ATC101203: Report on Study Tour to Queensland, Australia
Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation
PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS STUDY TOUR TO QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA: 27 NOVEMBER – 3 DECEMBER 2010
The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements visited Queensland, Australia from 27 November to 3 December 2010, in order to learn from the Australian experience about dispute resolution mechanisms for community schemes. The Committee decided to visit Queensland because it passed legislation that specifically deals with dispute resolution in community housing schemes.
The following Members of Parliament and parliamentary support staff, as well as legal representatives from the Department of Human Settlements, participated in the study tour to Queensland, Australia:
- Ms BN Dambuza (ANC) – Leader of the delegation.
- Mr MR Mdakane (ANC).
- Ms GM Borman (ANC).
- Mr AM Figlan (DA).
- Mr RB Bhoola (MF).
- Ms K Pasiya – Committee Secretary.
- Ms B Paulse – Senior Researcher.
- Adv J Tladi – Legal Adviser.
- Mr K Ngwenya – Legal Adviser.
The study tour was necessitated by the need to learn from the Australian experience on how it deals with legislation relevant to community schemes dispute resolution mechanism and sectional titles. The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements is currently processing the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Bill [B 20–2010] and the Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill [B 21-2010].
The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Bill seeks to separate any provisions currently in the Sectional Titles Act (No. 95 of 1986) that deal with management and governance issues, and incorporates them into the proposed Bill. This will ensure that sectional titles are administered by the functional Department, i.e. Human Settlements, instead of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (which is currently the case).
The Bill also proposes the introduction of a Sectional Titles Schemes Management Advisory Council. The aim of the Council is to make recommendations to the Minister concerning any matter on which regulations are to be drafted. In addition, the Council should regularly review the implementation of the Act, as well as its regulations.
The Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill proposes the establishment of a community schemes ombud service to settle disputes in community schemes.
In South Africa, an increasing proportion of housing is being developed in the form of “community schemes” in which there is governance by the community involved, shared financial responsibility and land and/or facilities used in common. Community schemes include sectional (or strata) title schemes, share block companies, homeowners associations and housing schemes for retired persons. Since community schemes involve the regulation and administration of finances, facilities and behaviour, it often gives rise to problems and disputes amongst participants which require effective resolution.
There is currently no effective and affordable dispute resolution mechanism available to parties involved in community schemes in South Africa or the rest of the African countries. Since the demise of apartheid in 1994, an increasing number of members from previously disadvantaged communities are acquiring ownership in community schemes, and are not familiar with the procedures and technical aspects of ownership of such schemes. The Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill seeks to address this need since it will establish a simple and inexpensive recourse for owners involved in any dispute. Further, the Bill will promote uniformity and consistency in handling disputes, and provide a remedy for the protection of the right to good administration.
Research conducted on behalf of the Committee indicated that similar types of legislation can be found in Queensland (Australia), Canada (British Columbia), Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji, the Philippines, India and Dubai. However, the South African Bill, as tabled in Parliament, was based on the Queensland model. In this regard, it was anticipated that the work conducted by the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management (CBCCM) would have relevance for South Africa.
During the first quarter of the 2011 parliamentary term, the Committee will finalise its deliberations on both Bills, and it is anticipated that its visit to Queensland will enhance these deliberations. The Committee was particularly interested in learning the following from the Queensland experience:
- Functions and mandate of the Ombud Service.
- Corporate structure.
- Funding of Service – emphasis on whether the service generates sufficient revenue to defray its own expenses.
- Dispute resolution process – conciliation, mediation and adjudication.
- Specialist adjudication in the event of complex disputes.
- Information service and training – offered to members of the public and bodies corporate.
Further, the Committee explored the role of trustees, managing agents, as well as developers in sectional titles. In addition, the Committee used the opportunity afforded to it to learn about how the non-governmental sector contributes towards the development of sustainable communities in the state of Queensland.
3. Study tour visit to Australia: 27 November – 3 December 2010
3.1 Queensland Parliament
The delegation was hosted for morning tea by the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, the Hon John Mickel (MP), and Members (including Committee Chairperson, the Hon Ms Lindy Nelson-Carr), and staff of the Social Development Committee.
The Queensland government’s approach to housing is implemented through a wide range of policies, including the 2004 Integrated Housing Policy, which seeks to ensure that all people are integrated in the system. However, the state of Queensland faces challenges of a high indigenous population, who are mostly affected by chronic illnesses.
In the past, the government created housing estates for socially vulnerable groups. As such, public housing was concentrated and located a distance from public amenities. Recent lessons learned suggested the need for a more careful housing mix. The negative consequence of a concentration of poor households is that there can be no cross-subsidisation of services. The government is also considering whether it can provide housing to the poor indefinitely and how sustainable such provision would be over the longer term.
In recent years, the government initiated a process of providing social housing to socially vulnerable people if they meet the criteria. However, beneficiaries pay for housing, and rental is automatically deducted if they receive social grants. The Australian delegation suggested that a critical lesson for South Africa should be to avoid creating large tracks of low-cost housing (no social integration), as well as a system where beneficiaries make no contribution towards the housing provided to them.
3.2 Queensland Department of Communities
3.2.1 Overview of Queensland housing market
By end of December 2009, the state of Queensland had a total population of 4,5 million, which constitutes about 20.2% of the national population. The unemployment rate is 5%.
The housing tenure profile of Queensland is as follows:
· 34% of property is being paid off through a property bond.
· 32% of property is fully owned.
· 31% of property is in the form of rentals.
· 3% of tenure type is not stated.
· 1% other tenure type.
The dwelling structure profile for Queensland is:
· 80% - separate house.
· 11% - flat, unit or apartment.
· 8% - semi-detached, row of terraced house, townhouse.
· 1% -.caravan, cabin, houseboat.
· <1% - other type/not stated.
There is an increase towards high density housing, which allows developers to create bulk infrastructure. Further, people are gravitating towards the inner city, with lower associated transport cost.
3.2.2 The state of Queensland’S housing assistance programme includes:
- Social housing – provides subsidised rental housing for low-income households in high need. The programme may be managed by government or non-governmental organisations. Government owns the property, and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) manage the property (i.e. rent collection and maintenance).
- Indigenous housing – subsidised housing for indigenous communities, including in remote communities.
