Better Start Report – High rise study listens to mothers’ concerns and finds opportunities for a safer future.

A report into the experiences and concerns of mothers and families in high-rise public housing in Victoria was launched today by Better Health Network (BHN) and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

The Better Start Report shares the research findings on the experiences of mothers living in the State’s high-rise public housing and provides recommendations for changes that focus on accessibility and safety for women and children.

Just over 6 months after the Victorian Government announced the retirement and overhaul of all public housing towers across the state, Better Start collates the lived experiences of families in public housing and provides recommendations to improve the Victorian public housing system, focusing on; prioritising gender-sensitive design, integrating place-based initiatives, and working in partnership with families experiencing compounding vulnerability.

The Better Start Report highlights that children living in public housing are more likely to be exposed to conditions that adversely impact their health and well-being during the crucial first 1000 days of development.

This is the first time mothers in public housing have been consulted about how their living environment affects their health and wellbeing.

“Mothers’ voices are usually unheard. We keep our mouths shut to keep our kids out of harm’s way” said a mother from the Park Towers in South Melbourne.

Amanda Murphy, Executive Director of Business Enablement and acting CEO of BHN, said the research is perfectly timed to enable the voice of mothers and their families to be heard in planning the future of Victoria’s public housing.

“Recognising the importance of the first 1000 days in children’s lives, our goal was to enhance our understanding and make a positive impact on the lives of families in public housing,” she said.

“As gender-based violence is a growing issue, these findings provide an opportunity to policymakers to make a tangible difference in the lives of some of our mothers and improve the living arrangements, and health and wellbeing outcomes for women and children,” she said.

This is a chance for Victoria to lead the world and focus on the needs of women and children in housing and service design.

“The report highlights that we need to accelerate efforts to improve the living conditions in public housing to ensure that children have the best opportunity to reach their full potential and that women are safe,” she said.

Key findings of the study showed mothers are deeply concerned about:

  • Violence and unpredictable behaviour in common areas
  • Their children becoming desensitised to the display of violent behaviours and drug taking
  • Unsafe lifts and communal areas in which they are subjected to violence and a wide range of abuse
  • Unmonitored areas like laundries becoming locations for violence, drug taking, and unauthorised entry

“The perspectives of the women who shared their experiences must be integrated into current and future public housing. If we can make it safe for women, we can make it safe for everyone” Ms Murphy said.

To view the Report click here.