HighLife Expo: listening to the voices of residential strata

HighLife Expo: listening to the voices of residential strata
Dr Janette Corcoran

The recent HighLife Expo featured a range of activities, including webinars, stalls, and forums – along with a Listening Post.

Operated by the Owners’ Corporation Network (OCN) and Strata Community Association (SCA) Victoria, this initiative gathered insights from expo attendees – owners, tenants and committee members – regarding their most pressing issues and desires for change within the residential strata sector.

Attendees were invited to complete the statement, “If I could change one thing in residential strata, it would be …”. The responses highlighted a variety of challenges and aspirations that resonate across Melbourne’s residential strata sector, ranging from improved governance to better education.

One recurring theme was the call for greater transparency in strata management. Many attendees expressed frustrations with opaque financial dealings and the lack of accessible information regarding expenses, particularly compliance costs like fire management.

“It’s about knowing where our money goes,” remarked one attendee, reflecting a widespread sentiment that clarity in financial matters would alleviate mistrust and empower owners to make informed decisions.

Another critical concern was the need for better education. Whether educating new committee members on their roles and responsibilities or informing new apartment owners about the complexities of strata living, there was a consensus that knowledge gaps contribute to misunderstandings and inefficiencies.

“We need more than just volunteers; we need educated volunteers,” noted a participant, underscoring the importance of structured learning to effectively navigate the intricacies of strata governance.

Sustainability also emerged as a pressing issue, with calls for initiatives (such as rooftop gardens and solar energy solutions) purposely tailored to residential strata. Attendees expressed frustration over bureaucratic hurdles and inadequate support from government bodies at both the state and council levels.

“We want to contribute to sustainability, but the system isn’t accommodating,” said one resident, highlighting the desire for streamlined processes that support environmentally friendly initiatives in multi-owned properties.

Governance issues within strata communities were also addressed. Concerns ranged from the influence of powerful individuals to the challenge of achieving a quorum at meetings. “One person shouldn’t wield so much power,” emphasised a resident, advocating for fairer decision-making processes that reflect the collective interests of all.

Emergency preparedness in high-rise buildings was another critical topic. Several residents expressed unease over the lack of comprehensive evacuation plans and training. “Safety should be a top priority,” remarked a concerned owner, urging for standardised protocols to ensure residents’ safety during emergencies.

As discussions continue and recommendations are collated, there is hope that these voices will be heard by policymakers, who can help create conditions for a more harmonious and well-informed strata living experience in Melbourne.

As one participant aptly summarised, “It’s not just about changing one thing; it’s about creating a framework where transparency, sustainability, and community wellbeing thrive together.”

While the Listening Post was just one component, the expo’s success lies in helping pave the way for constructive solutions that enhance the quality of life within Melbourne’s diverse strata communities.

Congratulations to event organisers, Amy Brand and Kate Nicolazzo of Let Me Be Frank, for delivering such a vital forum for dialogue on residential strata. •

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