Victimisation of the Martin family

August 6, 1997

By Michael Bramwell

PERTH — According to an Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT) decision on July 25, the eviction of the Aboriginal Martin family by WA state housing agency "Homeswest" was not a case of racial victimisation. A look at the facts indicates otherwise.

Joan Martin and her extended family were evicted from their Perth home on June 17 after "numerous" complaints from neighbours to Homeswest about the family's conduct. According to the EOT, "the principle cause of her eviction was the overcrowding brought about by the troubled domestic circumstances of her children and she lost her home largely because she tried to assist them".

Martin, out of compassion and for cultural reasons, had taken in her three children and their respective children after Homeswest failed to find them appropriate accommodation. A "respectable" home life can be difficult to maintain when 16 people, mainly children, have to make do with a three-bedroom house. Adding to their despair was the death of Joan Martin's son just days before the eviction.

Other neighbours reported that the Martins had been driven out by prejudice. The EOT dismissed this and Aboriginal Medical Service worker Betsy Buchanan's claim that statements made by senior Homeswest officers indicated their wish to exclude Aboriginal tenants.

The EOT also ruled that Homeswest had not victimised Martin when it offered her a house in the regional Nyconger community of Cullacabardee. She refused the house because she is a Yamarji and did not want to cause cultural rifts in Cullacabardee.

Homeswest has walked away with a light rap on the knuckles for some "procedures" that the tribunal recommended be changed. In the meantime, the agency has still not found homes for the Martins who are now dependent on friends and other relatives for accommodation.

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