Imagine this. An eight-year old girl returns home from school to her mum. Her bag is laden with homework, the short walk is a hot and sweltering one.
Her mum – who is six months pregnant – joyously awaits the return of her daughter.
They jump into the family car.
But this is where things turn unusual. This is where the scene differs from what plays out across hundreds of thousands of homes across Australia.
Because next, the eight-year-old girl spreads the car’s windows with towels to give herself some privacy while she does her maths and spelling.
This is her home.
This mother and daughter live in a car in the suburbs of Perth and have done so since the beginning of January.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday on the 28-year-old mother and daughter who have made a 1996 Holden Commodore their home.
During the week, they park the car near a children’s playground close to the eight-year-old girl’s primary school.
The small family lost their home when their landlord sold the property they were living in.
Her mother previously worked as a healthcare professional but suffers a debilitating neurological illness that meant she couldn’t continue to work and was unable to rent another home.
She told The Sunday Times that she moved into a relative’s house after she lost hers, but had a falling out with the relative after the man she became pregnant to left her.
It’s a common tale – an unexpected pregnancy, a couple breaking up, a family falling out – but surely it shouldn’t end up with a pregnant woman and a little girl living in a major car in a major Australian city?
The Sunday Times reports that:
Their clothes and toiletries are neatly sorted in small boxes in the car’s boot, along with a supermarket basket of food and a few toys.
They use the toilets at a McDonalds restaurant, shower at the school and buy takeaway meals with some of the $700 in benefits she receives each fortnight.
“My daughter sleeps on the back seat, I sleep on the front passenger seat lent back,” the woman, who The Sunday Times has chosen not to name, said.
“At first she thought it was fun. It was just like a little camp-out for her. I honestly didn’t think it was going to take this long to get help.”
This summer in Perth has been a scorcher – we all remember the bush fires that razed the Perth Hills. The national media’s attention turned towards the city at that time, but what no one ever noticed was the mother and her daughter in this car — with no air-conditioning in the northeastern Perth suburb.
The mother told the newspaper that she had tried to get assistance but has been rejected for priority public housing.
A local MP, West Swan’s Labor MLA Rita Saffioti told The Sunday Times that the mother has approached eight refuges for accommodation over the past nine weeks.
None were able to help her as they were either full or she did not match criteria (namely being a domestic violence victim).
The situation has gotten bogged down in politics with Bill Marmion, the WA Housing Minister, saying the woman did not qualify for priority assistance, as she had other housing options available to her.
From The Sunday Times:
“In this case, the Department of Housing have offered help with bond money. However, it is my understanding that this help has been rejected.
“It is also important to note that an applicant for priority status must have ‘no other viable housing options, but public rental housing’.”
The mother told the newspaper that she was afraid of getting back into debt.
The article continues with the Minister for Child Protection Helen Morton saying: “The Department for Child Protection and Family Support has provided Ms X with referrals to accommodation services on numerous occasions, which she has chosen to decline.
“I am seeking further information on why these options of either long-term or temporary accommodation were unsuitable to Ms X.”
However, the woman yesterday insisted: “I have not declined any accommodation. I have not been offered any accommodation.”
But surely it is time to put politics aside and just get this mother, her daughter and her unborn baby in a stable home.
Anyone in Perth who can assist is urged to call the office of Rita Saffioti on (08) 92483822.