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Indigenous public housing tenants fight to end no-grounds eviction in WA

Aaron Bunch -

Two Supreme Court legal challenges in Western Australia could end no-grounds evictions for public housing tenants.

Lawyers for two Indigenous public housing tenants will argue the Department of Communities' use of no-grounds evictions and fixed-term public housing tenancies denies procedural fairness and is legally unreasonable.

The outcome could have ramifications for more than 1000 public housing tenants on fixed-term tenancies, all of whom could be evicted from their home with no-grounds evictions.

Lawyer Kate Davis says WA is the only Australian jurisdiction still using no-grounds evictions against public housing tenants.

"We've got a real problem in this state of evictions of families from public housing and the consequences are devastating," she told reporters on Friday.

Ms Davis said more than half of the public housing tenants on fixed-term tenancies evicted without grounds were Indigenous.

"This is disproportionately impacting First Nations families and it's not good enough," she said.

"Evictions from public housing are almost certain to lead to homelessness."

Ms Davis said parental homelessness was the leading cause of children entering the justice system and state care.

"These issues have very serious consequences," she said.

"It's a fast track into juvenile justice issues. We've seen children die."

Ms Davis said the department should focus on supporting families to stay in their homes "rather than being kicked out onto the streets".

"The fact that every other state provides public housing without these unfair evictions shows they are not necessary," she said.

WA Housing Minister John Carey defended the government's social housing record, saying it had driven down evictions and was supporting public housing tenants.

"The stats do not lie," he told reporters.

"Under the previous Liberal government in 2015-2016, there were more than 300 bailiff evictions. Our numbers in the last year is below 50."

He said the government understood tenants who lost public housing "falls back into a cycle of homelessness" and it had made significant investments to support tenants.

Mr Carey said the Magistrates Court, not the government, that made decisions about the eviction of public housing tenants.

"No ground evictions, that terminology, is a limited legal term. There are still substantial reasons why someone may be evicted," he said.

The minister said the department tried to work with tenants but some would not engage with support services.

"It is always a last resort but there are situations where the risk to neighbours, to other social housing tenants, or the community where there must be action taken," he said.

The cases, mentioned in the Supreme Court in Perth on Friday, are expected to return to the same court on July 12.

The WA Department of Communities said that as of March 31, there were more than 65,000 people living across more than 32,000 public housing tenancies in WA.

Last year, there were less than 50 bailiff evictions across the state.

"Evictions from public housing have reduced substantially reduced under the current government," a spokesperson said.

"However, sometimes despite all engagement and supports provided, termination action has to be undertaken to ensure the safety of the community, especially adjoining neighbours."

The department added that without grounds terminations are rarely issued.

Aaron Bunch - AAP

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