leigh muirhead and karen lyon reid at the 2021 annual forum

Wrap Up: The 2021 Annual Forum on Women & Homelessness – Seize the Momentum

By | Blog, Homelessness

The Lady Musgrave Trust 2021 Annual Forum was proudly brought to you by our sponsors Queensland Government, North Harbour, Watson & Associates, Keystone Private, Lovewell Cafe, Lucid Media and The Content Division.

We’ve just wrapped up our 13th Annual Forum on Women and Homelessness and it was a huge success! After our original plans to host this year’s Forum during Homelessness Week were postponed due to lockdown, we decided to take the whole Forum online for the second year in a row.

This year’s theme was “Seize the Momentum”, which focused on building and maintaining the momentum over the past 18 months for women’s voices to be heard and for expedited solutions to end homelessness.

Hosting the Forum once again was the brilliant Leigh Muirhead, alongside our CEO Karen Lyon Reid and an impressive lineup of speakers from many organisations in the homelessness sector, who all pivoted to bring us their presentations online.

For the hundreds of registrants who signed up to watch the Forum live online, we hope you enjoyed the sessions and found the content valuable (let us know here).

If you missed it, below is a summary of the speaker’s presentations and findings. You can click on the links at the end of each paragraph to watch individual segments, or view the entire Forum recording in full below.

A special welcome

We kicked off the Annual Forum with an opening message from The Honourable Leeanne Enoch MP, Minister for Communities & Housing, who outlined the Action Plan from the Palaszczuk Government to boost housing supply and improve coordination in the delivery of services.

“Far too many Queensland women and their children are at risk of homelessness, and we need new solutions to alleviate this need, especially with the new challenges of COVID-19.

“With an increasing number of older women at an increased risk of homeless, the Palaszczuk Government is committed to ensuring all women, regardless of age, can access housing assistance if they need it.”

Watch The Hon. Minster Leeane Enoch’s full message

Where to go to get support

Karen Lyon Reid, CEO of The Lady Musgrave Trust, provided an update on The Handy Guide for Homeless Women, which is our directory of information and services for women in need. These guides are distributed daily by sector workers and volunteers and will soon be digitalised, making it even easier for people to access this information.

Jump online now to pre-order the 2021/2022 Handy Guide for Brisbane and Regional Queensland, with shipping commencing in October 2021.

Copies of The Handy Guide for Older Women, which was launched at last year’s Annual Forum, are still available to order. You can also sign up for our Housing Journey For Older Women Workshops for women over 55 who are looking for innovative housing solutions.

Watch the update from Karen Lyon Reid

The scale of Queensland’s housing crisis

Our first speaker was Aimee McVeigh, CEO of QCOSS (Queensland Council of Social Service), who spoke about the scale of the housing crisis in Queensland, the response to homelessness as a direct result of COVID-19, rental reforms and what the outcomes for women look like, and how economic downturns present opportunities for stimulus in a way that creates social benefits for generations to come.

“Queensland is absolutely in the thick of a housing crisis. We have over 50,000 people on our housing register. If those people came together and formed a town, it would be the fifth biggest town in Queensland.”

Aimee also introduced The Town Of Nowhere campaign, “Queensland’s 5th largest town that you never want to visit.”

Crucially, Aimee shared a number of indicators that we have reasons to be optimistic and that it is possible to address housing and homelessness issues for women in Queensland, Australia and around the world.

Watch Aimee McVeigh’s full presentation

The road home: creating a community for connection, inclusion and welcome for new arrivals in Queensland

Our next speaker was Christine Castley from Multicultural Australia, a non-for-profit that provides support to the thousands of refugees settling into Queensland every year. Christine spoke about the significant journey these people face and the accommodation and settlement support that is provided to them on arrival.

“Homelessness is a significant issue for any person who experiences it, but for refugees and migrants in particular, there is often a significance of secure housing.”

Christine spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on refugees, students and migrants, and shared three case studies of instances where Multicultural Australia have stepped in to assist refugee families.

“To have a safe and stable place of their own represents much more to a refugee than to someone who has never known such a loss of home, community and country.”

Watch Christine Castley’s full presentation

The leading housing innovations across Canada

Next we heard from Anne-Marie Robert from the Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation who spoke about Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy (NHS) – a ten year, $70+ billion plan to reduce homelessness for Canadians in need.

Under the NHS, public, private and not-profit sectors will come together with the aim to create affordable, stable and livable communities through a mixture of loan and grant funding. The goal is to ensure Canadians across the country have access to housing that meets their needs and is affordable.

One of the priority projects highlights the link between women with experiences of violence, housing instability and homelessness, and the disparity between how these services actually operate, often resulting in turnaways.

“There is a well-evidenced link between experiences of violence, housing instability and homelessness for women – but the homelessness-serving sector and domestic violence sector often operate separately. How can we better support cross-sectoral responses to housing needs for women, including women who have experienced or are at risk of violence?”

Watch Anne-Marie’s Robert’s full presentation

The first Canadian community to eradicate chronic homelessness

Next, Dr. Alina Turner from HelpSeeker spoke about the impact technology has on housing and homelessness, and introduced the Medicine Hat project, which became the first city in Canada to end chronic homelessness.

Medicine Hat, a city in Alberta, is big enough to have a homelessness challenge, but small enough that they could experiment with innovative solutions.