- Private housing – a variety of schemes to help people in the private rental market or the home-ownership market. Both financial and non-financial assistance are provided through:
1. The National Affordable Housing Agreement, where government provides a two-year subsidy to investors of rental dwellings to keep the cost of rent down for ten years in a new development. The developer may only rent to certain people in need, and government also controls the rental increase.
2. The First Homeowner Grant is provided by the federal government to any first-time homeowner, regardless of eligibility to put together a grant.
3. The Commonwealth Rent Assistance Scheme is a non-taxable income supplement payment added on to the pension, allowance or benefit of eligible income support customers who rent in the private rental market.
4. Tax treatment of housing investment for homeowners who have an additional property for residential investment purposes. The tax incentive does not apply to the primary residence.
5. Homelessness programmes, where NGOs receive funds from government to deliver support services and accommodation to homeless people.
3.3 Visit to Ms Desley Scott, State Member for Woodridge, Constituency Office
The delegation undertook a visit to the constituency office of Ms Desley Scott, State Member for Woodridge.
A number of social housing units were constructed in the community, including:
- Accommodation for youth – subsidised rent. Eligible criteria include that young people have to be employed or studying.
- Accommodation for senior persons who meet income-eligibility criteria.
- Attached houses, with 3-4 bedrooms for eligible persons. Houses were privately built and purchased by the state of Queensland as part of the economic-stimulus programme in the community.
3.3.2. The ACESS Settlement Grant Programme
The ACESS Settlement Grant Programme (SGP) is funded by the Australian federal government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The programme is aimed at providing information, referral and casework services, community capacity building and services planning, development and integration to humanitarian entrants in the area. As such, the programme assists refugees to become self-reliant and able to participate in the Australian society as soon as possible.
- Intake/Assessment: Comprehensive assessment of the settlement needs of the client/family and developing strategies to address these needs.
- Casework: Working with target group clients to develop a tailored response to their settlement needs.
- Information: Providing linguistically and culturally sensitive settlement information at individual, group and community level.
- Referrals: Referring clients to mainstream government and other service providers.
- Advocacy: Maintaining general support and advocacy on behalf of clients.
- Migration advice: Service provided by a Registered Migration Agent who advises humanitarian entrants and refugees who intend for relatives to migrate to Australia.
- Community capacity building: Promoting and organising forums linking community members/leaders with mainstream service providers.
- Group support: Providing assistance, mentoring, consultancy and advocacy services to humanitarian entrants and refugees with low English proficiency in areas such as funding applications, mentoring leadership training, and assistance in community organisation development.
The programme would assist humanitarian entrants and refugees with access to social housing, providing furniture when needed, providing training to new tenants on how to use household appliances, as well as work opportunities. For example, a furniture removal business was established which employs immigrants living in the community.
3.4 Brisbane Housing Company
The Brisbane Housing Company (BHC) is an independent, non-profit organisation which provides affordable rental housing in Brisbane. It was established in 2002 by the Queensland Department of Communities and Brisbane City Council as an innovative approach to deliver affordable rental housing. Its mission is to work in partnership with local communities, service providers, charities and all levels of government to provide appropriate, secure and affordable rental housing in the city of Brisbane to people in need.
The BHC has a portfolio of housing for people on low incomes in Brisbane. BHC will only consider households referred to it by the Queensland Department of Communities from its Common Register of Needs. On referral, the BHC will conduct an affordability assessment based on income information submitted to the Department of Communities. A household’s maximum affordability of rent is calculated on the following formula:
Maximum rental affordability = 30% of household weekly income + Commonwealth Rental Assistance
The BHC Rental Policy sets rent for self-contained accommodation up to 74.9% of market rent. Rent charges are capped based on unit type, location and affordability for BHC tenants, along with the Company's requirements to remain viable.
Rental for shared ('boarding house') accommodation is set so as to be broadly in line with rent for similar accommodation elsewhere within Brisbane, as approved by the BHC Board.
A mix of boarding houses, studio units and 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments and townhouses meets the needs of a variety of tenants. The housing is offered at below-market rent to households with low incomes. BHC's properties are primarily in the inner and middle suburbs, but BHC's Constitution will allow it to operate anywhere in the city.
BHC is structured to be tax efficient and ensure residents' access to Commonwealth Rental Assistance. The Company uses income from rent to manage and maintain its properties, and any surplus is used to fund future expansion.
BHC is overseen by an experienced Board of Directors who work through a number of functional committees. The day-to-day management of the Company is carried out by an experienced team of staff. BHC is the product of joint funding by the two spheres of government, i.e. 60% from the state of Queensland and 40% by the City of Brisbane.
3.4.2 Social outcomes
- 100% of occupants are sourced from the public housing waiting list as administered by the Queensland Department of Communities.
- Low and very low-income households are assisted.
- Only 2% of residents pay more than 30% of their income for rental.
- Buildings are constructed close to public amenities.
- Rental does not increase as salaries increase, as is the case with the Social Housing (SH) Model.
3.5 Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management
3.5.1 Function and mandate
The Body Corporate and Community Management (BCCM) Act, 1997, serves as Queensland legislative framework for managing community schemes. As such, it combines into a single Act both governance and administration issues, as well as providing a dispute resolution mechanism (unlike in South Africa where the Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill governs dispute mechanism, while the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Bill provides for governance and administration).
The BCCM Act establishes an Office of Commissioner for BCCM and provides for the appointment of dispute resolution officers to settle individual disputes. However, the Department of Justice and Attorney-General is the Queensland government agency responsible for administering justice, industrial relations and safety services. Therefore, the Office of the Commissioner for BCCM is located in the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.
The Office of the Commissioner for BCCM is tasked by the Act to provide an information and dispute resolution service for the community titles scheme industry in Queensland. During the 2009/10 financial year, a total of 27 189 enquiries related to the information service were received, while 1 378 disputes were lodged with the Office of the Commissioner.
During 2009/10, a total of 1 378 applications were lodged, of which 1 357 were resolved, resulting in a resolve rate of 98.5%. On average, 75% of conciliation applications were resolved by agreement. Less than 0.5% of orders from the Office of the Commissioner were overturned or altered on appeal. Less than 10% (i.e. 7.3%) of lodgements were pending finalisation after more than 6 months from them being lodged.
3.5.2 Staffing and finance
The Office of the Commissioner in its current location is grouped with similar services under the Justice Services of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. Its current alignment falls within the quasi-judicial services, which includes the Queensland Administrative and Civil Tribunal (QCAT).
