Colleen Hartland has been the Greens MP in Melbourne’s west since 2006. After growing up in Morwell, Colleen’s commitment to public housing continued through her work at the Older Persons High Rise in Williamstown. Colleen came to prominence as a western suburbs activist in the wake of the Coode Island disaster in the 1990s.
“I grew up in Morwell, and left when I was 17. Dad worked for the SEC and Mum worked for Eriksson. The house was the classic cement sheeting home and Mum and Dad thought it was a palace.
Morwell was a very tight knit community. For us, our neighbours were pivotal. My father spent a lot of time in the local psychiatric hospital because he was bi-polar. The neighbours really looked after my Mum and all of us. Pre-privatisation it was a very vibrant, tight community.
Growing up like that showed me the need for good housing, because without our secure base who knows what could have happened. My parents were able to buy our home, which made a massive difference in their lives and it’s wrong that we don’t have the same pathways to home ownership today.
People slag off public housing, but I’ve lived in it and I’ve worked in it. As a community, people really look out for each other.
So I think young people who live in public housing today should be proud and they should know that they can achieve anything. It will take work, and people will stigmatise you, but be proud of yourself and your community.”