because she’s undergone a hip replacement. She moved into her Beenleigh unit just before the operation.

“The housing staff helped me find a property that was suitable for a wheelchair – I use one on occasions now but down the track I will need to use one full-time,” she said.

“My unit has disability features like wider doorways, a lower sink, an oven door that opens out and a walk-in shower.”

“It’s a very nice unit and it’s in a really good location because my doctors are located in Beenleigh and it’s close to the shops.”

Although Juleen is concentrating on recovering from her operation and trying to improve her arthritis, she is planning her return to the stage. For Juleen, keeping her mind active is a must.

“When I’m ready to perform again, I think I’ll have a go at some new songs,” she said.

“When you are not well, you need to focus on something, it’s therapeutic.”

Juleen’s passion for arts and crafts is helping to keep her mind active as she recovers from her surgery.

Over the years, she has enjoyed beaded jewellery making, card making, hand embroidery, cake decorating and more recently, wood burning art.

“I’ve been enjoying wood burning art and I’ve made some signs and plaques for friends.”

“Everyone loved it,” Juleen said.

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.”

Keeping connections during COVID-19

For Toowoomba public housing tenant, Nora, COVID-19 hasn’t changed things too much for her.

“I still go for a walk in the morning and say hello to the neighbours along the way and I still catch a bus into town to get my groceries or get a lift from the neighbours if they offer.”

“I haven’t been worried or upset about the restrictions. I love my home and I’ve made it a nice and comfortable place,” said Nora.

Jigsaws, cleaning, gardening and walking is how Nora has been spending her time during COVID-19.

“I’ve just started a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle filled with animals, birds and butterflies and I’m planning to get out in the garden and plant some new plants in Spring.”

“I have a little garden out the back and I like to spend time there and keep it looking nice,” said Nora.

One thing Nora has missed during COVID-19 is her volunteer work at YellowBridge charity shop in Toowoomba every Saturday morning.

“I have some wonderful friends I’ve met through the volunteer work. When I work there, I teach a young person with a disability how to use the cash register.”

“I love being with people and giving something, and if I get something back, it’s bonus. It’s all about giving, caring and sharing” said Nora.

Nora said she’s looking forward to getting back to her Saturday work when she can, but for now, she’s keeping her community connections with her neighbours, family and Housing Service Centre staff.

“My daughter will pop around to give me a lift to the shops if I need and the neighbours are lovely and will help out too.”

“I also had a visit from Simon from the Toowoomba Housing Service Centre recently and it’s always nice to see him,” said Nora.

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.

Mark’s home creates positive change and purpose

Mark sitting outside on the balcony of his unit with carer.

Moving to Mount Gravatt has helped go-getter and public housing tenant, Mark, realise his goals and given him a greater sense of purpose.

From his home, Mark is carving out the next exciting chapter in his life, studying at university, connecting with friends and turning his keen interest in computers into a business.

“I’m halfway through a Master of Cybersecurity Systems,” he says.

“I’d been wanting to go back to uni for a while and I built up the motivation and did it, and I’m really enjoying it.

“Moving to this place has allowed me to study again and has given me a purpose in life.”

Mark has a degenerative condition which means that he is no longer able to use his arms or legs and uses a wheelchair to mobilise.

“Living in Mount Gravatt means that it only takes about 10 minutes to get to uni now,” he says.

“My old place was just too far away. It would take me two and a half hours to travel to uni and my friends would complain about the distance.

“Moving to my home in Mount Gravatt has brought me many positive changes.”

Mark had previously lived in the area for 35 years.

“It’s good to be back – I feel at home and like the sense of community connection,” he says.

“And now my mates are always coming over!”

For Mark, his unit is more than just a place to relax.

“I like living here,” he says.

“I’m set up in the second bedroom with my computer so I can study, work on my computer business and even have clients visit.

“It’s also nice to be able to just go out on the balcony, and with the tree coverage it feels really private.

“The unit is in a pretty good location, here you’re close to the shops, so we can pop out for a coffee or even head to the pub for lunch.”

In Mount Gravatt, Mark is close to the services he needs – from doctors to his care company.

“Having my mates close by really helps too and I know I can always rely on them,” Mark says.

“I wouldn’t mind if there were a few extra coffee shops around though!” he smiles.

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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Growing up in the garden

Ella with her mum Sarah, and her sisters kneeling by their vegie patch.

Young Ella’s favourite plant is parsley. Along with their mum Sarah, Ella and her sisters have been growing the humble herb in their vegie patch.

The Toowoomba family love spending time in the garden together, exploring and tending to their plants.

Their garden is full of treasures—a white-flowered climber given to them by their Nanna, a good supply of strawberries and blueberries, the aroma of lavender and little Isabella’s friends—the snails!

The radish and cucumbers that have recently sprouted came from My Home Awards seed packs.

“We’ve also produced peas, tomato, eggplants and carrots to use in our cooking,” Sarah said.

“I often put the Nasturtium flowers in a salad. But the only vegie the girls really like to eat is corn,” Sarah laughed.

Learning about growing and cooking vegetables at home has also helped Christina at school.

“I received an A in Home Economics,” Christina proudly revealed.

The family have entered their garden in the My Home Awards and hope to continue to nurture their plants for several years yet.

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Disaster produces creative gardening ideas

Cherrie in her garden holding her small dog

When Townsville public housing tenant, Cherrie, saw the inside of her home ankle-deep in water during the flood event earlier this year, she was devastated.

“It came so quickly; the SES and the army came to help but it was too late. The only things we saved were some dog toys and the clothes on our back,” Cherrie said.

