A Fire Within

Janet Guthrie has a fire in her belly.

The co-founder of Three Sista’s, a social enterprise dedicated to providing affordable transitional/crisis accommodation for those in need, is determined to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“I see Three Sista’s as being a vehicle for change in the way in which the marketplace of homeless and displaced populations in Cairns is addressed,” she said. “Three Sista’s is an empowerment model, not a model of disadvantage.”

Its accommodation project at Plaza Palms is currently home for about 200 people including more than 90 children. It attempts to be a no- drug and no-alcohol complex, which includes 60 units managed by Three Sista’s.

“We see an influx of people who come to Cairns for a whole range of reasons, including needing medical attention, and they get stuck in the homeless stream because they don’t fit within with the requirements of a rental market or a service system that enables good supportive accommodation options,” she said. “We are normalising what a tenancy would be like for displaced people without them having to go through the same leasing arrangements that’s applied to mainstream tenancy requirements.”

Tenants at Plaza Palms are required to pay rent on time, keep their properties clean and be good neighbours, which gives them a favourable profile when they do enter a rental market.

Janet has worked within government and non-government agencies for 22 years and, as well as being heavily involved in Three Sista’s, she currently has her own consultancy firm,
working with a number of indigenous agencies.

“I really love what I do,” she said.

When you have worked in this industry as long as I have you can’t help but be touched by people’s stories. I have a fire in my belly to contribute to breaking the cycle of the disadvantaged.”

Three Sista’s

7-27 McLachlan Street, Manunda
Ph: 4032 1520

Photo By Catherine Coombs
Words by Janie Barton