Administratively, the Commissioner reports to the Attorney-General. The Office of the Commissioner for BCCM is not governed by a Board (see organogram of office attached (Appendix A)). Key duties and responsibilities of the Commissioner include amongst others (see Appendix B):
· Strategic organisational leadership.
· Managing the staff and resources of the Commissioner’s Office.
· Consulting, negotiating and engaging with key internal and external stakeholders, etc.
Whilst the Office of the Commissioner employs a minimum number of staff members, it yields maximum performance results. The Commissioner is supported by a Manager tasked with leading and managing the conciliation service in the Office of the Commissioner (see Appendix C). In addition, a Principal Case Manager is responsible for case managing dispute resolution applications, and leads and supports the administrative team in the Office (see Appendix D). Further, a Senior Case Manager may be appointed on either a permanent or a temporary basis and tasked with providing information to community members and stakeholders, as well as to action the directions of Adjudicators (see Appendix E).
The Office appoints both full-time and part-time conciliators, while adjudicators are employed on a part-time basis. While not all conciliators may have a legal background, adjudicators are expected to have legal training. In particular, adjudicators are expected to have proven experience in litigation, alternative dispute resolution or adjudication skills, preferably in a community schemes environment (see Appendix F). Adjudicators have to adhere to the BCCM Adjudicators code of conduct, which includes respect for the law, fairness, independence, respect for others, diligence, efficiency, integrity, and accountability. Conciliators should have experience in facilitating alternative dispute resolution methodologies such as mediation, or conciliation, preferably in a legislation based dispute resolution context (see Appendix G).
The Office also employs information officers tasked, amongst others, with developing information material for distribution, providing feedback to management on the information and education needs of clients, and providing information to community members and stakeholders. The Office provides relevant on-line training, although the course is not accredited, as well as outreach seminars. For this purpose, a full-time person is employed who is responsible for maintaining the website and updating information.
The Office of the Commissioner is fully funded by government through the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. While applicants for dispute resolution services are required to pay a fee, it is minimal. Further, bodies corporate are not required to pay a levy to the Office of the Commissioner, since it is acknowledged that the industry would not be motivated to fund this type of service.
3.5.3 Managing Bodies Corporate
Bodies corporate rules (or by-laws) are registered with the Registrar of Titles, which is the South African equivalent of the Registrar of Deeds.
The body corporate budget must cover both an Administrative Fund and Sinking Fund as regulated. The Administrative Fund covers necessary and reasonable expenditure for maintenance of common property and assets, insurance, recurrent expenditure e.g. pest inspection, weekly gardening etc. The Sinking Fund should cover significant long-term expenses such as painting the building and roof replacement (provided the body corporate is responsible for either), pool refurbishing, resurfacing roadways, purchasing or replacing body corporate assets (e.g. ride-on lawn mower). The Sinking Fund should be based on the following considerations:
· Ensuring “reasonable capital” is available.
· A 10-year forecast.
· Identification of common property maintenance and cost.
· Quotes obtained where relevant.
· A formulated budget.
The most common types of disputes relate to general meetings (it is critical that the issue of proxies be resolved), by-laws, owner improvements and maintenance issues. Managing agents (or body corporate managers) and caretaking service contractors are non-voting members at Annual General Meetings.
3.5.4 Dispute Resolution Service
Disputes are categorised as complex or non-complex disputes. Complex disputes are heard by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or by the Specialist Adjudicator (by agreement). Complex disputes are defined as:
· Application to change lot entitlements.
· Terms of service contracts.
· Forced transfer of management rights.
· Contractual matters.
· Exclusive use by-laws.
Appeals on a point of law are referred to the District Court. The following dispute resolution process is therefore followed:
1. Internal resolution
The BCCM Act, in most instances, requires an applicant to have attempted self- resolution prior to making a conciliation or adjudication application. This may include simply talking to the other party about the issue, writing to the trustees of the body corporate (or committee), or presenting a motion for consideration at a general meeting. If attempts at self resolution are unsuccessful, an applicant may make an application for conciliation with the BCCM Office.
Conciliation usually involves the parties participating in either a 40% face-to-face meeting or 60% teleconference. The conciliation session is facilitated by a conciliator. Only the people involved in the dispute are entitled to attend. However, with the consent of the conciliator, an agent, legal representative or support person may also attend the conciliation session. Bodies corporate may be represented by two individuals with decision-making authority. The role of each person attending the session will be outlined by the conciliator.
The role of the conciliator is to assist each party to understand the views of the other party, clarify issues in dispute using joint and separate sessions, examine the BCCM legislation and relevant adjudicator’s orders as they relate to the dispute, assist parties to explore options and solutions, as well as assist parties to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Agreements can be written and signed by all parties, and can include all or some of the issues already discussed.
Conciliation agreements are not enforceable under the BCCM Act. However, by mutual agreement, parties can request that an adjudicator provide a consent order, which, if made, binds parties to the terms in the conciliation agreement. If parties failed to reach an agreement, having made reasonable attempts to do so, the applicant may make an adjudication application.
In most instances before making an application for adjudication, an applicant must have attempted to resolve a dispute by internal (or self) resolution and conciliation processes. The Commissioner may reject an application for adjudication if the applicant failed to make a reasonable attempt to conciliate.
Applications not considered appropriate for conciliation will include an interim order, emergency expenditure and a declaratory order. Applications must be submitted in a form as prescribed by the BCCM Office.
Applicants may write to the Commissioner outlining a proposed amendment to the application, and set out reasons for the amendments thereof. If the amendment is received after the dispute resolution recommendation, the Commissioner may impose conditions (such amendments will be circulated at the applicant’s expense). An applicant may also withdraw the application by writing to the BCCM Office, although the application fee will not be refundable.
The Commissioner may invite the body corporate and any party affected to make a written submission in response to an application within a specific time. The applicant, body corporate or trustee, or a person who made a submission on the application, may apply to the Commissioner to inspect or obtain copies of the application and all submissions, on payment of the prescribed fee. After inspecting or obtaining copies of submissions, the applicant may make a written reply to submissions within a specified period. The reply should, however, not raise new issues, since it may delay the resolution process. Parties, other than the applicant, do not have the right of reply.
The Commissioner must make an assessment of the most effective way to resolve the dispute after the reply period has expired. The possible dispute resolution recommendations that the Commissioner may include are:
· Departmental conciliation (as outlined above).
