Staff take home national Brighter Future Awards

The AHI Brighter Future awards have been celebrating the achievements of housing professionals across Australia and New Zealand since 2004. In the 2023 cohort, Servants was featured twice, with one finalist and one national winner!

Servants’ staff were honoured at this month’s national Brighter Future Awards, presented by the Australasian Housing Institute during AHURI’s 2023 National Housing Conference.

The awards, which recognise excellence in social and affordable housing across the country, are presented to employees and residents who embody the ‘brighter future’ of the sector across nine categories.

Servants Community Housing was featured in two of the award categories after Mikyla Battey and Jayden Battey were recognised as the regional winners for Victoria/Tasmania, in the Inspirational Team Member and Future Leader categories respectively.

According to the AHI, the Inspirational Team Member Award acknowledges a person who is passionate about their role and understands how it fits into the strategic outcomes of their organisation, and the values of social housing. They consistently demonstrate enthusiasm to add value to their role and motivate others within their team and/or organisation by the approach they take in their work.

Mikyla was, among other things, nominated for her leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging new businesses to partner with Servants and for her contributions to local government housing strategies across Melbourne’s south-east. Using her experience as a live-in house manager, she has been able to embed personal approaches to tenancy management throughout Servants, leading to residents growing in agency and independence.

The Future Leader award recognises industry professionals who have shown potential to excel as a future leader, with nominees deemed to have a future in General Management or C-suite level positions, and to one day have a significant impact on the sector. Jayden, who received both the regional VIC/TAS and National awards in this category, was selected for his work building long-term relationships with members at all levels of government, strategic leadership within Servants, and for his Masters thesis, which analysed the opportunities and challenges for community sector organisations in working with government to address homelessness in Victoria.

January Jazz 2023

Check out photos from this year’s January Jazz, and meet the 2023 Servants Community Award recipients!

January Jazz was back for 2023, and residents topped the lists of our honoured guests!

When you’re focussed on finding a safe place to sleep, there’s not much brain space (or budget) left for thinking about live music. But we know enjoying live music together can have a profound impact on people – and is an incredible way of building community.

In fact, getting your boogie on is a pretty unique way to create a sense of equality: we all look silly and uncoordinated together!

That’s the heart behind January Jazz, our annual live music extravaganza where residents, friends, and neighbours gather to celebrate, build relationships, and remind each other to savour the moments of joy that surround us each day.

It’s all about building community.

Sure, we’re a housing organisation – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have fun! But as with all things, our fun comes loaded with meaning and intention. We exist to create communities where respect, dignity, hope and opportunity are nurtured – and this event highlights the best of it.

Curious as to how? Here are some fun stats and stories for you:

  • Bringing residents and the wider community together builds friendships, breaking down barriers across geography, age, and socio-economic status. We had over 300 people join us for the night!
  • Residents were involved and empowered through the event; sharing stories, MC’ing, bumping in gear, and welcoming guests. Even despite the rain and a last-minute venue change, over 20% of our residents took part.
  • The event is free, but generous contributions from guests raised over $3000 to support high-quality community housing in Melbourne.
  • Our annual community awards recognised some amazing individuals who exemplify the best of what it means to be in community.

Our award recipients show us how to live in community.

Our annual community awards, this year presented by Amanda Donohoe (CEO) and Dr Monique Ryan (Federal Member for Kooyong), went to four outstanding individuals who teach us every day what it means to exist in community.

The Warren Clarke Volunteer Award, named after a former Board Member, honours a volunteer who goes above and beyond to build strong, enduring relationships with residents and contributes to the positive culture at Servants. This year, the award was awarded to:

  • Brian Crisp, for his tireless work supporting our facilities management team. Brian goes a step beyond simply volunteering his time, and works alongside residents to build their own skills and confidence in areas they’re interested in.
  • Laurie Barton, for over 10 years investing in the lives of our residents. Laurie leads the Canterbury Baptist Church BBQ team in facilitating monthly meals for residents at Hamer Court, regularly mentors and befriends residents, provides coaching and guidance, and pastorally supports our house managers at the property.

The Barry Paramore Resident Award honours a resident who invests deeply in our community, actively using their gifts and skills to add value and heart to our community. This year, the recipient is:

  • Peter, who faithfully serves his housemates by gardening, recycling, cleaning and putting out bins, and actively maintaining the shared spaces in the house. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the bins at Peter’s house are so clean you could eat from them!
  • Additionally, we had the chance to honour Barry (the award’s namesake), who was the 2022 recipient.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the same without our generous partners, and a few extra special people!

