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July 28, 2021

Forum to address housing emergency, March 8

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A grassroots movement is bringing women, community and art together on International Women’s Day (March 8) in an urgent push to solve the local housing emergency. 

Hosted by the Byron Community Centre, the event at the Byron Theatre will start at 3pm and also features an art installation from 2pm. 

Key members of the Women’s Village Collective: Alison Crook, Cassandra Sheppard, Sama Balson, Dionne Pann and Patricia Grace. Yuri Matsuura and John McKenna are Zoomed in on the laptop. The group is focusing on medium-and long- term housing solutions for women. Photo Jeff Dawson

An installation of hundreds of dresses will represent the area’s homeless women and will be on display in the theatre.

Currently, hundreds of local women and their children are living with, or facing, homelessness owing to the rapid changes in the housing market. 

New collective 

Presented by the newly formed Women’s Village Collective, the forum will bring together key stakeholders from local government and organisations in a panel to discuss creative solutions to the housing crisis for women. 

MC Mandy Nolan will join Local Futures’ founder Helena Norberg-Hodge, who will address the forum. 

Women’s Village Collective founder, Sama Balson, said, ‘Back in August, I heard about a woman who was rejected from a rental property because she had a baby. 

‘I could not turn away from the situation facing so many women, mothers and the elderly placed in vulnerable situations. 

‘Who are we as a community, if we cannot house women and their babies, or our elders? 

‘I put a call out on social media for people who wanted to come together to help create solutions for safe, secure housing for women’.

She says that after six months – and many hundreds of conversations and meetings later – the Women’s Village Collective has become a movement of over 1,000 local women, actively working with key organisations seeking solutions, innovation and creative opportunities for women to create equity and security. 

‘We’re a network of women actively working with key stakeholders in the area to find real, lasting and immediate solutions. 

‘Many of the women in the group are living with insecure housing right now’, Sama said.

Call to community

‘We are calling on all aspects of our local community who can be part of the solution – organisations, professionals, philanthropists, developers, land-owners, homeowners, companies and community members. 

‘We all have the opportunity and responsibility to solve this issue so that we may all thrive together in this community’, she said. 

Inaugural roundtable meetings, organised by Women’s Village Collective, were attended by One Roof Byron, Byron Shire Council, Northern Rivers Community Foundation, Country Women’s Association, The Family Centre, independent developers, The Shift Project, The Greens, North Coast Community Housing and other stakeholders. 

The process of identifying immediate, medium-term and long-term housing solutions for women has begun.

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  1. Is it appropriate to have a Federal Greens candidate hosting this? Seems like it will immediately narrow the group of people who will attend as it will likely be seen as a partisan exercise.


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