· Specialist mediation or conciliation.
These will be discussed in more detail more below:
Referral to a departmental adjudicator within the BCCM Office involves no additional cost, since it is included in the fee for lodging an original application. The Act gives adjudicators wide investigative powers, including the power to request information such as expert reports, to interview respective parties or other people inspect. It also empowers adjudicators to investigate Body Corporate records, as well as lots or common property in a community title scheme. After considering all relevant documentation (as discussed above), the adjudicator makes a formal order determining the dispute. Parties entitled under the BCCM Act will automatically receive copies of orders.
An adjudicator may dismiss an application regarded as malicious or petty, or if the applicant fails to comply with a requirement of an adjudicator. Costs can be awarded against an applicant to compensate the other party for loss arising from an application that is considered malicious or petty. Costs may also be awarded against a party who is absent without reasonable explanation.
The Commissioner may recommend departmental conciliation (as outlined above).
Mediation is seldom used since 2007. The Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC) is a free service. On referral, the DRC will arrange a meeting between the parties and a trained mediator. However, parties can use this service any time before or after an application is lodged.
Specialist mediation or specialist conciliation
This service may be appropriate where, for example, the issues are of a complex contractual nature or require the expertise of a qualified person, such as an engineer. Before the Commissioner can recommend this option, parties must agree on the person to be appointed and who will be responsible for the specialist’s fees. Usually parties share the costs in this regard. The Commissioner must be satisfied that the nominated person has appropriate qualifications, experience and is in good standing to perform the function in this regard.
If a dispute is not resolved by mediation or conciliation, the Commissioner can make further dispute resolution recommendations. Anything said or done at mediation or conciliation will be inadmissible in adjudication or other proceedings thereafter. An adjudication order can be enforced at the Magistrate’s Court by the person in whose favour the order is made. The person who contravenes an order commits a criminal offence.
The Commissioner does not have the authority to review an adjudicator’s decision. An order may, however, be appealed in the QCAT on a question of law by an aggrieved party. Such appeal must be initiated within 6 weeks of the date of the order, unless a late referral is allowed by the Court on application by a prospective applicant.
3.6 Queensland Residential Tenancy Authority
3.6.1 Situational Analysis: Queensland rental sector
About a third of the accommodation in Queensland is in the rental market, while the rest is owner-occupied. In the rental property market, about 10% are social housing, while 90% constitutes private rental. About 80% of private rental units are managed by agents. Managing agents are regulated by a code of conduct, which is included under a Schedule of the BCCM Act, 1997. The code of conduct includes provisions related to conflict of interest, compulsory knowledge of the Act and its provisions, skills and professionalism, recording keeping, etc.
3.6.2 Residential Tenancy Authority operations
The Residential Tenancy Authority (RTA) administers the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act of 2008. The RTA is an independent and impartial government organisation that assists tenants and lessors (landlords/agents) to understand their legal rights and responsibilities as set out by the Act.
The RTA provides the following support services:
Client Contact Centre
This service provides information to tenants and lessors/agents about their rights and responsibilities, and their rental bond (deposit).
Rental Bond Service
A rental bond (deposit) is money that the tenant pays at the beginning of a tenancy while the lessor/agent can claim if the tenant owes money for outstanding rent, damages, or other costs associated with the end of the tenancy. The rental bond is not the same as paying rent in advance.
Prior to 2008 when the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act was passed, lessors/agents could request that a tenant pay a rental bond. This resulted in numerous challenges including the fact that interest earned was not transferred back to the tenant, as well as disputes about refunds.
Rental bonds are not compulsory. However if one is requested, it must be submitted to the RTA for safekeeping within 10 days of receipt. The lessor/agent is unable to take any money from a prospective tenant (including a bond) until they have been given a copy of the proposed agreement, as well as any body corporate rules or by-laws which form part of the agreement.
The maximum bond that a lessor/agent can charge is equivalent to 4 weeks’ rent if the rent is A$700 a week or less. If the rent exceeds A$700 a week, there is no limit on the bond that could be requested.
While in South Africa, the Rental Housing Act provides that landlords should pay deposits into an interest-bearing account, this is not always practised.
When a bond is paid, the lessor/agent needs to:
- Immediately provide the tenant with a receipt for the bond money.
- Complete a bond lodgment application form as drafted by the RTA - the tenant needs to sign this form.
- Submit the money with a completed and signed bond lodgement form to the RTA within 10 days of receipt.
If a tenant cannot afford the bond, the lessor/agent may allow payment in instalments, or the tenant may access a bond loan from the Department of Communities.
The RTA holds the bond while the tenant lives in the accommodation, and refunds it when the tenant moves out (provided there is no disagreement). The RTA will send a notice (called an official receipt) to advise when the bond has been received. It has the rental bond number on it, which will be required if they contact the RTA about the bond. If a receipt has not been received within a few weeks, the tenant should contact the RTA to check whether the bond money has been received. A penalty may apply to the lessor/agent if they do not submit the bond money to the RTA within 10 days.
The RTA earns and retains the interest on the deposits held, which is its sole source of revenue. In the event of disputes about the paying of deposits to tenants, the RTA will refund amounts on QCAT instructions. Refunds are also done through post offices and take approximately 15-20 minutes in the event of no disputes.
Dispute Resolution Service
The service provides assistance to tenants, lessors or agents in the event of disputes. The dispute resolution process includes self-resolution and dispute resolution.
If parties are not been able to resolve a dispute and it is not classified as an urgent application to the QCAT under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act, 2008, it is possible to apply to the RTA for assistance. However, the RTA cannot compel parties to participate in conciliation process.
The RTA's Dispute Resolution Service consists of a team of trained conciliators. Their role is to listen to concerns, provide information on the Act, and assist parties in resolving the issues or disagreements. Disputes may be about matters relating to the rental bond or to a tenancy or residency agreement.
If self-resolution has been unsuccessful, conciliation conducted by the Dispute Resolution Service is the second step that might help parties to reach an agreement. Legal representation is discouraged for the conciliation process.
The conciliator will provide information on the relevant laws, which provides all parties a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities.
Conciliation can happen via:
- A telephone 'shuttle' negotiation service, where RTA conciliators hold separate telephone discussions with each of the parties in dispute.
- Face-to-face meetings.
- Three-way teleconferences.
