Published: 03 December 2012
Rhonda Wilson interviewed
Extracted chapter from Griffiths, David (Ed.) Co-operators - Co-operation and Co-operatives, Southeast Housing Co-operative Ltd, 2012, pp 44-45.
Rhonda Wilson is a stalwart of the Common Equity Housing Program. She’s been a housed member of Endeavour Common Equity Rental Housing Cooperative (Endeavour CERC), in Berwick, Melbourne, since 1996. Endeavour is small group, with just 9 houses for many years, recently bolstered by another five to make them 14-strong.
Rhonda has been a member of Endeavour’s Board since first joining the CERC and one of the five tenant/ members elected to the Board of Common Equity Housing (CEHL), the parent company of the CEHL Program, since 2000. She has now been on the CEHL Board for 12 years. But Rhonda made it very clear that in agreeing to this article, it’s about promoting the housing co-op program, not about her!
In the late ‘90’s Rhonda found herself a single parent with a baby daughter, lacking in self-confidence and unhappy about the stigma that attaches to single parents. She was determined to do better and the CERC Program has enabled that. That baby daughter is now 17; a ‘co-op kid’, raised in the CERC house for her whole childhood; the CERC has provided Rhonda and her daughter with a quality home, security of tenure and an affordable rent - enabling Rhonda to fulfil her commitment to her daughter.
Rhonda has been a very active CERC member - for many years she was the CERC’s Maintenance Director, managing all repairs and cyclical maintenance (re-paints, refurbishments etc.), coordinating tradesmen, conducting property inspections on behalf of the CERC as landlord, organising spruce-ups for vacant houses prior to re-tenanting - and completing Condition Reports. All these skills, learnt through training and support provided by more experienced members or the staff of CEHL.
Rhonda attended a National Housing Conference in 1999, with a number of other co-op members; it was there she was encouraged to step up and move out of her comfort zone and stand for the CEHL Board. She was successful in 2000 and found herself on an extremely steep learning curve, in understanding the breadth of the Company’s operations and the role of a Company Director. She’s seen the Company through lean times, with no growth for the best part of a decade, through a very considerable expansion over the last five years.
Rhonda has applied the budgeting and planning skills, learnt through the Co-op and the CEHL Board, to her own life - and prides herself on teaching them to her daughter. It’s always been a low-income household, but they have lived well!
Endeavour CERC started as a group of single parents on benefits - it has provided opportunities for many of them to achieve their potential; they count a doctorate student, a qualified nurse, a small business operator and qualified childcare worker, all with qualifications gained since they joined the cooperative, as members. Rhonda says it’s the best thing that ever happened to her!
Rhonda Wilson is a long-time member of Endeavour Common Equity Rental Housing Co-operative (CERC), in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Endeavour has a very diverse membership, with new members coming from the Horn of Africa communities, in recent years. Rhonda has, at various times, held most of the volunteer roles in the CERC - most recently as Treasurer & Rents Officer, and has been a Board Member of CEHL since 2000. She is currently Deputy Chair of the Board.