Nothing much survived in Cherrie’s garden, except some ferns which have now been replanted in her front garden, using the sandbags that were left over after the flood event.

“I decided to reuse the sandbags in my garden because I didn’t know what to do with them and I didn’t want to just throw them out.”

“I replanted my ferns and added other plants and got cuttings from my mum and dad.”

“I used to kill plants, but my mum and dad have taught me a lot over the years,” said Cherrie.

Cherrie said she enjoys the department’s My Home Awards because she really enjoys gardening and the awards ceremonies provide an opportunity to get out and to talk to other tenants.

“My garden means everything to me and it’s one of the best things about where I live.”

“I suffer bipolar so gardening gives me something to do and gets me outside,” she said.

“Another great thing about where I live is some of my neighbours. We’ll have chats, everyone likes to talk, and I sometimes cook meals for an elderly neighbour to make sure they are OK,” said Cherrie.

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Making lemonade out of lemons

Perita standing by a lemon tree in her garden

Perlita’s lemonade recipe is simple—squeeze some homegrown lemons, add sugar and plenty of ice, and just keeping stirring!

Perlita and her husband George have lovingly cared for their lemon trees for several years.

“My husband is a bit fragile now, but he’s the boss in the garden; he encourages and guides me, and he’s always saying ‘you can do it’,” Perlita said.

George’s encouragement has paid off. The couple now have a beautiful garden that would be the envy of many.

“It has a very comfortable feel and it makes people happy. The mowing is also great exercise for me!” Perlita said.

The couple are entrants in the House Garden category of the Toowoomba My Home Awards.

“My family are so excited that we won the house garden category.” Perlita laughed.

Landscape view of Perlita's outside garden

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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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Going green in the garden

Elias standing in her kitchen smiling.

For Townsville public housing tenant, Elias, home is much more than just a place, it’s a feeling.

“My home means security to me, somewhere to relax and a place where I can feel comfortable,” said Elias.

“I’ve been homeless before, so I appreciate my home and I think it is wonderful. It’s just the right size and all my housework is done in less than half an hour.”

Having lived in Townsville for many years, Elias says the community and the neighbours are great too.

“My neighbours are fabulous, and this is a great neighbourhood to live in. I love to talk to my neighbours because they are all different and they are all individuals.”

Elias also loves gardening and keeps a balcony garden filled with herbs and vegetables, planted in containers that have been reused. Recycling and reusing are the key themes for the garden.

“I like to recycle and reuse in garden, it’s good for the environment and saves money too.”

“One of my favourite plants I grow is okra. I just love it. If you chop it up and fry it in a pan with some oil, onion, garlic, ginger, and add salt, it’s to die for.”

“You can grow okra from the pod, even when the pods are small, just get the seeds out the middle and you can plant those,” Elias said.

Elias’ tip for budding gardeners who want to grow their own food is to reuse some of the scraps from their fruit and vegetables.

“Start seedlings off in cotton wool with toothpicks and with large seeds like avocado seeds, sit the base in a wad of cotton wool and you can start your own garden.”

“Nothing beats feeling the dirt on your hands,” Elias said.

Growing a family of gardeners


For Logan public housing tenant, Peter, gardening is more than just an enjoyable pastime, it’s his passion.

“The reason I love gardening is that it keeps me fit with a good amount of exercise and it gives me sanity,” says Peter.

Peter has been gardening for many years and now this passion spans three generations of his family, with his mum and daughter also tending their gardens.

“My mum is an avid gardener like I am, and now I’ve got my daughter into gardening. I love discussing gardening, sharing tips and seeing what others are doing,” Peter says.

Peter’s garden includes beautiful flowers as well as edible plants such as mangoes and strawberries.

“The thing I like most about my home is that I’ve got room to grow mangoes and other plants.

I really appreciate that I have a home to be able to do this because not everyone has a roof over their head.

By taking pride in my home, keeping my home neat and tidy and making my garden look good, it’s my way of saying thanks to the department for providing me a home,” says Peter.

Peter has entered the My Home Awards since 2002 and has entered other competitions run by the Logan City Council for many years too.

“I like to show people my garden,” he says.

Peter has plenty of tips for anyone just getting started in their garden.

“Using sugarcane mulch is good for plants as it helps absorb the water, keeps it moist and works as a fertiliser. It will lift your plants and make them look great.

Succulents are also good because they are easy to look after. With people suffering in droughts, we should all look to head towards a succulent garden to become more water-wise.”

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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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At home in the garden

At her Wynnum home, Georgie Suttie has created a sanctuary of tropical plants and birdsong.

Over the years, Georgie has lovingly shaped her garden into a shady oasis of elk horns, ferns, bromeliads and her beloved grevilleas. Her garden is a labour of love which has brought her recognition and accolades in many categories of the department’s My Home Awards. Georgie has been entering the Awards since 1995. She has received commendations in categories including Practical Garden, Communal Garden, Environmentally-friendly Garden and New Garden.

Her front garden is a retreat for local magpies and lorikeets, which she happily feeds every afternoon. Grevilleas - which she planted specifically to attract the birds – take pride of place. Georgie has lived in her home for 37 years and during this time has made significant changes to the garden. Over the years she has landscaped the entire garden herself, digging, creating paths and laying rockery.

“I couldn’t have anyone help me because they wouldn’t do it the right way,” Georgie laughs.

Recently Georgie celebrated her 70th birthday so does less heavy lifting these days, but is still very active in the garden. It’s clear that Georgie’s garden brings her a lot of joy, and it’s a hobby she will continue for years to come.

“It gets me out of bed in the mornings. I just love it.”

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