By Dr Heather Holst, Commissioner for Residential Tenancies. 

In February I travelled to Morwell and met with staff from Quantum Support Services and the Latrobe Health Advocate.

Quantum Support Services is the local Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program service provider funded by Consumer Affairs Victoria to provide renters with information, referral services and assistance with preparing for and attending hearings at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

The Quantum staff most generously gave me their time to talk about tenancy issues in the outer Gippsland area. Our discussions were wide-ranging covering topics such as community housing, rooming houses, caravan parks, property conditions, minimum standards, and family violence.

I also met the new Latrobe Health Advocate, Jane Anderson, who was appointed in May 2018. Jane’s role is like mine in that she is an independent source of advice to the Victorian Government on policy and systems issues. While my focus is renters anywhere in Victoria, Jane is concerned with the health and wellbeing of communities in the Latrobe Valley.

As we are both relatively new to our roles, we discussed the opportunities and challenges we face and the excitement we share at the privilege of being able to advocate on behalf of Victorians.

One of the most important topics we discussed was the critical role that safe and secure housing has in supporting good mental health. My submission on the terms of reference for the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health echoed this view, emphasising the importance of the interactions between housing and support options for people with a mental illness.