Housing crisis

Housing crisis leaves opal miners no choice but to live in a tent

Opal miners Aaron and Skye Buschmann never thought they would be homeless.

Their daily job was to travel the hinterland in search of precious stones.

“We went through Coober Pedy, Andamooka and met some of the best miners in the country,” Buschmann said.

Mr. Buschmann hunting for opals.(Provided: Aaron Buschmann)

Mr Buschmann said they were living comfortably in a house on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula until the rent was raised by $170 a week.

They traveled to South Australia to find a house to rent, but were unlucky and eventually ended up in New South Wales.

The married couple have spent the past six months in a tent at Wilks Park, a diversion canal in northern Wagga Wagga.

“It’s a nightmare,” Mr Buschmann said.

“You wake up in a recurring circle – you go around and do the same thing every day.

A woman with her hair in a bun holds a small puppy to her chest while standing in front of makeshift tents.
Mrs. Buschmann with her dog, Opal.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

Mr Buschmann said people did not understand that anyone could become homeless.

“We were in one of the wealthiest parts of the country and here we are,” he said.

“So it shows that all these people are saying it can’t happen to them – it can happen to them.

“We were in a high position and now we are in a low position.”

Mr and Mrs Buschmann are on a list for social housing but have been told they face a five to seven year wait.

He said the Salvation Army had offered Young temporary housing in exchange for farm work, but he had to make sure the hours didn’t violate his disability pension requirements.

A man with tattoos on his right arm stands in front of a tent.
Mr. Buschmann says his living situation makes it harder to find a job.(ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

Worrying numbers, bleak outlook

Figures from campaign group Everybody’s Home show the rental vacancy rate in the NSW region is below 1%.

Rents have increased by 10 to 20%.

Homelessness Australia spokeswoman Kate Colvin said the problem was getting worse.

“More and more people, especially in regional areas, are sleeping in tents,” she said.

Ms Colvin said 50% of people visiting homeless services said they were struggling financially, while 30% were fleeing family and domestic violence.

‘Australia has a huge shortage of social housing which means there is no safety net for people who are being squeezed out of the rental market,’ she said.

“Homelessness Australia, along with other organisations, is calling on the Federal Government to invest in 25,000 social housing units a year because we have a social housing shortage of over 400,000 units.”

She said homelessness was increasing and she did not want Australia to end up in a situation like the United States, where it was very common for low-wage workers to be homeless or live in a caravan. .

An abandoned house with boarded up windows and tall grass.
Some communities are frustrated with the number of condemned vacant homes. (ABC Riverina: Shannon Corvo)

John Hicks, an economics professor at Charles Sturt University, said he expects the cost of living to rise.

He said governments should build more housing, but communities should take care of the people doing it hard.

“This inflation is going to continue for some time to come, so it is becoming increasingly difficult for households, especially at the lower end of the socio-economic scale, to make ends meet, he said.

“It looks like things in Europe are getting a bit worse, which is adding to the cost pressure.

“We are seeing these cost pressures trickle down to our own prices and on top of that we have catastrophic flooding which will drive prices up again as many crops have been wiped out.”