The conciliator can provide a written record of any agreements that are reached through the conciliation process. These agreements will then become part of the residential tenancy or rooming accommodation agreement. The QCAT can enforce these agreements, if necessary. The RTA successfully resolves over 65% of all disputes where parties participate in conciliation.
There may be instances where the RTA may decide not to provide a conciliation service to parties involved in a dispute. This can occur if the RTA considers the dispute unsuitable for conciliation. If the RTA decides not to conciliate a matter, a notice of unresolved dispute will be issued. This will allow a party to apply to the QCAT to have the matter determined.
The RTA investigates and prosecutes offences under legislation when appropriate.
3.7 Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre
3.7.1 Situational analysis of homelessness
The Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre (BHSC) aims at finding sustainable solutions for people who are homeless, or for individuals and families who may become homeless without support. It provides emergency accommodation in either hostels or private boarding houses.
Despite the existence of a social housing policy, in reality demand exceeds availability of housing. People may therefore have to wait between 12 to 18 months before accessing social housing. Homeless individuals or families may experience a challenge of accessing housing due to affordability and availability. Individuals and families may also be blacklisted due to poor payment or bad tenancy, and therefore struggle to acquire accommodation. The Centre employs highly skilled people to work in the community, since most of its work deals with people with social problems. During 2010, the Centre assisted a total of 377 families.
3.7.2 BHSC operations and scope
Micah Projects Incorporated is the lead agency at BHSC with Micah Homelessness Services providing a range of centre-based and outreach support services to individuals and families. BHSC is located in inner-city Brisbane and provides a range of services, including information, support, advocacy, health, recreational, and employment services. Services will, therefore, include:
- Information and support to access crisis accommodation and long-term housing, or to prevent homelessness.
- Proactive outreach to people in public spaces who are intoxicated or sleeping in public spaces and are vulnerable.
- Primary health care, personal care and domestic support.
- Opportunities for employment and to participate in recreational and sporting activities.
- Proactive support to people with a disability and to families, who are at risk of homelessness, to maintain their housing and create a home.
Co-located partners (services located together at BHSC) are the Centacare South West Brisbane Community Options Project, The Big Issue, Mater Hospital and RecLink. Visiting services to BHSC are the Homeless Health Outreach Team, Homeless Persons Legal Clinic, Queensland and Federal Ombudsman, homeopath, acupuncturist, podiatrist and Medicare.
The Centre reported that it has recently experienced the following shift in clients accessing it services:
· An increasing number of families, instead of single persons, presenting at the Centre.
· Women over the age of 45 years who are victims of domestic violence, instead of previously very young women and adolescents.
· Instead of unemployed people only, an increasing number of people who are employed, but unable to afford accommodation are sleeping in their cars and accessing services at the Centre. These are referred to as “the working poor”.
3.7.3 Policy implications for homelessness
BHSC defines a “high-need” individual as someone who sleeps on the street, and whose vulnerability is compounded by another condition such as illness, mental health condition, etc.
Homeless clients often remain untreated for a condition for a considerable period; hence BHSC provides a range of services. Clients in need of in-patient services generally resist being admitted to hospital due to prevailing negative attitudes towards homeless people in hospitals.
BHSC values interaction with police as an important stakeholder, resulting in police not targeting the Centre, as well referring people in need of accommodation to the Centre. Government is beginning to focus on outcome-based performance in terms of its services that are funded from the state revenue. This approach provides recognition for the work of the Centre.
A key challenge with current government policy is that it funds housing, but does not fund the support services people may require. It is important to keep a previously homeless person in housing through follow-up with treatment where it is required, as well as support. Support is critical to someone who experiences a trauma. A person who spent a considerable period living on the street, or “couch-hopping”, i.e. sleeping with different friends each night, may experience a sense of loneliness and isolation after finally having settled into his or her own accommodation.
BHSC invests in a high level of advocacy through its Common Ground Project which seeks to achieve social integration for residents of Queensland.
3.8 Foresters Community Finance
3.8.1 Principles and philosophy
Foresters Community Finance (FCF) Institution was established on the Friendly Society Condition, i.e. the equivalent of “stokvels” in South Africa. FCF assists civil society to build financial and social sustainability, thereby making a contribution to the strength of civil society. This is achieved through:
- Building skills and knowledge.
- Investing in their asset base.
- Accounting for both the financial and social returns on these investments.
The work of FCF is guided by the principle that a strong and independent civil society is crucial to a dynamic and vibrant democracy. Such organisations play a central role in the strength and fabric of civil society through their diverse structure and practice. Community Finance, as the name suggests, refers to finance for community development initiatives. Community Finance focuses on channelling capital into underserved markets where there would be difficulty in securing finance from mainstream financial markets.
FCF has been delivering finance and investment to the community sector for over 15 years. This capital is used to build the assets of community service organisations. These assets include buildings, which have been used to deliver community services, and residential properties which have been used to deliver affordable housing. In addition, it provides equipment finance to support the growth of social enterprise and social businesses.
For example, FCF funded a community living association for people with learning and intellectual disabilities. Subsequently it also funded two social enterprises which employ residents living in the association, i.e. care-taking enterprise, as well as landscaping business. Further, when FCF realised that a client’s employees needed accommodation, it funded a housing co-operative in order for clients to purchase their own lots.
Community Asset Building is a central focus of the work FCF undertakes. Assets may include buildings that are strategically aligned to increasing an organisation’s service capacity, such as a house for transitional accommodation for an organisation that serves the homeless. Community Asset Building can enable the renewal or redevelopment of underutilised buildings, helping equity and surpluses circulate locally generating opportunities for local enterprise, income and employment generation.
3.8.2 Services rendered to organisations
Community Asset Building Appraisals
A Community Asset Building Appraisal provides a community sector organisation with an overview of its financial position in relation to securing funds to purchase assets. This assessment is the beginning for most FCF work with community service organisations. At the end of the assessment an organisation will know whether it can access community finance or social investment.
Planning for Asset Acquisition
FCF assists community sector organisations at various stages in their consideration of asset development. Some organisations may identify a property that they would like to purchase, while others may just explore possibilities. FCF encourages management to consider how an asset could help to achieve its organisation’s social mission through discussion and planning across all levels of the organisation. FCF would also manage the asset acquisition process, including contract negotiation and due diligence.
