Aging homemakers face uncertainty in Katherine

Published on Monday, 4 April 2022 at 3:30:00 PM

In my opinion...

Council CEO Ingrid Stonhill

Council CEO Ingrid Stonhill

In my second week of this job, I accompanied Mayor Lis to meet the women of the Katherine Senior Citizens Association, which left an impression on me. 

I was buoyed to have had the opportunity to engage with such a diverse group of fascinating women.  Whilst I was limited by time to be able to explore every woman’s story, I was captured by the possibility of the amazing tales these women must harbour, of feats conquered, in their enduring lives in and around Katherine.  

My take-away however, from this first attended question and answer exchange between our Lady Mayor and this group of strong women, was to pick up a slight sense of vulnerability. 

It stemmed from a question around retirement living in Katherine.  There was a defining silence when the question, “do we have to move away from our town and lives, just because we are old?” went unanswered.
There is no doubt in my mind, or indeed as the data shows, that we have a catastrophic housing shortage in Katherine right now.  Unfortunately the time has passed for strategic planning, the problem has landed, front and centre.  Affordable housing for our workforce is simply either unavailable or out of reach for many.  So what are the flow on effects of such extraordinary supply and demand imbalances and rent hikes?
Older woman, those aged 55 and over (think about that, how old is your mum?), was the fastest growing cohort of homeless Australians between 2011-16, a 31% increase, which was predicted to continue to rise as there continues to bea significant gap in wealth accumulation between men and women across their lifetimes.

So here we are in 2022 and what is the reality now for this age group of women who were usually the “stay at home” mums, doing the vital work of raising children, caring for ageing parents, volunteering to run the school tuck shop and local sports club, and providing childcare for the grandkids? They have little to no superannuation or savings to support themselves in retirement as their work was unpaid.
Homelessness is not a foreign topic of conversation here in Katherine, there are a number of organisations working tirelessly on the issue.  It is a complex topic that includes carefully navigating some difficult situations such as overcrowding, family violence, mental health, and drug and alcohol issues.
So perhaps it is with good reason that I sensed a vulnerability of what the future might hold for this group of widows, carers, mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers.  Even after all they have lived and the change they have adapted to in their lifetimes. 
For those of us in organisations collectively working together to find some real short-term and long-term solutions for our liveability and infrastructure development, we need to ensure at a very minimum we acknowledge and respect the inherent value this cohort of women have given to Katherine. 

This can be done by ensuring they are on our priority list and not forgotten.  We must explore a range of opportunities across many sectors to achieve housing security that can be sustained into retirement.

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