“Medicine Hat has been a beacon of hope for Canada, it has shown us that [ending homelessness] can be done, but it’s an ongoing project. It’s not an “ending homelessness and we’re done”.

The phases of work included creating the space to innovate, formalising a systems approach and having a vision beyond an end to homelessness.

“When we started this we didn’t know what exactly we were getting into. We started with housing first, then came systems planning. We can house people, but if all those underlying root causes and challenges aren’t disrupted, then we’re really just spinning wheels. We also looked at people and performance indicators, service quality standards and a rights-based approach to housing. We took a data-driven approach, but we also looked beyond homelessness to address homelessness.”

Watch Dr. Alina Turner’s full presentation
Watch the Medicine Hat Systems Transformation Project Video

Scaling as an initiative, not a “cut and paste”

We were then joined in the studio by The Lady Musgrave Trust Director, Jenny Clark, who had a great discussion with Rachel Watson about housing scalability and solutions, such as the Housing Action Lab.

Rachel spoke about how to scale housing solutions to create change, asking the question “What transformative actions can we take together today to deliver the housing solutions of tomorrow?”

The Housing Action Lab applies the elements of scaling, but most importantly demonstrates the process of “spreading impact”.

“Moving the language from replication or pilots to scaling is a really important one. We need to think about [solutions] as a scaling initiative, not a “cut and paste”.

Rachel and Jenny also discussed the impact of increasing housing costs in combination with the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. What is going to be the impact of affordable housing?

“The 2032 Olympics are such an opportunity, but also a threat by way of further increasing property prices and excluding people on lower incomes from many areas that get caught up in Olympics-driven demand. It often ends up serving people on higher incomes, both in terms of increased property values as well as increasing the threshold of entry into certain local housing markets.“

Watch Jenny & Rachel’s full chat

Sharing With Friends, a co-housing initiative

Our next speaker was Susan Davies, who shared a new Queensland housing initiative called Sharing With Friends. Started by a group of Zonta members, Sharing with Friends is a co-housing model of affordable home ownership to women retiring on meager superannuation.

“Having a house, a secure place to live, where you can keep contributing to community life, you can still be connected socially, you’re not alone, I think it’s a wonderful concept and really part of my commitment to the community, which I’ve been working to build all my professional life.” – Sharing With Friends resident

Watch the full Sharing with Friends story and check out the ABC news story as well

A unique ownership structure

Our next speaker was Emma Telfer, the Director of Culture & Strategy at Assemble, a private property development group with a real focus on affordable and social housing.

Emma shared the Assemble future housing model, which is an alternative pathway to home ownership in Australia. This includes a “Build to rent to own” model, which gives residents a 5-year lease with the option to purchase upon conclusion. Residents range from first homebuyers to older single women looking to secure their financial future.

“This is an alternative pathway into home ownership for people who have been locked out for whatever reason, whether that is rising house prices or their inability to get into a position to save the extraordinary amount of money you need for a home deposit. Residents have a fixed arrangement, so they know exactly what they are working towards and are supported through a number of programs like financial coaching, bulk buying and community engagement.”

Watch the full discussion with Emma Telfer

Opportunities for women in construction

Our final speakers were from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). Operating for 25 years, NAWIC continues to advocate and close the gaps across all roles that females operate, making sure women are getting the same opportunities as men.

Sheree Taylor, the current President, and Radmila Desic, past president, discussed the employment opportunities for women in construction and trade.

“There are two factors that become a challenge and barrier for women. One is the employers themselves – the industry has not been as quick and ready to take on women, particularly around non-traditional trades. The other area is as primary caregivers – the flexibility of this industry is somewhat difficult if you’ve got young children. NAWIC is creating strategies and working with the state government to make significant changes to improve these two factors.”

Watch the full discussion with Sheree & Radmila from NAWIC

Thanks to everyone involved for making this event so successful. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

What did you think of the 13th Annual Forum on Women and Homelessness? Let us know by filing out our short survey. The more we share ideas, the better we can learn, collaborate and address the needs of homeless women in Queensland and Australia.

Patricia McCormack in front of a The Lady Musgrave Trust banner

A fond farewell and thank you, Patricia

By | Blog, News

After more than nine years of service, our President and Chairman Patricia McCormack is retiring from The Lady Musgrave Trust.

Patricia has served as President on the Board of The Lady Musgrave Trust for the past six years, and as a Director for three years before that. We would like to recognise and thank Patricia for her long-time service and commitment to fighting women’s homelessness and improving the lives of young women in Queensland.

“It was my honour and pleasure to serve as President and Chairman of the Board for this magnificent charitable organisation,” says Patricia.

“The journey for me has been very rewarding, although at times very challenging and time demanding. I am very proud of the Trust, its place in the community and the services delivered which make it the successful organisation that it is today.”

Patricia has been a huge changemaker for the Trust. Some of her achievements during her tenure include:

  • Expanding our property portfolio
  • Positioning The Handy Guide for Homeless Women as one of our most valuable support services
  • Completing an 18-month project to address homelessness for older women
  • Launching the creation of new marketing and branding for the Trust
  • Strengthening our governance framework and the diversity of expertise within our board
  • Significantly increasing our supporter base and financial position

Stepping into the new role as President is Louise Kelly, who has been a Director on the board of The Lady Musgrave Trust for several years.

