38 new homes for women in need in Melbourne’s north

Collage of photos showing the new property at Fairfield and of stakeholders attending the celebration of the project completion

Unison continues to raise the bar in developing social and affordable housing with its latest development in Melbourne’s north.

In just 14 months, Unison’s $11.5M social housing development saw a heritage 22-bedroom rooming house entirely revamped and a new apartment complex built on site to provide a total of 38 modern self-contained homes for women in need in Fairfield, Victoria.

“Through all our developments, Unison is tackling the growing housing affordability crisis by increasing the supply of good quality affordable housing around Melbourne,” said James King, Unison CEO.

The Fairfield redevelopment was designed with a focus on residents’ well-being and quality of life, and features enhanced safety measures, accessible facilities and high-standard energy efficiencies including solar panels.

While paying respect to the property’s heritage, Unison focussed on improving the quality of accommodation for our tenants.

“No more shared facilities. Each unit is self-contained and provides a beautiful space for the residents, surrounded by well thought through architectural and design choices.

“We’ve also incorporated additional security features to assist the residents with their wellbeing, their peace of mind, so that they can establish a home here,” Mr King added.

Steeped in history, tje property has an interesting story to tell. The main heritage building was built in 1893 and was home to the confectioner, MacPherson “Mac” Robertson, inventor of the Freddo Frog and Cherry Ripe, and well-known philanthropist.

After being sold in 1922 and ever since, the property has been providing housing for women at the margins of Melbourne’s society.

Today, the Marjorie Oke apartments – named after a fervent activist for women, Indigenous people, and the aged who was local to the area – provides safe and secure homes to women experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the Darebin area.

Earlier this year, Unison was honoured to be joined by key stakeholders, including Mayor Lina Messina and Cr Susan Rennie, to celebrate the completion of this project. On the day, Aunty Di Kerr gave a poignant Welcome to Country, and we had the privilege to share this moment with Rob and Cathy Oke, Marjorie’s son and grand-daughter.

Mr King acknowledged the key roles of our stakeholders for the success of this project.

“We’re really proud of this project and we want to thank the State Government for in part funding [this redevelopment] on the approval of the Director of Housing.

“I’d also like to thank Darebin City Council who have been really supportive of this project, ensuring good outcomes for the community and the vulnerable women in the community are achieved.”

The project was in part funded by the Victorian State Government’s Community Sector Owned Rooming House upgrade program.

The balance of the project’s costs was funded by Unison. As a not-for-profit organisation, Unison reinvests operating surplus back into our services, our properties and our communities, and importantly the development of much-needed affordable housing.