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Australia: Homeless Sunshine Coast family finds housing, work and opportunities in Melbourne

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Aden Kingston and Liberty Page are setting up a new life in Melbourne after being homeless. (Supplied: Liberty Page) © Provided by ABC NEWS Aden Kingston and Liberty Page are setting up a new life in Melbourne after being homeless. (Supplied: Liberty Page)

As Queensland has been inundated with southerners moving to the sunshine state throughout the pandemic, a former Sunshine Coast family that was left homeless for six months has bucked the trend and moved to Melbourne.

"I'm just glad to have a roof over my kids' heads now," Liberty Page said.

The 31-year-old was born on the Sunshine Coast where four generations of her family have also called home.

But when the rental property she was living in was sold in November 2020, Ms Page, her partner Aden Kingston, and their girls aged one and three were left homeless.

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They applied for hundreds of rental properties, and despite secure income and references they were forced to live in hotels and couch surf with friends.

Ms Page said it was a very confusing time for the children and stressful for the couple.

"I had to leave my job that I only got just before we had to move because starting a new job was not compatible with not having somewhere to live," she said.

"It was scary and emotional not knowing what we were doing and where we were going."

Taking the plunge interstate

When they were unable to secure a permanent home after six months of desperate searching, the family hit breaking point in March.

"After a tearful night where our blow-up mattress got a hole in it for the second time and I broke down, we made the decision to look at moving to Melbourne," Ms Page said in a social media post at the time.

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She lodged five rental applications for Melbourne properties that night, was approved for multiple properties within 48 hours and moved from Queensland to Victoria two weeks later.

"It just got to a point where I kept hearing about all these people moving up from Melbourne and I thought, 'Well, Melbourne must be pretty empty'," she said.

They now rent a two-bedroom unit on Flinders Lane in the Melbourne CBD for $300 per week, about $200 per week less than the properties they were applying for on the Sunshine Coast.

Abundance of job, housing opportunities

While moving to the world's most locked-down city "was not easy", Ms Page said it had been a "blessing".

In contrast to what she described as a "lack of employment" in Queensland, they now have secure work in the telecommunications and construction industries.

"I've been offered three jobs in the past three weeks," she said.

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"The lockdown did bring other work opportunities … so it has been a bit of a blessing because so many people did leave the city."

She said her mother and aunt have also moved to Melbourne because "there is so much opportunity", including "no competition" when finding a place to rent.

"There was nobody else at inspections, certainly not round-the-block lines," she said in reference to the often dozens of prospective applicants at Sunshine Coast rentals.

Family defies the trend

There has been an influx of interstate arrivals in Queensland for more than a year.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that in the six months to March 2021, Queensland gained a total of 16,798 people when taking into account those who left the state.

In the same six-month period, Victoria had a net loss of 11,400 people.

That increase has seen prices in both the buying and rental markets soar in south-east Queensland, making living in highly sought-after locations like the Sunshine Coast unaffordable for an increasing number of people.

Joel Davis from the property management firm Image Property has previously told the ABC that the rental demand was unlike anything he had seen in his career.

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While earlier this year, John Harrison from the St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland broke down when he encouraged some residents to leave the area.

"We've said to people, where we recognise that there's such a gap between the income they have and the rental market, 'we can't see a solution for you'," Mr Harrison said.

Family's risk becomes their gain

That was advice Ms Page and her partner knew all too well, and like many families the prospect of leaving their hometown and established support networks was so daunting they initially ruled it out.

"How can we just leave that with two small children and no idea on where to go or what to do when we get there?" she said on social media.

But after six months without a home and feeling "judged, abandoned, and ignored" after raising concerns with local organisations, the Housing Minister and the Premier's office, the family saw moving interstate as their only option.

"We've always wanted to move to the city and just always thought it was never really going to be possible because it was so expensive and so difficult to do," Ms Page said.

"It's definitely worth considering for people because the alternative. I'd imagine, we'd still be in people's lounge rooms and in motels if we had stuck around there."

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