“Patricia has been the heart and soul of The Lady Musgrave Trust for many years now,” says Louise. “The hard work and dedication that she has put into the Trust means that she is leaving a legacy of a professionally run charity, well respected for the important work that it does in supporting vulnerable women in Queensland.

“For those of us who have had the privilege of working with Patricia and learning from her, we wish her all the best in her retirement and thank her on behalf of the many women whose lives have been positively impacted by the work she has done.”

patricia mccormack and louise kelly

Incoming President Louise Kelly pictured with Patricia McCormack at The Lady Musgrave Trust’s High Tea Fundraiser


The Lady Musgrave Trust CEO Karen Lyon Reid says the Trust’s successes could not have been achieved without Patricia’s leadership.

“Under Patricia’s stewardship, the legacy Lady Musgrave established 136 years ago will continue well beyond the 136th year we now celebrate.”

Although it is a sad moment for Patricia, she remains confident that Louise, together with Karen and the remaining Board members, will ably take the Trust forward to a very positive future.

“I believe the Trust is now in a very good position and will continue its growth and success in the future. I must thank the generous support of our many contributors – our donors, sponsors, volunteers and our partners who are a vital part of our story. Thank you also to the past and current Directors who have worked with me over this time.”

While we are sad to see her go, The Lady Musgrave Trust wishes Patricia all the best for her next chapter.

Thank you, Patricia.

Why Christmas brings a spike in domestic violence against women

By | Blog, Homelessness

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration. Most of us look forward to the holiday season in anticipation of laughter and fun, spending quality time with family and friends. It is especially true in 2020, with COVID impacting the precious time spent with loved ones.

But unfortunately for many Queensland women and their children, Christmas is not a time of joy. It is a tragic time marked by fear and intimidation with increases in domestic and family violence (DFV).

Helen Poynten, Regional Manager of Relationships Australia Queensland says there are several reasons why incidents of DFV spike over the Christmas season.

“Christmas tends to be a time of more. More family visits, more food shopping, more present buying, more alcohol consumed, more spending. This season of more can exacerbate families under strain. This can lead to domestic violence in the household.”

Domestic violence describes a person being subjected to an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviour by an intimate partner or family member. This behaviour is motivated by a desire to dominate, control or oppress the other person and to cause fear. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial and sexual abuse.

Helen says DFV can be experienced by anyone in a domestic or family relationship, from any age group, financial bracket, gender partnership and any cultural group, but “some people are sadly more at risk. Most people accept that DFV is gendered violence – meaning that 70% of domestic violence is experienced by women.”

Tragically, it is younger women who are most at risk. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 13% of women aged 18–24 experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence in the past 12 months, compared with 8% of women aged 35–44 and 2% of women aged 55 years and over.

According to ANROWS, 61% of women had children in their care when the violence occurred. Yasmin Dulley, Principal at Byron Family Law, says that courts and family law solicitors generally see an increase in client reports of domestic violence around the Christmas period “as well as applications made in both State (domestic violence) and Federal Courts (parenting matters).”

“This is due to a number of factors, including tension around any terms of agreement relating to parenting matters and the practical implementation of those agreements. Conflict often arises around changeover times and locations, as well as agreement on who will have the care of the child over Christmas,” Yasmin explains.

“Our role as solicitors is to ensure that parents or carers have certainty and clarity around any agreed terms or the terms of a court order, so as to reduce additional stress and conflict.”

sad woman looking out curtains

One of the highest social risk factors of domestic violence is housing.

“Housing is a critical issue for all people who have experienced DFV, and is a major contributor to women and children’s homelessness,” says Helen. “This is why the community needs to support crisis care, including safe housing, counselling and other associated needs (like personal feminine care items, bags, etc).”

The Lady Musgrave Trust produces the Handy Guide for Homeless Women each year, a booklet that provides support services for women who are without shelter or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Family and Federal Circuit Courts have recently introduced an innovative pilot called The Lighthouse Project which Yasmin says is designed to assist families most at risk of experiencing family violence, to navigate the family law system.

“The Lighthouse Project aims to improve the safety of children and families within family law proceedings through early risk screening, early identification and management of safety concerns, assessment and triage by a specialist team and referral of high-risk cases to a dedicated court list,” explains Yasmin.

Helen says this is a social problem that everyone is responsible for ending. “A key sign of domestic violence is increased isolation of the woman removing herself from established support networks (e.g. work friends, family, neighbours) so she can’t escape the fear and intimidation.

“COVID restrictions have increased concern for women’s safety for a lot of services. There are stories of women being in awful socially isolated situations. For example, one woman’s only access to support was having a community worker in the car with her when she had a scheduled driving lesson, as this was the only time her partner let her out of his sight.

“Don’t be afraid to ask if your friend is OK. But make sure you do it safely,” she says. This includes not asking how they are going in front of the person that could be abusing them. “Choose your timing well for her. This often includes the children’s safety – be mindful of their situation, too.”

Helen adds, “There is often a lot of shame felt by women living in domestic violence. The best thing you can do is show compassion and not judge your friend. We want them to know we are here for them and willing to help.”


This Christmas, keep your eyes and ears open to what may be happening behind closed doors near you. It takes a village to stop domestic violence and women’s homelessness before it happens.

