Transforming the lives of refugees with homes in Australia

Property manager Sharon Burke doesn’t just help tenants find homes, she helps refugees start new lives in Australia.

In her 20-plus year career in the industry, Ms Burke has helped about 20 families fleeing less fortunate circumstances in other countries, to find a rental property in Western Australia.

This year alone the Ray White Keevers Group head of property management has assisted seven refugee families to find a home in Perth.

“With a portfolio under our care, we recognised the untapped potential to make a difference and were motivated by a desire to create a positive social impact,” Ms Burke said.

To assist the tenants, the group has teamed up with the Red Cross, who work to find new arrivals to Australia suitable homes.

Ms Burke said the Red Cross pays the rent for the families for the first 12 months of their tenancy and the tenants also complete three different classes on rental expectations and how to rent in Australia.

She said having a secure place to live, and support from the Red Cross in finding jobs and with a furniture package, meant the new arrivals had the best chance possible to make a new life for themselves.

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years and I’ve always given people a chance,” Ms Burke said.

“Everyone has to start somewhere and you have to look out for other people.

“With the Red Cross, the tenants go through three different courses on how to rent in Australia and they have a great team behind them that really nurture them and help them through everything.”

Ms Burke said some landlords were initially hesitant to take on refugee tenants and that’s where her guidance, professionalism and strength in building strong client relationships came to the fore.

“It’s not always going to be for everyone, but I think if you have a landlord that is interested and you can explain it all to them, negotiate with them and talk them through the fact it’s a Red Cross program, they do come around,” she said.

“I explain they (Red Cross) pay the rent, we do our inspections, the Red Cross does their own inspections and they have their own maintenance man, so if anything is broken or is not quite right, they fix it at their cost.”

Ms Burke said she’d never had any issues with any of the tenants through the Red Cross program and had always found them to be incredibly grateful.

Earlier this year, she helped a large family from Africa secure a rental property in the same area as another refugee family from that country.

“They desperately wanted this house and after they got it, I received a message from one of the girls saying that her prayers had been answered because we managed to get them in the house,” Ms Burke said.

“That was really lovely.”

Ms Burke said once the 12-month tenancy through the Red Cross was over, many of the families stayed on and, as multiple family members had jobs, they were able to meet the rent themselves.

For those that do move on, she said she knows that having secured that first successful tenancy will help the families find a new home with a positive rental history.

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