Community Capital Raising and Asset Acquisition
FCF is in the business of raising social investment capital. One of the ways to achieve this is through actively engaging with the community sector to raise capital for asset building through the networks of community sector organisations.
3.9 Hornery Institute
3.9.1 Objectives and philosophy
The Hornery Institute is an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to enhancing the wellbeing of communities through positive social, economic and environmental change. The Institute's charter is to help make communities better places to live, learn, work and play. Based in Brisbane, the Institute is working actively throughout Australia to pursue opportunities in the property, resource and infrastructure sectors where it can assist government, business and the community to work together to deliver long-term outcomes that benefit all stakeholders.
The Institute works on the principle of creating socially sustainable and inclusive communities, where all people feel valued, their differences respected and their basic needs met so they can live in dignity.
3.9.2 Business model
The following diagram outlines the Institute’s approach to place-making strategy:
Place making and Community Development – Methodology and key concepts
achievable and deliverable way - promoting sustainable and long-term outcomes, not “quick fixes”.
3.9.2 Business approach
The Institute’s business model is based on charging normal rates to developers for services rendered, while surplus funds are transferred into a trust fund for communities.
The Institute’s interest lies in how development and planning can maximise opportunities for communities to develop. As such, it would be involved in various stages of a project, i.e. the pre-feasibility stage, pre-planning, planning, and implementation. The work of the Institute during the pre-planning stage involves considering key questions such as: Who will live in the community to be developed, what would be their profile (age, gender, religion, culture, lifestyle etc.), land use considerations, type of community engagements required, etc.
Over the last few years, the availability of affordable housing declined significantly in the inner city. The state government has therefore developed the legislative framework, which encourages developers to put in place affordable housing. Innovative approaches include government providing incentives to developers such as land and additional floors for high-rise buildings. Government would negotiate with developers to set aside floor space in order to purchase units for affordable housing. This approach ensures that buildings earmarked for affordable housing do not only house a certain segment of society, such as single mothers, but also achieve mixed profile buildings. This may include professionals and two-parent households. The Hornery Institute advocates this approach since it ensures that no stigma is attached to affordable housing.
It uses innovative ways to understand how communities operate, such as the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs Motivational Model, initially developed by Abraham Maslow during the 1940s and 1950s (see diagram below).
While conventional planning focuses on the basic life needs such as shelter, warmth (and possibly safety needs), the Maslow model suggests that belongingness, esteem and self-actualisation are important considerations for creating sustainable and inclusive communities.
During the pre-planning stage of a project, the Hornery Institute could work up to 5 years for a community before development starts. It invests considerable time in advanced planning. For example, if a project requires certain skill, instead of importing skilled workers from elsewhere it will ensure that required skills becomes part of school curriculum for a relevant community. By the time the project is implemented, the required skills are available in the community. The Institute also recommends that government, and not the developers, should maintain control of the development master plan, thereby retaining ultimately control over the final product. Once development starts, the Institute recommends that developers and partners introduce or set up new agencies, as may be required by the community’s needs. Councillors should be trained to deal with conflict in new developments, especially initially as communities are coming to terms with each other. As part of the planning process, new community structures should be set up to play a leadership role in the community.
3.9.3 Case study: Kelvin Grove Urban Village
The Kelvin Grove Urban Village project serves as a model of how the Hornery Institute contributes towards enhancing the wellbeing of cities and creating socially sustainable and inclusive communities. The delegation was taken on a short tour of how the Institute gave effect to creating socially sustainable and integrated communities.
Kelvin Grove Urban Village is a 16-hectare mixed use, master plan community currently being developed on the western fringe of Brisbane’s central business district (CBD). It represents a unique collaboration between the Queensland Department of Communities and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
The Institute was initially engaged to undertake a scorecard evaluation of the structure plan for the site against a series of established key performance indicators and report the long-term risk return profile of maintaining the current strategic direction. The outcomes from this exercise were then used to demonstrate to Cabinet and the QUT Senate how the performance of the asset could be improved over time.
From its key recommendations, the Institute was subsequently commissioned to develop an integrated master plan, incorporating strategies to achieve place making, community and cultural development, and economic and social sustainability outcomes. Activities included visiting schools and producing short films about how learners saw their future community. After four years, the work done by the Institute resulted in Kelvin Grove being acknowledged as a new address in the city fringe, offering a lifestyle that is strongly associated with creativity and learning. The early urban identity (or place brand) developed for the project started to attract landmark occupants such as the Queensland Creative Industries Academy and the Red Cross.
The Institute was further retained as the Community Development Manager with a focus on delivering a Community Hub activated with learning and cultural activities to encourage community participation and the development of social capital between traditional and emerging audiences. This project proved particularly significant with respect to brokering relationships between students and non-student autiences as well as inter-generational programmes, delivering supported information Technology (IT) access to non-computer owners and delivering next generation cultural events to the local community.
This project is an important example of the Institute’s ability to operate in a highly complex political environment and inclusive decision-making processes that meet government requirements.
In achieving the objectives of this project, the Institute engaged in the following activities: Community and cultural mapping exercises, extensive visioning work, audience segmentation, design and delivery of multiple consultation and market testing programmes, high level stakeholder management, project governance, master planning and place making, cultural development and community activation.
- Mixed land use patterns, where residential buildings are constructed side-by-side with corporate buildings. In this way, the inner city does not become deserted at night.
- Units in residential buildings are constructed to minimise the ecological footprint, i.e. each equipped with a water tank to collect rainwater for household use.
- The concept of “dead” spaces and “living spaces". For example, utilising the lower levels of the QUT buildings for shops and restaurants (human activity). In this way, corporate buildings are incorporated into the community for residential use and benefit.
- QUT buildings are not concentrated, but spread across the neighbourhood, effectively fully integrated with the community.
3.10 The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)
3.10.1 Dispute resolution services
QCAT is the product of an amalgamation of 23 previously separate tribunals, and commenced operations on 1 December 2009. The South African parliamentary delegation’s visit to QCAT offices therefore coincided with the tribunal commemorating its first year of operation.
QCAT seeks to encourage the early and economical resolution of disputes. Its objective is to provide a service that is accessible, fair, just, economical, informal and quick. QCAT makes decisions on a range of matters for the first time known as “original decisions”. QCAT also reviews decisions previously made by government agencies and statutory authorities known as “review decisions”.