If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic and family violence, there are many services available in Queensland that can help:

  • If it is an emergency, contact Queensland Police Service (000) for immediate response. QPS have an automatic referral to a counsellor who will support women and advise them of the support services available.
  • DV Connect (1800 811 811) is an organisation that provides crisis support and counselling, as well as a women’s refuge service assisting women and children affected by a domestic violence incident to obtain placement into crisis care.
  • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a telephone helpline for friends and family to report if someone they know is experiencing domestic violence.
  • Relationships Australia QLD (1300 364 277) is an organisation that provides relationship support and advice to individuals and families across Queensland.
  • Mensline (1800 041 612) is a national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men.
  • Immigrant Women’s Support Service (07 3846 3490) offers support to immigrant and refugee women from non-English speaking backgrounds and their children who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence.
  • Women’s Legal Service (1800 957 957) and Legal Aid QLD (1300 65 11 88) provides free legal advice and legal support services to victims of domestic violence, including in relation to applications for a domestic violence order, children’s Court matters and Family Law matters generally.

The Lady Musgrave Trust are currently in the middle of their Christmas fundraising appeal. You can help by buying a raffle ticket or making a donation.

Blue house on quiet street

Queensland’s oldest charity launches much-needed guide to empower alarming number of older women facing homelessness in the state

By | Blog, Homelessness

Queensland’s oldest charity has turned its attention to focus on supporting the growing number of older women who are facing housing uncertainty.

Senior women facing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic have benefitted from increased payments via JobSeeker and increased availability in the private rental sector, but The Lady Musgrave Trust’s chief executive officer Karen Lyon Reid said there was still very much an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear.

“The increase in housing availability and payments while positive are only providing temporary relief,” she said.

The Lady Musgrave Trust, established in 1885, is Queensland’s oldest charity and a champion for homeless women.

Last year, the Trust surveyed more than 100 women experiencing or concerned about homelessness after the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced older women’s homelessness had increased by 31 per cent between the past two census periods.

“Women 55 or over represent the fastest growing demographic in the homeless population,” Karen said.

“The rate of growth in this demographic is a new and alarming phenomenon.”

The Trust provides life-saving services to vulnerable women and their children when they are facing critical homeless situations.

Women like Elly, who at 76 has struggled to find affordable and suitable housing since the break-up of her 43-year marriage.

Elly’s journey as a homeless senior woman started 10 years ago when she returned home from two years of working in Asia as an English teacher to find her husband had sold her car to fund his drinking and gambling addictions.

Their family home was also about to be repossessed.

“I just packed up and left. I was distraught,” she said.

With limited savings and unable to find work because she was “too old” and “overqualified”, the mum-of-two got housesitting jobs and started studying for a second university degree. Eventually, sick of living out of suitcases, Elly rented a unit but the rent kept increasing at a rate that her pension didn’t.

In March this year Elly was approved for public housing east of Brisbane but she said the living situation was still not ideal.

“I feel like I’m being punished for being a woman and for being alive this late in life,” she said.

“There’s just no decent standard of living for older women.

“I have many friends who find normal housing unaffordable. It is not just my story – it is the stories of many women.

“Women with no personal support network don’t know who to turn to and where to get help.”

With the aim to provide older women with practical and relevant information on how to resolve their unique circumstances, the Trust have developed the Handy Guide for Older Women to be launched on August 5.

Since 2011, together with its partners, the Trust has developed and distributed the widely adopted Handy Guide for Homeless Women products.

This year, the guide has been developed specifically for older women who are facing homelessness or are anxious about their future housing.

Karen said the guide looks at the whole woman, not just their housing needs, and includes planning tools and a directory of services from health and wellbeing, training and employment.

“While it is for older women, it is also helpful for friends, family members and workers in services that connect with older women,” she said.

“The intent of the Handy Guide for Older Women is to educate women and encourage planning before a crisis emerges.”

The Trust will be congratulated at the launch on their work in developing the Guide by Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson, State Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni and Assistant Federal Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services Luke Howarth.

Over the next 12 months, the Guide will be put into the hands of tens of thousands of women over the age of 55.

It can also be ordered online at

Food service

Intersectional vulnerabilities: How COVID-19 has affected society’s most defenceless

By | Blog, Homelessness

Words by Mollie Matthews

For those sleeping rough, lockdown has made life more difficult than ever before. Businesses are closed. Public bathrooms are shut. Shelters are overflowing, with food donations and volunteer workers decreasing daily as people prioritise their own safety over helping others. Staying home, washing our hands and even social distancing are virus prevention measures we have taken for granted.

One organisation striving to combat this struggle is The Lady Musgrave Trust, Queensland’s oldest charity and a champion for homeless women. “Due to the pandemic, women don’t have as many choices,” says Karen Lyon Reid, CEO of The Lady Musgrave Trust.

After being told to ‘stay home’ for countless weeks, naturally, people are feeling cooped up. But for those who live in dangerous homes, this trapped feeling is a genuine, pressing threat. The UN Population Fund has projected that the global lockdown will result in 15 million more cases of domestic violence worldwide.

“They feel as if they have to stay in their current situation because they aren’t allowed to move due to restrictions. It’s hard for these women to research about where to go when you aren’t allowed to leave your house,” Ms Lyon Reid says.

“The intensity of these situations is beginning to ease with the easing of lockdown restrictions, but in the height of national lockdown, this issue was extremely problematic for women in those situations.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 42 percent of the clients of specialist homelessness services have experienced family and domestic violence, with this number expected to increase resultant of the number of reported cases.

