The once touted ‘Australian Dream’ of securing a piece of land is no longer in reach after successive governments policies have protected home ownership as a ‘safe investment’ rather than a ‘human right’. Renting a home that you can raise a family in, long term, is a real and present concern for millions. No fault evictions, rental price spikes, inadequate quality rental housing stock and a lack of interest to prosecute landlords for severe breaches in providing safe and quality housing are just some of the issues. What I didn’t know, until I met Noel, was that an alarming number of people live in seriously dangerous rental housing that pose genuine risk to life and health. Research suggests that as many as 1.1million people in Australia are living in ‘poor or very poor housing conditions.’
Deciding that making a significant dent in this enormous social issue was more important than a job in the corporate sector after finishing his law degree, Noel developed a pilot for a social enterprise that would address this lack of access to basic justice for renters and Anika Legal was born. It’s an organisation that provides practical legal education for law students, supported by local Universities and the legal community, and then connects them to the people who desperately need their support.
Noel pitched first at a TFN event in 2019 and initially raised $25,200, and presented what was then an established but fledging social enterprise model. What he received, he says, from that night presenting to the TFN community was not only the initial capital to really test the concept and to bring it to life, but the unquantifiable impact of belief in what he aspired to do. “The reason we need innovation from agile grassroots social enterprises like Anika is due to the scale of the problem,” he says. “Just look at the issue of access to justice. Half the world’s population can’t access any kind of justice and we’re not going to meaningfully address this by doing the same thing that we’ve always been doing.”
Earlier this year, Noel pitched at the TFN 10th anniversary event and raised a further $89,671 to continue expanding the work Anika Legal does in the sector. “What the funding does at the start is hard to quantify because it’s more than that dollar value,” explains Noel. “It gives you the opportunity to try something new that no one is doing and build a case for all the great things you believe you can achieve. It means you can build a strong foundation for everything that comes from that into the future.”
Today, Anika Legal employs six staff and has developed partnerships with the community and industry to ensure the scale and impact of their work; supporting hundreds and hundreds of tenants to have their human rights and dignity upheld.
Written by Jacinta Parsons for The Funding Network