Australia’s oldest women-only rooming house celebrates 49 years of operation

Owned and managed by YWCA, Richmond House was first opened in 1973 and is still the largest women-only rooming house in Australia. Completed in 2010, it underwent renovations to give the building a facelift, refresh the rooms and future-proof its design to fit in with the trendy Richmond area.  

Richmond House offers 69 single bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and shared kitchens, lounge and laundry facilities and outdoor community spaces in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. It’s home to low-income workers, older and disabled women, and women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 45 per cent of our residents have experienced domestic and family violence.  

“I’ve lived at Richmond House for around 20 years now; I feel like I own the place. It gives me the security and the freedom I need. I really like the company and the friendships I’ve made. It’s home.”  

Resident at Richmond House 

YWCA’s newest housing development opens in Bendigo

We are excited to share our most recent development project, Bendigo Affordable Housing.

It was completed in early June 2021 and has already provided 6 women and their families with a home. The five three-bedroom townhouses were architecturally designed by DKO Architecture and built by renowned builder GJ Gardner Homes. The properties were offered to women at below-market rates to give women and their families, including those who have experienced family and domestic violence, an opportunity to secure a safe affordable home.  

According to the latest rental report from the Department of Health and Human Services, rents in regional Victoria have increased by 9.3 per cent in the last twelve months, putting women and their families in the Greater Bendigo Region under increased stress. In an area with a competitive property market, rising rents are making it difficult for women on low incomes to make ends meet or find suitable housing, and we are so pleased our development has a small impact on relieving this pressure.   

One of the development’s residents, Gretel, struggled to find a rental property in Bendigo.   

“I’d applied for a number of places and kept getting turned down. As a young woman and casual worker, it was hard to find somewhere within my budget that would take me. If I hadn’t gotten this place I’d probably be relying on family for a couch or spare room,” she said. 

An update on YWCA governance

Following expert independent advice, YWCA is changing our corporate governance structure.  

To ensure greater synergy and better communication across all YWCA legal entities, we have decided to move to a common board of directors across YWCA Australia, YWCA National Housing, and YWCA Housing. This change is effective as of 1 June 2020. There is no expected impact to members, staff, volunteers or the many community programs and services we run across Australia.  

Kirsty Rourke and Rebecca Thomas, who are currently directors of YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing will be joining the YWCA Australia board. They bring with them valuable housing and commercial knowledge to complement the skills and knowledge already on our board. Helen Conway, who is currently the Chair of the boards of both YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing and will commence as President of the YWCA Australia Board on 1 July has been appointed as well.  

We farewell Anna Draffin, Yien Hong, Sarah Scruby and Tracy Thelander from our housing boards. Their contributions to the growth of YWCA housing operations and increased public visibility of the need for more affordable housing through the recent release of our research report Women’s Housing Needs in Regional Australia have been significant. We thank them for their time, expertise, and passion for improving housing opportunities for women across Australia.  

This change has been made following an independent review of our governance structure by consulting firm RSM Australia. Their recommendation to move to a common board of directors across all YWCA legal entities is designed to improve communication, clarify roles and responsibilities, and assist with reporting to regulators.  

While this may appear to be a significant governance change just two years after the merger of YWCA member associations, this is part of YWCA’s commitment to excellence, improvement and innovation in all areas of our business. While the right decisions were made at merger with the information that was available at the time, two years of operations has clarified how we can further streamline and improve our processes. 

We are confident that our new common board of directors across all YWCA entities will help YWCA continue to deliver essential programs and services to women, young women and girls across Australia for many years to come.  

Media Release: New research reveals homelessness crisis for regional women

Shocking new research has revealed one in eight women living in regional Australia has been homeless in the past five years and one in four has lived in temporary accommodation because they couldn’t afford the private rental market.

The Women’s Housing Needs in Regional Australia report is the first national study into women’s access to safe, affordable housing outside Australia’s capital cities and involved 1039 women living on low to moderate incomes in regional areas.