For victims of domestic violence, many are forced to stay isolated with their abuser, causing an influx in reported cases and an increase in women seeking refuge and shelter. Unfortunately, it also means many survivors are deciding to return to their abuser, for fears that resource access is limited amid COVID-19.

“It’s more difficult for these women to live with their abusers, as people are in closer proximity with their partners and are drinking more,” Ms Lyon Reid says.

“The issue is being compounded and there’s less opportunities for these women to seek help or find places to stay – even hotels haven’t been open, so difficulty arises finding shelter and safety.”

The unemployment rate in Australia is estimated to increase to over 10 percent as a result of the pandemic. With such an increase in job loss nationwide, the potential for homelessness will be greater in many situations. Challenges for those already homeless have become more extreme, as they are exposed to more health risks, receive less help from volunteer organisations, and experience more difficulty seeking employment.

People who are homeless are more likely to contract respiratory diseases or have chronic health conditions that cause them to be susceptible to the virus. For these people who are among society’s most vulnerable, following the basic steps of virus prevention proves to be near impossible.

Properties such as those owned by The Lady Musgrave Trust help to aid people in escaping the dangers that come with sleeping rough during a global pandemic, but the resources owned by these charities aren’t capable of fully supporting the influx of people in need of their assistance while the funding remains the same as it was pre-pandemic.

“We provide accommodation to young women, so more funding to provide accommodation would allow us to assist more women,” says Ms Lyon Reid.

“As well as accommodation, we also produce our Handy Guide for Homeless Women in Brisbane. We print 16,000 physical copies of these each year, and we have already distributed all of these. More funding would mean we could have printed more of those, assisting more women in need.”

Women are most at risk of homelessness. Homeless people are the most at risk of contracting COVID-19. These intersecting vulnerabilities mean that now more than ever, people need to look past their privilege and help those who need it.

older woman looking at finances

Funding fast-tracks new program to help end homelessness for older women in QLD

By | Blog

It will soon be easier for older women experiencing homelessness or at risk of being homeless in Queensland to navigate their way to a better life, as Eastern Star Foundation announces a $100,000 grant to The Lady Musgrave Trust.

The gap funding will help Queensland’s oldest charity to rollout the Ending Homelessness for Older Women project, which includes the development of a new website, that will be a central repository of information and resources for those seeking help. In addition, a minimum of 16,000 hardcopies of the new Handy Guide for Older Women will be produced and distributed throughout communities across the state.

A portion of the funding will also go towards their annual Women and Homelessness Forum which will focus on Older Women – Living on the Edge of Homelessness to be held on the 5th of August. Industry experts and stakeholders will get together to collaborate on ways to address this ever-growing social issue.

The Lady Musgrave Trust Chief Executive Officer Karen Lyon Reid said with an ageing population, now is the time to step up efforts in this area.

“We’re seeing the number of older homeless women rise, with a 31% increase since 2011,” Ms Lyon Reid said.

“The reasons why women face homelessness in their older years are many and varied, whether that’s due to a family breakdown or loss of a partner, domestic violence, poor mental and physical health, poverty or financial difficulties due to loss of employment and lack of superannuation.

“The common denominator is that many of these older women are experiencing or at risk of homelessness for the first time and don’t know where to turn for help or feel daunted when approaching support services that are tailored for those that have been homeless in the long-term.

“This funding will help us improve outcomes for this vulnerable group right across the state.”

Eastern Star Foundation Chairman Johnathan Nantes said this was one of three initiatives to be funded by organisation in its inaugural grant round, since becoming a charitable foundation last year. The group, which was formerly known as Star Aged Living and was established by members of the Order of the Eastern Star, operated a not-for-profit aged care facility in Beaudesert before it was sold to Whiddon Group early last year.

“Our new charitable focus is to empower those who enhance the quality of life for our ageing communities,” Mr Nantes said.

“Indeed, the initiative aligns with our key activities which includes support for older and elderly women suffering from financial and physical hardship.

“We are proud to partner with The Lady Musgrave Trust on this important initiative to help more older women lead dignified and independent lives.”


For media requests, please contact:

Eastern Star Foundation Karen Tilke, Marketing and Public Relations, 0408 086 390 or

The Eastern Star (Australia) Foundation Ltd trading as Eastern Star Foundation Ph:07 3493 6093 | PO Box 1202, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 | ACN 166 950 321 | ABN 36 640 477 592

Why staying at home and self-isolation is a privilege not all can access

By | Blog, Homelessness

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australians are being told to stay home and stay safe. But what if you don’t have a home – or your home isn’t safe?

While it’s natural to be frustrated by the measures that have been introduced to combat COVID-19, it’s also important to acknowledge that the ability to self-isolate and maintain social distancing in a safe home environment is a privilege that not everyone enjoys.

For those sleeping rough, staying home isn’t an option. And for those living with a perpetrator of domestic violence, staying home is just as dangerous a prospect as going out.

Roughly 20,000 Queenslanders experience homelessness at any one time. Without safe and secure accommodation, they are particularly vulnerable to the virus, especially if they are already living with a chronic health condition. And with the coronavirus crisis causing a surge in unemployment, housing advocates are seeing an increase in the number of people sleeping rough.