Nights like this don’t just happen: they’re carefully planned and executed by a wonderful team of businesses, individuals and friends who pitch in. We’d like to extend a special thanks to:

  • Dr Monique Ryan, Federal Member for Kooyong, who presented our community awards
  • Honoured guests, Jess Wilson (State Member for Kew), Crs Susan Bigger and Di Gillies (Boroondara Councillors), and Federal Members Zoe Daniels (Goldstein), Kylie Think (North Sydney), and Kate Chaney (Curtin)
  • Rhiannon Gill, Polly Maudlin, Andy Clarke and the members of the Motown Review
  • Sebastian Farcione and the members of the Brunswick Stage Band
  • MC’s Chandi Piefki, and resident Andrew
  • Resident Brent Soltan, for sharing his story with our guests on the night
  • Caleb Elbourne, Kiara V and Isaac Williams’ Jazz Trio
  • Kat Grosser, whose tireless work held our event together
  • Christ Church Hawthorn, for so kindly donating their venue last-minute!
  • Rotary Club of Balwyn, and their BBQ Team
  • Manuel and the team at Vanilla & Co Gelato
  • Mila Sumner and the team at Boroondara Council
  • Cannings Free Range Butchers
  • Breadstreet Bakery
  • Belgrave South Primary School
  • St Andrews Christian College

Welcome: Honey bees!

Thanks to Bank of Melbourne, residents at Carrical and Hamer Court now care for over 50,000 bees in their very own bee hives. 

Our residents learning to care for bees at one of our houses. As the hives mature, residents will collect the honey to sell.

Looking after bees has been a dream for Servants staff and residents for years – but now it’s a reality. In fact, over 60,000 honey-making bees currently call a Servants house, ‘home’.

The bees aren’t just for show. In fact, they will be put to good use. The process of caring for bees has proven to be therapeutic for residents, giving a sense of purpose.

Karina Battey, Day Manager at Hamer Court, has been intimately involved with the project. She says, “We started with around 35,000 bees at each of two properties, but the hives are growing steadily and we now have thousands more.”

She also sees the impact they have on residents.

How honey-making friends are helping create safe, sustainable housing for people on low incomes.

As with everything, the bee project (which we’re calling Home Sweet Comb), is part of Servants’ mission to create communities where respect, dignity, hope and opportunity are nurtured. The process of caring for bees is therapeutic, especially for people experiencing acute mental illness. And residents are loving it.

Karina says, “Residents are excited. Involvement with the bees is expanding their interest across the whole house, motivating them to try new things and growing a new sense of pride for their home. Caring for the bees gives residents something to look forward to each day, but also gives them a long-term goal as they get excited to make honey in the future.

“I think of one resident in particular. He spent months looking forward to the bees arriving, and there’s a noticeable change in his happiness since he’s been able to get involved.”

Over time, residents plan to harvest honey, and are also getting creative about other ways to use the wax. Wax candles, among other things, might be on the menu in coming months.

All of this has been possible thanks to a grant from Bank of Melbourne, which has supported the purchasing of materials, training, and ongoing support to ensure the project remains sustainable and scalable.

Our beekeeper preparing the bees with a smoker.
Bees on their arrival day.

‘Every person is going through something’.

CEO Amanda Donohoe and Women’s House Manager Belinda Battey are honoured at Boroondara’s 2022 Australia Day awards.

The following words are republished with permission from a speech by Belinda Battey, who was recently honoured as the 2022 Boroondara Young Citizen of the Year for her tireless volunteering with Servants Community Housing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same ceremony, CEO Amanda Donohoe received a special commendation award for her leadership and dedication.

“For the past 12 months I’ve had the privilege of living as an on-site volunteer house manager with Servants. The house I manage supports a number of women from different backgrounds and with different challenging experiences, including acute mental illness and domestic violence.

By living with people with such different experiences, I have been face to face with the fact that every individual is going through different challenges in life. It goes back to the old saying: don’t judge a book by its cover. Every person has their own experiences, and every person is going through something. Everyone has a story.

Having the opportunity to live and be alongside people while they face significant challenges has been a privilege; to support those people, and be a positive, stable, encouraging presence in their lives. Especially during a time where everyone’s lives are that bit more complicated as we make our way through these COVID times.

As an occupational therapy student who wishes to work amongst people, supporting them in their daily lives, volunteering at Servants has given me prime opportunities for exposure to the world around me, and experience that I could not gain through uni alone.

My encouragement to myself, and to everyone in this room is to strive to continually be the person who doesn’t judge, who stops, listens, and genuinely cares for the people around them.

“One moment that will always stay with me is when a new resident moved in. On the day they moved in they told me that in their previous residence, they would stack furniture against the door at night to make sure no one could get in. But here, she felt safe. She had a lock on her door that she knew she could use, to lock her door overnight while she slept, but she did not feel the need to. Because now she had somewhere safe to live; somewhere that felt like home.

This award shows that the work Servants is doing in our community is valued and important. To me it is not just me standing here, but this recognises the work of all the staff and volunteers at Servants, and it is a privilege to have this recognition.

Thank you.”





Belinda was further featured on the front cover
of the Boroondara Bulletin (March edition),
alongside fellow recipients.