DFA continues to work with Defence, DHA and Toll across several key advocacy areas when it comes to housing for Defence families.
In previous years DFA has reported that families living in the northern suburbs of Adelaide have expressed concerns for their safety and have requested the fitting of security screens and sensor lighting to their DHA homes. DFA advocacy resulted in Defence retrofitting security screens on hundreds of homes in the location.
Families in this region, and several others around the country have also expressed concern for their safety in their homes in the past year. In some posting locations the requirement for security screens for external and accessible windows only provides for deadlocks and not security screens. All Service Residences currently have security screens on external doors.
Defence are expanding their retrofitting program for the remaining homes to be fitted with security screens in Adelaide. In addition, security screens (external windows) will now be included in the Services Agreement with DHA in the list of inclusions required of a Service Residence to meet the minimum Defence standards.
The Director of Relocations and Housing will shortly process a Contract Change Proposal to the Service Agreement to ensure all new homes are fitted with the additional security screens on the windows.
Families continue to tell DFA about the importance of access to reliable and reasonably priced internet. There are several components to this issue. Firstly, this is not listed in policy as a standard inclusion for Defence homes.
Secondly, the time lags in the delivery of the NBN are creating gaps in provision. For example, in a new housing development, Telstra is unlikely to pay for hardware to deliver the internet while waiting for the NBN to be connected.
NBN will not be connected unless the number of homes is 100 or more. As some of DHA’s housing developments are less than 100 homes, this has created a gap in delivery.
Thirdly, in some locations there are limited ports at the Telstra exchange for access. When a Defence member moves out of a location, their port access is returned to the general pool of availability rather than remaining allocated to a Defence home.
DFA has advocated for a Defence standard in policy for internet connectivity in DHA homes. Defence understand the importance of this issue and are investigating options.
The greatest comment that families make in relation to housing is that of location. Particularly when housing is located on the fringes of a community in a lower-socio-economic area, it can result in the following:
- Reduced security, with families in several locations around the country asking if security screens could be a standard inclusion.
- Being housed in the catchment for lower performing schools. Schools are generally abiding very strictly to their catchment boundaries so the opportunity to enrol in another school is seen as limited or not available, leaving families with a sense of being trapped and their children’s education suffering.
- Being housed in a catchment where there are not enough Defence children in the local school yet for it to be eligible for a Defence School Transition Aide or Mentor.
- Being separated from other Defence families if housing is scattered rather than being in clusters, affecting connectedness within the Defence community of that region. Connectedness is also affected when housing is located far enough away from the base that it’s not seen as a worthwhile place at which to socialise.
- Having to invest in a second car when public transport is limited or non-existent.
- Limited access to partner employment.
In June 2017 DFA attended a seminar on the future of Defence housing which brought together all of the stakeholders who have an interest in the housing of our Defence members and their families. This seminar was extremely beneficial to discuss issues such as the location of housing and its impact. DFA did, and will continue to advocate for, the careful planning of the location of our housing into the future.
Defence are currently investigating the feasibility of running a trial, which will offer more housing options, in one of the regional locations where DFA has identified that housing location is negatively affecting families.
As a direct result of DFA sharing the concerns of families posted to Puckapunyal in 2017 with then Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Dan Tehan, Defence is conducting a three year housing trial in the area. During the trial members will be able to reject a suitable offer of a Service Residence in the Puckapunyal Military Area based on: a. spouse/partner employment b. spouse/partner study c. access to professional support for recognised dependants with special needs. Members posted to the Puckapunyal Military Area will be required to seek approval from their gaining Commanding Officer for an extension of a posting location prior to considering the rejection of a suitable offer of a Service residence.
DFA will be monitoring this trial to see if this level of housing flexibility assists families with their employment, study and special needs requirements. DFA welcomes feedback from families on the trial.
Families here in Australia have raised the desire to operate a home business but commented on the cost of moving it in comparison to how much the business actually earns (particularly if it has not reached a taxable income level).
As a result of DFA advocacy, Defence will establish a working group to assess the feasibility of offering financial assistance to move a home-based business.