YWCA National Housing and Property Development Director Jan Berriman said the research highlighted the gross inadequacy of existing stock to meet demand.

“One in eight women reported being homeless in the past five years, and one in four hid their homelessness from others,” Ms Berriman said.

“One in five women personally knew at least one other woman who was currently homeless and two-thirds said homelessness was a growing problem in their communities. More than half of the women in the research worried they could become homeless.”

Women in regional New South Wales most frequently reported being homeless in the past five years (17 per cent), followed by women in regional Victoria (14 per cent) and regional Queensland (12 per cent). South Australia had the lowest number (8 per cent) and the national average was 12 per cent.

Women’s Housing Needs in Regional Australia Summary Research Report

“Women are sacrificing the daily essentials of life to pay their rent or mortgage,” Ms Berriman said. “The research found 30 per cent of women went without meals in the past year to afford their housing costs, and 44 per cent had refrained from heating or cooling their homes for the same reason.”

Ms Berriman said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were at greater risk than nonIndigenous women with nearly one in three (31 percent) experiencing homelessness in the past five years.

“The research found 43 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women had accessed emergency food relief in the past year, compared with 17 per cent of non-Indigenous women, and 15 per cent had lived in their car in the past five years compared with 4 per cent of nonIndigenous women,” she said.

Ms Berriman said the research revealed higher levels of homelessness than previous studies and statistics.

“One quarter of women who had been homeless, either in the past five years or currently, did not share their situation with any family member or friend, reflecting the likelihood of a much higher level of homelessness than previously understood,” Ms Berriman said.

She said numbers of women experiencing homelessness were expected to increase in the aftermath of bushfires, droughts and pandemics like COVID-19 because housing and jobs would be lost and rates of domestic and family violence were likely to increase.

“Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women in Australia, and in regional areas the impacts are even more severe because social services and supports may be limited and strained to start with,” she said.

“We need to urgently double and diversify affordable housing options in regional Australia or face a tsunami of homeless women and children across the country.”

Ms Berriman said the solution required a large-scale response and collaboration amongst private, public and not-for-profit organisations.

“YWCA National Housing is pioneering novel housing solutions that involve partnerships with private operators and build-to-rent projects that provide eligible tenants with options to buy but this study demonstrates we need to do much more to meet demand,” she said.

“Government, philanthropic, corporate and community organisations need to partner to create and increase the supply of social and affordable housing options whilst funding housing support services across the country.”

This research was partially funded by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science through the Building Better Regions Fund Community Investments Stream Round 3.

Find the full report here:

Media Release: Fears of COVID-19 housing crisis for vulnerable families

Australia’s leading national women’s organisation is warning of an impending housing crisis for women and children escaping domestic and family violence during and after the COVID-19 lockdown.

YWCA Director of National Housing and Property Development Jan Berriman said the Federal Government’s COVID-19 pledge of $150 million to support an expected rise in demand for domestic and family violence services was welcomed but it would not go far enough to meet the rising need for safe housing for women and children at risk.

“There was not enough crisis, refuge, social or affordable housing stock to meet demand even before COVID-19,” Ms Berriman said. “With the number of domestic violence cases expected to rise significantly in the coming months, we will see a sharp increase in homelessness and families forced to live in unsuitable crisis accommodation.

“We need urgent action to increase affordable housing stock so women and children escaping violence have access to safe, long term accommodation.”

Ms Berriman said YWCA Australia was calling for a similar investment as the $5 billion 2009 Nation Building stimulus package which provided 20,000 new homes, the majority of which went to social housing.

“There is a huge risk that women will suffer in silence until the COVID-19 crisis has passed,” she warned. “While case workers expect a rise in domestic violence incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the full extent of the need for support and housing would not be known until after the crisis is over.

“We expect the impact to be similar to the bushfires earlier this year where some of our domestic and family violence services were seeing a doubling of serious threat cases after the immediate crisis had passed.

“It is then that they will need access to safe houses, counselling and employment services to get back on their feet and we need to be ready to support them.”

