Over 3 million people, including 700,000 children, live below the poverty line in Australia. Many are forced to live in substandard accommodation, which is any property that doesn’t have functioning facilities like toilets and electrics, or unstable foundations. However, one of the biggest concerns for people living in substandard accommodation in southern states like Victoria is proper heating. The annual death toll for people living in improperly heated homes is over ten times the road death toll.
After a lifetime of working in energy, including twenty years as an auditor for properties of all sizes across Victoria, Reece Grant recipient Robert Evans has seen it all. However, after Bob conducted research for a report titled ‘Australian Children and Elderly Living in Poverty — The Hard Cold Facts’, he decided now was the time for action. As chairman of the CBMA (Christian Business Men Australia) Macedon Ranges chapter, in conjunction with the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group, Bob has launched a project to gather more information around the true costs of cold housing and how expensive it is to remedy.
With funding from the Reece Grant as well as additional fundraising efforts, Bob is currently conducting an energy audit in two family homes in the Macedon Ranges. This involves continuous temperature recording as well as surveying the wellbeing of the inhabitants. They are then making gradual changes to the properties, recording differentials between outside and inside temperatures as well as how people are feeling.
Coronavirus has meant a bit of a change in timelines for Bob and his team, but they’re still hard at work preparing research and doing as much as they can while staying safe.
Bob says that small changes can have a big impact. “Just improving indoor temperatures by 5 degrees may reduce the chance of death by 10%. That’s huge.” Bob stressed.Evidence suggests that these changes will decrease the incidence of health issues like asthma, high blood pressure and arthritis. “The impact is more than just physical—we should see an improvement in mental health as well,” he adds.
Reduced utilities bills will mean these families will have money to spend on other essentials like food and clothing.Bob says that other countries have started to recognise the dangers of poor heating at home, but we haven’t seen anything in Victoria. Bob hopes to be the first step towards acknowledging and addressing this under-reported issue.