QCAT is headed by a Supreme Court judge, who acts as its President, while the Deputy President is also a judge. The President reports directly to the Attorney-General.
QCAT makes and reviews decisions on a wide range of matters, which include:
Domestic building disputes
This relates to disputes between a homeowner and a builder, and includes contract disputes, whether work is defective, liability for defective work and orders for rectification of defective work. In this regard, contract disputes refer to whether money is payable, contract been terminated, and damages for breach of contract),
Regulation of building professionals
QCAT hears disputes relating to the following professionals, namely engineers, architects, surveyors, builders, building certifiers and allied professionals. As such, it would consider whether a professional is entitled to hold a licence (whether the person is fit and proper, aware of current standards and maintaining appropriate levels of financial accountability), as well as the person’s compliance with licensing requirements.
This relates to homes that are purchased and “relocatable”, while the site is rented (also commonly referred to as trailer parks). This type of home is marketed as a low- cost housing option, particularly for retirees, and provides no security of tenure. QCAT has the dispute resolution jurisdiction for the regulation of site rent, termination of site agreements, compensation payable on termination of site agreements, park rules, site agreement, access and alteration to manufactured homes.
The Queensland government is currently in the process of reviewing legislation related to the adjustment of lot entitlements. Currently QCAT administers disputes arising from adjustments to lot entitlements, service contracts, transfer of management rights, management or letting contracts, and by-law disputes.
Currently tenancy disputes are responsible for about 30% of the QCAT workload. QCAT jurisdiction relates to disputes about rent, bonds (or rental deposits), deposits (fees), service charges, standard of accommodation, entry to premises, and termination of rental agreements.
Retail shop leases
QCAT has jurisdiction for disputes arising from rental arrears, amount of rent payable, amount of outgoings, obstruction/interference with trade, and misleading conduct when entering into a lease.
These relate to trees and fences.
Real estate agents
Disputes that may be heard by QCAT include entitlement to commission, amount of commission payable, misleading and deceptive conduct/fraud, licensing and disciplining of agents, and marketeering.
QCAT administers dispute resolution between operators and residents in relation to contributions, maintenance reserves, and termination of contract, reselling, services and standard of accommodation.
3.10.2 Dispute resolution tools
The following tools are utilised in the QCAT dispute resolution process:
· Compulsory conferencing.
· Case management.
· Arbitration and mediation.
3.11 Office of Public Trustee of Queensland
The Office of the Public Trustee was established in 1916 through an Act of Parliament, and is an agency of the Queensland government subject to audit by the Queensland Audit Office. The Public Trustee presently employs over 550 specialist staff throughout Queensland to provide efficient and cost-effective services to clients. These services are also provided at no cost to the Queensland government.
The Trustee Office is self-funded through revenue raised from fees it charges for its services. The Public Trustee is the second largest of its kind in Australia, and the largest trust organisation in the state of Queensland. It has 16 offices throughout the state, allowing it to provide accessible services to all Queenslanders.
The Public Trustee provides a range of services, including:
- Will-making (this is a free service).
- Enduring powers of attorney.
- Deceased estate administration.
- Applications for probate for private executors.
- Acting as administrator.
- Acting as financial attorney.
- Acting as trustee.
- Charitable Trusts, i.e. The Queensland Community Foundation, Ford Foundation, Lady Bowen Trust, Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation.
- Auctions (motor vehicle, house, general).
- Management of unclaimed money, property and superannuation.
Particular advice service provided by the Public Trustee includes the role of Administrator for adults with impaired capacity, when appointed by QCAT. Services may include: managing matrimonial and personal injuries, assistance when being sued for debts owed or transactions said to have been entered into, investigating whether property or money has been illegally misappropriated from these adults, advice and settling accommodation agreements for adults with incapacity, etc. The legislation governing the Office of the Public Trustee also provides that the Public Trustee manages the estate (property) of any person convicted of direct imprisonment and is serving a sentence of no less than three years. Prisoners are often subject to claims for compensation by victims, and are increasingly subject to claims by the State in respect of the proceeds of crime (the South African equivalent of asset forfeiture).
The Public Trustee’s Investment Service provides advice and investment solutions to the Office and its clients. During 2009/10, the Office was responsible for A$1.17 billion in respect of funds under management. During the same period, the Public Trustee Investment Fund was worth A$476 million.
4. Implications and lessons for South Africa
Dispute resolution for community schemes
Unlike the proposal in the South African Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill, the Queensland Office of the Commissioner for BCCM is neither managed nor controlled by a Board. However, it should be noted that while the Office of the Commissioner for BCCM falls directly under the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, the South African Bill proposes the establishment of a public entity. Further, the Bill proposes a funding model that includes, amongst others, levies collected from community schemes to fund the Community Schemes Ombud Service. In the case of the Queensland Office of the Commissioner, the service is fully funded by government, since it is acknowledged that the industry would not be motivated to fund such service.
The Office of the Commissioner visited in Queensland works from a central office, with outreach programmes for training and visits to outlying communities for dispute resolution. However, Queensland differs from South Africa in the sense that the jurisdiction of the Commissioner only relates to a single state, whereas the Bill proposes a national service for South Africa, with possible regional offices. In the case of Queensland, the Office appoints part-time adjudicators (while the process is mostly paper-based). This may have cost-saving implications for South Africa. While conciliation is a face-to-face process, conciliators may be appointed on a full-time or part-time basis and undertake regular visits to communities located further afield, as is the case in Queensland. During visits to communities, the Queensland Office of the Commissioner may use local magistrate offices to conduct business, which could also reduce the need for fully fledged regional offices.
Generating revenue for sustainable human settlements
The Queensland government has developed an innovative system to reduce the disputes in the rental housing industry as relates to deposits (or bonds as commonly referred to in Australia). The Rental Tenancy Authority (RTA) through its Rental Bond Service not only reduced the number of disputes in the event of refunds at the end of a tenancy, but created a useful way to generate funding for the rental housing sector. Instead of relying on government funding, the RTA is, therefore, entirely self-funded and able to invest further in communities. This has important implications for a developing country like South Africa faced by numerous challenges in the human settlements sector, and with limited resources for affordable housing (which is currently almost exclusively funded by government).
The introduction of a scheme such as the RTA Rental Bond Service in South Africa, could possibly ensure more resources to be invested in communities. It is likely that such scheme would initially receive opposition, as was initially the case in Queensland, but citizens soon became used to the system. In South Africa, initiating a system similar to a Rental Bond Service would require a review of relevant legislation, such as the Rental Housing Act, and other relevant legislation.