The Lady Musgrave Trust, Queensland’s oldest charity and a champion for homeless women, is among those organisations experiencing an increase in demand for their services.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in calls from women seeking help,” says Karen Lyon Reid, CEO of The Lady Musgrave Trust.

“We provide at-risk and disadvantaged women and their children with accommodation in safe and furnished units throughout Brisbane and Ipswich, but those units are all full at the moment. We’re connecting women with other services, but we’re hearing reports that they’re having trouble finding accommodation elsewhere.”

Of particular concern for The Lady Musgrave Trust are the women who find themselves faced with the ‘choice’ of staying at home with an abusive partner or leaving their home and attempting to find accommodation in the midst of a pandemic.

“Women who may already have been at risk of domestic violence are now finding themselves trapped in circumstances that exacerbate the problem,” Ms Lyon Reid says. “People are staying at home, they’re cut off from their social networks, and in many cases they’re feeling financial pressure. People are under a lot of stress, and unfortunately, we know that stress often leads to violence.

“Obviously, COVID-19 makes it much harder for these women to simply walk out of their homes and into other premises. Their options are very limited.”

Ms Lyon Reid welcomes recent moves by the Federal and State Government to address the issue, including a $5.5 million boost from the Queensland Government for domestic violence services, and a push to house at-risk women and their children in hotels and residential properties to free up capacity in shelters. But, she says, charities like The Lady Musgrave Trust are still in urgent need of support from donors.

“Our issue is fundraising,” Ms Lyon Reid says. “The reality is that, between the bushfires earlier in the year and now the coronavirus, there’s only so much money to go around, and donations to The Trust have slowed.

“We’re asking our supporters to continue to contribute to our cause financially, because their donations enable us to continue to do our work.”

Among the priorities for The Trust is a new print run of the popular Handy Guide for Homeless Women, a document designed to provide women without shelter or at risk of becoming homeless with the information they need to improve their situation, including where they can access accommodation, health services, legal assistance and employment.

“We printed 14,000 copies of the Handy Guide for Homeless Women last August, and they’re all gone already,” Ms Lyon Reid says.

“We are urgently seeking funding for an additional print run of the Handy Guide, because it’s a real tool that empowers people to improve their circumstances. Nurses hand them out in hospitals; they get distributed to employment centres; and with so many people in dire straits and scared for their future, the Handy Guide will be an essential resource for them.”

You can donate to The Lady Musgrave Trust at

The Lady Musgrave Trust’s Handy Guide for Homeless Women is available online here.

For domestic or family violence support services, call DVConnect on 1800 811 811. Those who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness can call the Queensland Homeless Hotline on 1800 474 753.

The Lady Musgrave Trust appoints new Director

By | Blog

We are proud to announce that Allison McKelvie has been appointed as Director of The Lady Musgrave Trust.

Established in 1885, The Lady Musgrave Trust is Queensland’s oldest charity, and a champion for homeless and vulnerable women and their children.

Allison is a Partner at Hall Browns Accountants and has over 25 years’ experience in taxation and business services. Allison holds a Bachelor of Business, and is a member of CPA Australia, a registered tax agent and a licensed SMSF adviser.

As a female in business both employing women and supporting female clients, Allison is looking forward to bringing a variety of skills gained in public practice to women who are less fortunate.

“The opportunity to be involved with a charity that not only saves and enhances the lives of women across Queensland, but also works with them to empower them for their futures was very appealing,” she says.

“I consider myself very fortunate to be working with an organisation that is focused on bringing about change for homeless women.”

The Lady Musgrave Trust’s vision is for women and their children, throughout Queensland, to be free from homelessness.

The Trust focuses on three key services:

Find out more about The Lady Musgrave Trust, the services we provide and how you can support the valuable work we do here.

Five money traps to avoid at all costs

By | Blog

Mark Bates, a UnitingCare financial counsellor who spoke at The Lady Musgrave Trust 11th Annual Women and Homelessness Forum, calls out five things that we should stop wasting money on.

Funeral insurance

Generally, funeral insurance is the first thing people drop when the going gets tough. Especially as people get older, when we know they’re more likely to be living in poverty, funeral insurance is something they’re likely to cancel. Often, they’ll have been paying into it for several years by the time they cancel it, and then that money is just lost. So if you’re likely to cancel it eventually and get nothing back in return, why invest in funeral insurance in the first place?

If you really want to plan for the future, you’d be better off putting that money into a savings account and having control over it yourself. Then, when you have a dip in your income, you’re not making any more payments but that money is still there for you.

Controversially, perhaps, I would say private health insurance falls into this category for a lot of people, too. Should it really be a priority for you? It’s not necessarily a waste; it’s more that people need to review the appropriateness of it for their own situation. If you’re putting a lot of money into private health, and you’re on a low income, the reality is that your needs will usually be met by Medicare anyway.

For older people on a low income, life insurance is also something to reconsider. Clients will say to me, ‘Oh, it’s going to go to my grandchildren’, and that’s good, that’s their choice – but you have to look after yourself first. You can’t look after the grandkids if you’re not looking after yourself.

Credit repair services

You should never use a credit repair service, because the truth is you can’t repair someone’s credit. It actually can’t be done.

It’s one thing if the default on your credit file is an error. For instance, I had a default from Virgin Mobile, and I’ve never used Virgin Mobile. I was able to get that removed myself because it was put on my file in error. But if I genuinely owed that debt, a credit repair service wouldn’t be able to change it, no matter how much money I paid them.

