On the Sunny Side of the Street: Changing Lives at Wominjeka Apartments


“It’s hard to think of a more appropriate song for the occasion,” said Frank O’Connor, Chair of the PPHA.

“It was the first day of summer and a gloriously sunny day. More to the point, these attractive, high quality apartments offer homes and optimistic futures to more than 60 people in great need.

“Of the new tenants 57% came off the DHHS waiting list for public housing. In total 55% rely on a pension or benefit. A further 8% are living on a combination of part-pension and wages and the remainder of tenants are key workers on low wages.

 “We salute the project managers, RCP, Hacer the builders and Metaxas Architects for making the most of a challenging, triangular site.”

Danny Pearson MP, the Member for Essendon, officially opened the community housing development and announced its name – Wominjeka Apartments.

“Wominjeka means ‘welcome’ in Woiwurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people, and these community housing units are certainly welcome in Essendon where affordable housing is in extremely short supply,” he said.

The winning name was proposed by Rosanna Jamieson in a PPHA tenants’ competition and Rosanna received a $100 Coles voucher as a prize.

Mr Pearson said that the waiting time for Early Housing had blown out by 54%, to 10.8 months, and the Segment 1 waiting list had jumped 275% in four years under the previous government.

“What we also know is that the State Government alone won’t be able to turn it around. While we’ve invested a significant $180 million in new housing initiatives in our first budget, we need to harness the community housing sector’s experience and capabilities and in partnership, help fix that problem.

“The new building we’re opening today ticks all the boxes when it comes to providing modern, affordable housing. All 60 apartments are built to allow for disability modifications, if that becomes necessary, which will help tenants to ‘age-in-place’. And the building itself is centrally placed, close to services, jobs and public transport.

“And visually, I have to say I’m quite impressed - it’s a pretty stunning building which shows just how important clever design can be.”

Moonee Valley Mayor, Andrea Surace, who also spoke at the opening said that the lack of affordable housing in Moonee Valley was a serious issue.

“To better understand the experiences and extent of affordable housing issues in our municipality and determine appropriate responses, we commissioned the City of Moonee Valley Affordable Housing Background Research Paper in 2012,” she said.

“It told us in chapter and verse that there is a mismatch between the size of the dwelling stock and the size of the households. Our households are shrinking but dwellings aren’t. Housing costs more to buy or rent than in neighbouring municipalities and no low income household can afford to purchase homes in Moonee Valley.

“Only a limited share of social housing stock is suitable for people with a disability identifies accessible and adaptable housing stock as a high priority. I am delighted to learn that some of the units here in Wominjeka Apartments are wheelchair accessible and the remainder adaptable to suit tenants needs over their life course.”

The $20.8 million development consists of 38 one bedroom and 22 two bedroom units, over five levels, with 59 car parking spaces in the double basement.

A Life Changer: Anne Bonnano

Anne Bonnano Wominjeka Apartments opening 2sm

 “Community housing is a life changer. Before, we were existing - now we are living.” That’s the conclusion of Anne Bonanno who has just moved into Wominjeka Apartments with   Graeme Billinghurst.

Anne, 57, is the carer of seventy-year old Graeme, who has mobility and myriad other health problems. They spent three years cramped into an Office of Housing bedsit in Moonee Ponds.

“We were promised a bigger unit in six months but three years later we were still there. I had to sleep on the fold-out couch – no wonder I’ve got a sore back,” she said.

“I contacted Wintringham Housing and was put in touch with PPHA. We were fortunate to move into the Mount Alexander Road apartments within a month.

“I never thought we’d live in a location like this. This place is beautiful and the tram is right across the road which is great for going to the Royal Melbourne for medical appointments. The shops are nearby.”


I've Fallen On My Feet: Graham Willoughby

Graham Willoughby Wominjeka Apartments opening 7sm

“After 15 years on the Office of Housing waiting list, I’ve fallen on my feet,” said 73 year old Graham Willoughby. Graham, who has variously worked as a cartographer, cleaner and furniture salesperson, is now a professional artist.

He used to rent the back of a 1940s’ house with a bathroom whose tiles had fallen off and a landlord who refused to fix anything. He had to step into a bath to have a shower which increasingly became a problem as he suffers from ankle, knee and back problems and now has lupus.

“Two months ago the Office of Housing told me they’d transferred me to the PPHA list and I have to admit I was sceptical. However, I had an interview with Trang, the tenancy worker, and said yes to the first apartment I walked into.

“It’s fabulous. It’s full of light with wonderful views of Melbourne to the northwest. It’s comfortable and secure. The shower is a dream. I am astounded at the quality of the fittings and the size of the apartment. My only complaint is that the garden I’m creating on my balcony isn’t growing fast enough.”