Ms Berriman said women over the age of 55, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, those with disability, LGBTIQA+ young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were particularly vulnerable to homelessness.

She said YWCA’s domestic and family violence services, and domestic violence services by other organisations were still open and available to support women at this time.

Women and homelessness risk:

  • Women over 55 are the fastest growing cohort experiencing homelessness. There has been a 10% increase in homelessness among women since 2011. In particular, the number of older women experiencing homelessness grew 31% from 2011-2016.
  • Lack of long–term affordable housing stock, so that women and children can’t move on from crisis accommodation. 90% of all applications to YWCA National Housing in the first six months of 2019 were unsuccessful due to lack of housing stock.
  • Single women have been priced out of the rental market. A March 2019 Rental Affordability Snapshot showed that there were two affordable private rental properties in Australia at that time, for singles on Newstart.

Women in immediate danger should called Triple Zero (000) and ask for the Police.

People can also call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

COVID-19 Update

Statement from YWCA National Housing

These are uncertain and ever-evolving times for us all. To ensure that our affordable housing remain open and accessible, we have taken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our tenants and staff. This includes increased hygiene measures for face to face support and within our houses, and added telephone support.

We ask that if you are displaying any cold or flu symptoms, to please call ahead. We may be able to help you over the phone and reduce any risk of transmission to help keep everyone safe.

Things are likely to change over coming weeks and months as the situation escalates. We promise that we will keep you updated on any changes to our housing services.

Information for our tenants

We know that our tenants are amazing women in close-knit communities who will look after each other during this crisis. We encourage our tenants to practice social distancing to reduce the risk of transmission, but to remember that being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. Check in on each other, and stay safe and well.

Per previous correspondence sent to each tenant, we ask that you notify us immediately if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been required to self-isolate after contact with a confirmed case. This helps us to help you!

Access to supermarkets and food

Tenants are also encouraged to be aware of supermarket and food options for seniors, people with disability and people who are required to self-isolate. This includes priority delivery and special designated shopping hours. For more information, check out supermarket websites as follows:

If tenants are based in Victoria, there are emergency relief packages available for those who are in mandatory self isolation. These can be accessed by calling the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. For more information, see the Victorian Premier’s media release.

Please note as well that hospitality venues (restaurants, pubs, clubs, etc.) are now trading as takeaway or home delivery venues only.

State Government COVID-19 websites

For regular COVID-19 updates and advice, please visit:

Other Supports

National Coronavirus Hotline: 1800 020 080

Services Australia:

Red Cross TeleCross:

Media Release: Bendigo women to get footing on the housing ladder

Bendigo women and their children who have experienced family violence or are at risk of homelessness will have access to safe and affordable housing with a new $2.2 million project being developed by YWCA National Housing.

YWCA National Housing and Property Development Director Jan Berriman said the build-to-rent project was a first-off for YWCA, which had been working with women in the region for more than a century.

“As a specialist women’s housing provider, YWCA National Housing has worked with GJ Gardner Homes to design these townhouses to meet the needs of some of Bendigo’s most vulnerable women,” she said.

Once completed, these townhouses will be held by YWCA and made available for 75% of the market rental rate. Women and children on lower incomes who have experienced family violence will be prioritised as tenants.

“Many women in the Greater Bendigo area face serious barriers to affordable housing, particularly those who have experienced family violence,” Ms Berriman said.

“One-third of working women in Bendigo earn less than $400 a week and more than half of women of working age in the region are not in the labour force.

“This crisis is set to worsen with the region’s population forecast to rise to 156,000 by 2036, requiring an additional 900 homes per year in the region.”

Ms. Berriman said long-term residents of the five two-storey townhouses would be given the option to buy their homes in the future.

“Women comprise the fastest group of people at risk of homelessness in Australia because they are often unable to afford the private rental market and demand for affordable rental properties outstrips supply.

“Bendigo is a stark example of this tragic reality.”