After all, there’d be no point in having credit files if you could simply buy your way into good credit. You could say, ‘Here’s $5000 I borrowed; now please say I have a fantastic credit history’. It would be an endless cycle.

The reality is that nobody can repair your credit history if there’s a genuine default on there. And if it’s not a genuine default, you can fix it yourself – so why pay someone else to do it?

Rent-to-own appliances

The typical model for a rent-to-own appliance ends up costing people about three times as much as it would if they just bought it outright. So, for instance, if you bought a washing machine for $300, that same washing machine would end up costing you about $900 through a rent-to-own scheme.

If you’re on a low income, you may well be able to access a NILS (No Interest Loans Scheme) loan through a community service. They’ll lend you $300 to buy that washing machine, and it will end up costing you $300, as opposed to $900.

It’s just a very expensive way of acquiring whitegoods.

‘Exclusive’ credit cards and high-interest loans

People who believe in the ‘status’ of their credit cards have always astounded me. Why would you pay significantly more interest just so you can say you’ve got a David Jones American Express card?

I’ll ask clients, ‘Why do you want this credit card?’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh, it makes me feel better about myself’. It just seems a little bit pointless to me.

Similarly, people will happily pay more interest on a credit card from a particular bank, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’ve been with this bank since I was at school, and they’ve always been good to me’. The reality, of course, is that they haven’t been ‘good’ to you. They’ve made quite a lot of money out of you. That’s what they’re there to do.

Everything the bank does for you is about money. And when you’re dealing with the bank, it needs to be about money for you, too. You should apply the same standards that they do. It’s not about status, or what bank account you had as a kid, or how you feel about them. It needs to come down to money.

The hardest lender to deter people from using is actually Cash Converters, because most people who have used Cash Converters a lot will have a personal relationship with the person who works at their local store. They’ll say, ‘Cash Converters are great! They always look after me!’

Meanwhile, they’re paying higher fees. But as far as they’re concerned, Cash Converters are great, because they’re meeting a need in their community.

Memberships and apps

Gym memberships are a classic money trap. We all start the new year with great commitment to our personal fitness, and by the middle of February, we find ourselves thinking, ‘One drink and one pie won’t really make any difference now, will it?’

I think most people have a story about joining a gym, going once or twice, and then finding themselves still paying for it two years later. They’re either too embarrassed to go into the gym and cancel it, or they signed a long-term contract – that’s how your money is wasted.

In terms of other memberships and streaming services, it depends on your income, but the less you’ve got, the more every little bit helps. For some people, cancelling their Spotify account won’t change their life. But for someone on a low income, if they’ve got $100 left for the week after they pay the rent, not paying for Spotify will make a big difference.

At the same time, I think it’s important that we don’t deny people on low incomes the simple things the rest of us take for granted. At the end of the day, we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. People ought to be able to afford to get a bit of exercise, or drink one beer in a pub on a Friday night. These things shouldn’t ruin anybody’s world, and we shouldn’t be too judgemental.

Smoking is a good example. We all know smoking is very expensive and it’s very bad for you. There’s no debate about either of these things. But if a client comes to me and says, ‘Six months ago I lost my job, and then I became homeless, and my wife left me, and now I’m spending $100 on cigarettes’, I’m not going to say, ‘Well, is it a good time for you to quit smoking?’ Because it’s not. I’ve never been a smoker, but I know that if I was under that sort of stress, that would not be the time to quit smoking.

Life’s tough enough for people – they don’t need moral judgements being made about them as well.

Seek advice from a professional before making any important financial decisions. For more information, call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Six myths about debt

By | Blog

Mark Bates, a UnitingCare financial counsellor who spoke at The Lady Musgrave Trust 11th Annual Women and Homelessness Forum, dispels six myths about debt that he encounters far too often.

Myth #1: If you go into debt, someone will come to your house and take your possessions

Many of the people I talk to are worried that if they go into debt, a bailiff or a debt collector is going to come to their house and take their things. And while it is true that people you owe money to can seek a warrant of seizure and sale, it’s important to understand that personal property is protected.

What that means is, essentially, most people in Australia have no seizable assets. The things in your home – your TV, your furniture, your computer – are not seizable. If you own your own home, that’s a seizable asset, and if you own a car with a value of $8,000 or more, that’s a seizable asset. But that’s it, for most people.

People still believe the myths they hear down at the RSL that someone is going to come and take their sofa away. That’s what happened to our grandparents, but that’s not what happens anymore. The legend hasn’t kept up with the law, which is actually pretty good at protecting people from financial predators and debt collectors now.

Most people who are in debt have enough things to worry about – they’re trying to find work, they’re trying to keep their families together – without worrying that someone’s going to come into their living room and pinch their TV as well. Breathe easy; it’s not going to happen.

Myth #2: Debt is a crime

You’d be surprised how many people I see who still believe that debt is a crime – that you can get a criminal record or even go to prison for not paying your credit card bills. They believe Dickensian debtors’ prisons are still in existence in Australia in 2020.

Debt is always a civil matter. It’s between you and the person you owe money to. If you can’t pay your loan back, you don’t get a criminal record and you don’t go to prison, and that’s the bottom line.

