‘Please help us’: Young public housing tenants ask for a space of their own

Petition organiser Mubarek Imam. All pictures by Ke Zhang.

By KE ZHANG

The City of Yarra is considering building a youth space in Richmond, after a petition started by young public housing residents called for greater support networks and better access to services.

Petition organiser Mubarek Imam said there was no space for young people in the area, and any essential services were some distance away.

“What they have at the moment is a basketball court, and what they do there is just playing basketball, maybe soccer one day, and then they just spend nights, sitting in the bench, doing nothing,” he said.

“Young people don’t have any support at all. All the support is from somewhere else, so why not have something in this area?” His petition gathered 102 signatures. 

City of Yarra Mayor Daniel Nguyen, 29, who previously lived in Richmond public housing,  said young people wanted “a space they could have some ownership over”.      

“I think the space would have a huge benefit … where young people can gather, where young people can feel at home, where they can access all these different services from a central location,” Cr Nguyen said. 

Yarra Mayor Daniel Nguyen said a space for young people would encourage community engagement.

The council was in consultation with “a number of people” in the hope of finding a space and funding for the project, he said. 

Living in public housing could be challenging, with people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, and with many not having the financial resources to move elsewhere, he said. 

“It’s really important that council tries to assist where we can.”

Research from Australian Bureau of statistics showed that 40.9 per cent of residents in Richmond had both parents born overseas while only 38 per cent of both their parents born in Australia. 

Richmond resident Semir Imam, 19, said he strongly supported the proposal and that young people in the area were in desperate need of guidance.

Semir Imam said young people desperately needed guidance.

“I want the council to provide the space because most of the teenagers, like me, they’ve got nothing to do and are just walking around the street. I think they need a little bit of help, from the council, for the future,” Mr Imam said.

Left to wander the streets, teenagers were often exposed to substance abuse, violence and drunken behaviour, he said. The space could help build futures for those most vulnerable.   

“[The space] would help us a lot with our future, maybe one day, your never know, the kids might be a professional soccer player, one of them might be the professional basketball player, someone might be a teacher, professor, we never know and we are hoping for the best.”

Richmond public housing has a strongly multicultural community.

 

Mubarek Imam said the space would also provide much needed services for disadvantaged youth.

“[Teenagers] don’t have somebody to look after them from the council or the governments, yeah, they have housing, but they need services because these people are disadvantaged, they come from a low-income family and they need more support than others.”

He said many residents currently traveled up to 30 minutes to receive essential services and were in serious need of “security and stability”.

“Now [young residents] can have the assistance for education, connect with other organisations, have mental health support and also find a job,” Mr Imam said. 

“This is just the start to make the young people feel there is somebody taking care of you, like somebody is going to listen to you … to have someone to look up to and say ‘Oh, this person can take care of us.’ That is the plan.”