Eighteen social housing tenants have just graduated from a new City of Sydney and TAFE NSW course designed to improve conflict resolution skills and teach community leadership.
One of them is Charlotte Dobrovits who has lived in Redfern’s troubled McKell Tower for nine years and been a tenant representative for three years.
Ms Dobrovits advocates for the rights of fellow tenants and offers support to her neighbours, including older people and those affected by domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse.
She said the two-day course taught her how to build rapport, deal with conflict and establish a connection in what could sometimes be difficult circumstances.
“We have a lot of anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol and mental health issues and domestic violence so we get the whole gamut,” Ms Dobrovits said.
“We just needed the skills to be able to handle situations without being aggressive but being assertive and also [know] how to judge when someone has a drug psychosis or mental health issues.”
She said the course helped her set boundaries when dealing with people and was particularly ideal for inexperienced and younger tenant representatives elected after recent Neighbourhood Advisory Board elections.
“Understanding and knowing what to say increased my confidence, self-esteem and professionalism – and also the ability to tackle sticky situations with grace and ease.”
Ms Dobrovits said she loved her community and would never leave it: “I grew up on Sydney’s North Shore but I would not go back now, not in a million years. There’s so much to do and I love the people. That’s what makes me stay.
Sydney Mayor Clover Moore said the program aimed to create more cohesive and harmonious communities across City of Sydney.
The council has one of the largest concentrations of social housing properties of any local council in Australia with more than 9,700 properties.
“It’s great to see this diverse group of graduates refine their communication skills and gain confidence in resolving conflicts, public speaking and participation in community meetings,” Ms Moore said.
“These valuable skills will help them become leaders in their communities and be actively involved in decision making and I congratulate all our graduates for taking part.”
The graduates were from Redfern, Camperdown, Woolloomooloo and Surry Hills.
The council already does a lot of work with social housing tenants.
It is the only local government in Australia to employ a dedicated social housing liaison officer and delivers and supports a range of community projects in partnership with state government and non-government agencies.
These include the Redlink integrated service hub in Redfern, local community safety audits and annual events such as the Northcott Pet Day in Surry Hills, Summer on the Green in Waterloo and Redfern Neighbourhood Day.