The family-friendly three-bedroom townhouses will be designed with sustainability and security in mind, and include solar panels, double glazing, and water saving techniques. To help residents connect with services, education, employment and community, each townhouse will have NBN connectivity. They are expected to be completed in mid-2020.

GJ Gardner Homes Director Danny Breen said he was proud to partner with YWCA on the project.

“Our organisation is committed to giving back to the community, and we look forward to delivering wonderful homes for five women-headed households,” Mr Breen said.

Ms Berriman said the build-to-rent initiative reflected YWCA National Housing’s commitment to improving women’s social, economic and educational participation through the provision of safe, secure and affordable housing.

Applications and eligibility criteria for these townhouses will be released in March 2020. YWCA National Housing will be working with local providers to refer clients to this opportunity.

Apply Now: YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Board

Are you passionate about women’s housing? Are you looking to contribute to the YWCA movement and vision of a world where all women, young women and girls have access to safe and affordable housing.

We are now seeking applications for appropriately qualified people to join the YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Board. YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing (National Housing) are both subsidiaries of YWCA Australia, the national association of YWCA’s in Australia which is part of the world YWCA movement.

The National Housing board comprises up to 9 independent directors, each appointed on a skills basis. The board of directors aims to comprise at least 30% young women (age 30 or under at the time of their appointment).

Directors are expected to participate in board subcommittees as needed, in the areas of: 

  • Finance, Audit & Risk
  • Property & Assets
  • People, Culture and Governance

Please send your application to [email protected]

Young women are encouraged to apply.

Applications close on 27 September 2019.

One Year Anniversary of our Lakehouse pop-up!

Women over 50 are the fastest growing group of people experiencing housing instability in Australia – often as a result of pay inequity, little to no superannuation or savings, divorce, domestic and family violence and taking time doing unpaid care work.

To combat this growing inequity for women, YWCA worked with our partners to create Lakehouse – a “pop up” housing project that gives us the capacity to keep nearly 40 older women safe, warm and supported at any one time. Learn more about Lakehouse.

In one year Lakehouse has:

  • Housed over 50 women, 50% of whom have experienced domestic or family violence
  • Won a Powerhousing Australia award in the category of Leadership and Innovation
  • Enabled the majority of women leaving Lakehouse to move into public housing or the private rental market

Lakehouse would not be possible without the support of our wonderful partners who helped transform Lakehouse into a home: MetriconResidential GroupDezign ElectricsReeceAdes Dingley PlumbingTwo GoodTonner TransportKitchen InnovationsAll Over BinsBunnings Port MelbournePrime GroupSilver ChefMilton GroupSigma, CaspacareCity of Port PhillipLord Mayors Charitable FoundationRotary – South Melbourne and DHHS.

YWCA would particularly like to thank Rob Pradolin from Housing All Australians for his ongoing support and his innovative solutions to homelessness.

YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Board Changes

Caption: Richmond House, one of YWCA National Housing’s properties

We would like to announce some recent changes to roles on the YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing Boards. As of 1 July 2019, Anna Draffin is the new Chair and Kirsty Rourke is the new Deputy Chair of both Boards.

Anna was a Director of YWCA Victoria Housing between 2016 and 2018, and joined the YWCA National Housing and YWCA Housing boards in 2018. Anna has experience in corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors and is currently the CEO of ShareGift Australia. Her skills in strategy, business development, communications and translation of innovative ideas into commercial reality will serve YWCA well as Chair of our housing boards.

Kirsty was a Director of both YWCA Queensland and YWCA Australia prior to joining the YWCA Housing Boards in 2018. Kirsty is a seasoned real estate professional and passionate about young women’s leadership and providing women and families with access to long-term, stable accommodation. Her skills in legal, strategic and risk management are critical in YWCA’s development and management of community housing properties.

We thank Melinda van der Westhuizen, who has recently made the decision to step back from the role of Chair of the YWCA Housing and YWCA National Housing Boards. We are fortunate that Melinda will continue on both housing boards as a director. Her knowledge and experience of the property and housing sector and strategic business planning are very much valued.

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