Similarly, while it is possible for a creditor to apply to make you go bankrupt if you owe them $5,000 or more, it’s extremely unlikely that they would do so. It’s pointless – the only benefit to them would be that they could seize your assets, but as I explained above, most people don’t have any seizable assets anyway.

The most a creditor will usually do is threaten to take you to court, because it’s much cheaper to send a letter threatening legal action than it is to actually initiate legal action. But when people don’t know what their rights are, that’s when they will panic. They’ll say, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve got to pay these people some money right now, so I don’t go to court and go to prison’.

People are living in fear when they have nothing to fear.

Myth #3: People go into debt by living extravagant lifestyles

There seems to be an assumption that people go into debt by living wildly beyond their means, but in my experience, that’s very seldom the case. That might be true of one in a thousand people. What’s far more common is that people are doing okay, and then something happens that’s beyond their control – and it’s almost always one of three things.

The first is the end of a relationship. You used to have two incomes coming in, and you were sharing the rent and splitting the bills and raising the kids together, and then all of a sudden you separate from your partner, and you’ve got to get by on one income.

The second is job loss, or – more commonly these days – job casualisation. You were going to pay off a car loan by doing a bit of overtime on a Saturday morning, and suddenly the overtime pay isn’t there anymore, and you can’t make the repayments, but you still need the car.

The third is ill health. Nobody chooses to be ill, but it can happen to anyone, and it can be quite costly.

These things aren’t anybody’s fault. These are just things that happen to you in life, and we all have to deal with them.

Myth #4: People who are in debt are bad at budgeting

Budgeting is absolutely fundamental to anyone’s financial situation, but it’s also important to understand that most of the people who seek financial counselling – people with low incomes and very limited resources – actually have great budgeting skills.

They can make money go further than I could ever dream of making it go, because they’re used to making do with not much. The greatest skills we have are often acquired through adversity – it’s our struggles that teach us about ourselves and force us to learn new things. So the people with the least money are often the best budgeters.

The real issue, unfortunately, is a lack of resources. You can’t live for very long on Newstart. It just can’t be done. There are things that make it easier – living in commissioned housing is a big help, for instance.

But if you’re living in private rental accommodation and relying on Newstart, you’re going to run out of money at some point, no matter how good you are at budgeting.

Myth #5: You are responsible for your partner’s debt

Contrary to popular belief, debt is unique to the individual.

What that means is, if your partner has a credit card and you’re a secondary card holder, you have no liability for that debt. The status of your relationship has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter if you met last night or if you have been married for 50 years – if a debt is in one person’s name, there is no liability for the other partner.

This is particularly relevant where a partner is concerned about their liability if they leave. Women who feel trapped in domestic violence situations will often come to me and say, ‘I want to leave him, but I need to pay my share of this debt first’. In reality, they don’t. If the debt is in his name, it’s his debt.

On the other hand, if the debt is in both partner’s names, then that’s called ‘joint and several liability’. For instance, if a husband and wife have a $50,000 debt in both of their names, the wife can’t say, ‘Well, I’ve paid my $25,000, so I’ve done my bit’. Both partners are liable for the full amount of the debt, not just for their ‘half’.

Myth #6: Bankruptcy is always the last resort

At the beginning of every session I have with a client, I explain that my role as a financial counsellor is not to tell them what to do. My role is to provide them with options to consider, and explain the consequences of those options – and sometimes, bankruptcy is a good option.

People won’t often tell you this. There’s a widespread belief that bankruptcy is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, and that it should be avoided at all costs. But the truth is that there are times when bankruptcy can work very well for you.

For example, I recently counselled a lady in her sixties. She’s on the aged pension, and she’s never going to go back to work. She lives in private rental accommodation, she’s got no assets, and she’s got nearly $40,000 worth of debt that she has no way of paying back in her lifetime. She’s constantly being harassed by creditors. She has now decided to go bankrupt, so she won’t ever have to speak to any of these creditors again. She will find it difficult to access credit in the future, of course, but that wasn’t part of her plan anyway. Now she can live peacefully and not worry about owing anybody any money.

There is a legal reason that people go bankrupt – they’re insolvent, which means they can’t pay their debts when they’re due. But there is also an emotional reason. Some people are just worn out by the process of being in debt. Bankruptcy is a tidy process. It starts on this date, it ends on that date, and it extinguishes your debt so you don’t have to speak to your creditors anymore.

Of course, it all depends on your circumstances and your assets. If you’ve got seizable assets, then bankruptcy is a bad idea. I’ve had clients say to me, ‘I owe $50,000 on a credit card, and I’m thinking of going bankrupt, but I do own my own home’. In that case, they should sell their home first, because if they go bankrupt, they’re going to lose it anyway.

For some reason, there’s a persistent myth that your primary residence is protected from bankruptcy, but it’s not. It’s one of the few assets that creditors are perfectly entitled to go after, so you shouldn’t ever consider bankruptcy if you’ve got seizable assets you want to keep.

Bankruptcy isn’t a great option for everybody, but it’s certainly worth considering. In my time as a financial counsellor, nobody has ever said to me, ‘I’ve gone bankrupt and I wish I hadn’t’, but what I have heard a lot is, ‘I should have done this five years ago’.

When it comes to debt, the main thing is to be informed. You need to know what your rights are and what your options are, and that’s where a financial counsellor can help.

Seek advice from a professional before making any important financial decisions. For more information, call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.