Regulating the rental sector
The experience of the Queensland RTA has highlighted the need to review current regulation of South Africa’s rental housing sector, including dispute resolution mechanisms. To date, despite enabling legislation passed by Parliament, two provinces have as yet not implemented rental tribunals for dispute resolution.
Given the number of services provided to the rental housing sector by the Queensland RTA, it calls for a review of current legislation, such as the Rental Housing Act, as well as other mechanisms to ensure greater improvement of the rental housing market in South Africa.
Role of NGO sector in human settlements sector
The NGO sector in Queensland plays a critical role in ensuring the development of sustainable and inclusive communities. Such an approach is commensurate with the philosophy of “sustainable human settlements”, instead of merely the provision of housing in South Africa.
Important lessons for South Africa include the philosophy that existing knowledge and models should be used in an innovative and creative way to ensure that development and planning can maximise opportunities for communities to develop. The Hornery Institute’s business model and approach to development serves as an important best practice for South Africa of what can be achieved to ensure that communities are integrated and sustainable. In essence, the use of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs serves as an important reminder that sustainable human settlements should be more than basic shelter, an approach recognised by government. However, this approach has not yet been accepted by all developers.
The strong partnership between the Brisbane Housing Company (BHC) and the Queensland Department of Communities to ensure the availability of social housing is another important lesson. The Queensland model suggests that social housing should not be the responsibility only of government, but that civil society could assist government. Further, this partnership model also indicates the need to explore the role of NGOs to possibly assist in the responsibility for rent collection and property management and maintenance in especially high-rise accommodation. As in the case of the BHC, surplus funds could be invested for future expansion.
In South Africa, NGOs are not yet adequately developed to provide a service in line with the business model used by Foresters Community Finance (FCF). Civil society organisations often experience difficulty in securing finance from mainstream financial markets. A critical aspect of the services offered by FCF includes investment in the asset base of civil society organisations. These assets may typically include buildings which may be used to deliver community services (possibility for services for homeless), residential properties which be used to deliver affordable housing, equipment, etc. The introduction of such a model in South Africawould assist NGOs in the social development sector (including human settlements), making them more self sustainable.
The Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre (BHSC) advocates the concept of strong partnerships with all relevant stakeholders to ensure a holistic approach to address the plight of homeless people. Partnerships include co-locating services (services offered at the Centre), visiting services, as well as the police to ensure that the Centre is not targeted and that homeless person encountered are referred to the Centre.
Policy implications for a paradigm shift
The Queensland experience indicates that planning is a critical aspect towards ensuring sustainable human settlements. The Hornery Institute emphasised that the promotion of sustainable outcomes calls for advanced planning, which may take up to 5 years. Planning should include considerations such as developing a profile of “who” will be living in the community, their needs, lifestyles, type of community engagements, land use considerations, etc. This will ensure that the aspirations of the community is aligned with corporate (or development) objectives. The FCF also emphasised the need for long-term planning, and that the institution may work for up to 10 years with an organisation to achieve its objectives.
The Hornery Institute also highlighted the need for government to retain control over the master plan to ensure government’s development objectives are met. This is critical if government wants to achieve mixed land use and social integration of households, instead of the concentration of low-income households into a single suburb (community) or even a building. Developers may not be motivated to share government’s objectives of achieving social justice and social integration. Therefore, the government must ensure it ultimately controls the master plan, instead of handing over control to developers.
An important observation raised by the BHSC is that often government policy is to fund housing, but that it does not fund the support such people may require once settled into their own accommodation. While the BHSC comment related specifically to homeless persons, it may also have relevance for persons with a disability. There is, therefore, a need to further explore this concept (and possible partnerships it may require) within the South African context of sustainable human settlements.
South Africa is faced with numerous development challenges, including a 2,1 million housing backlog. These challenges are compounded by the finite resources at government’s disposal. The Queensland government developed innovative solutions to address some of the same challenges, including establishing a Rental Bond Service which is able to generate considerable revenue to fund services in the human settlements sector.
The delegation therefore recommends the following in relation to the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Bill and Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill:
- The Department should make provision for the code of conduct for managing agents related to sectional title management issues in the regulations under the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act.
- The operation of both a maintenance fund and a reserve fund should become mandatory for bodies corporate.
- Membership of the Advisory Council to the ombud service should be reduced from seven to five members.
- A dispute resolution mechanism should include a conciliation process.
- The issue of the number of proxies as well as the voting rights in annual general meetings should be reviewed by the Department and provided for in regulations under the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act.
- The issue of tenant participation in annual general meetings should be reviewed by the Department and provided for in regulations under the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act.
- The concept of establishing regional offices which is currently proposed in the Community Schemes Ombud Service Bill should be accepted.
- The operational experience on the functioning of the ombuds office will be considered during the finalisation process of the Bill.
- A review of the Rental Housing Act as well as other relevant Acts should be undertaken by the Department.
The delegation further recommends the following:
- A future summit on sustainable human settlements should be held to discuss how South Africa can learn from international best practice, and possible future changes in policy direction.
- The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements should share best practices gained from the Australian experience with the Constituency Whippery (Woodridge constituency office and programmes), as well as relevant portfolio committees such as Justice and Constitutional Development (Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and other tribunals), Trade and Industry (Office of the Public Trustee), and Social Development (Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre, services to persons with disabilities and elderly by the Office of the Public Trustee).
- The promotion of and extensive support measures for the NGO sector to become strategic partners in development should be encouraged.
Lessons learned during the delegation’s study tour to Queensland, Australia suggest a number of best practices that have possible implications for South Africa. While with some of these issues it is possible to make changes in the way we conduct our business in the country, the rest requires further discussions on future policy directions or a shift in paradigm. In the words of the President’s 2008 State-of-the-Nation Address, it calls for “business unusual”.
Acknowledgements: The delegation would like to express its appreciation to the Parliament of South Africa for approving this study tour, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), including the South African Embassy in Australia, as well as the Minister of Human Settlements for availing two legal advisers from the Department to share in new knowledge gained by the study tour.
Report to be considered.
 Refers to contribution schedule and interest schedule for lot based on, e.g. size of lot.
 The definition of superannuation is an investment strategy designed to provide for Australians financially upon retirement.
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