Housing volunteer humbled after being honoured with multiple awards
North Melbourne public housing resident and fierce community activist Deepa Gupta has made history after being honoured with five awards at this year’s Social Housing Volunteer Awards.
Ms Gupta, an active member of resident action groups, who is passionate about improving the lives of public housing residents, said she was humbled and overwhelmed in receiving the multiple awards – the first individual to do so at the annual awards ceremony.
The awards, hosted at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons on March 1, recognised public and community housing tenants who had contributed to their community by working as volunteers.
Ms Gupta took out the Frances Penington Award, for her outstanding voluntary contribution to the community, as well as the nominee shield for the Molly Hadfield Award, two nominee shields for the Frances Penington Award, and a Special Commendation in the Molly Hadfield Award.
“I was in tears,” Ms Gupta said, adding she was not normally “short of words on a stage” but was speechless during the presentation.
But she noted the awards also “belonged to the peers and community which worked with me”.
“Receiving the awards is a beginning of the journey and not the end. Too much remains undone regarding improving the conditions of public renters and the handout given to them,” she said.
The government needs to address the increasing homelessness, thousands of which were vulnerable old people with barely any means to survive, many others facing domestic violence, lived experiences and women with small children having to sleep on the road unable to afford rent or a house, facing abuse daily and living on a day-to-day basis. This is not expected of a first world country.
Ms Gupta, who hails from India, has 30 years of experience in public service and is a chartered accountant, as well as the CEO of not-for-profit organisation Marg Foundation.
She is a committed advocate for her community, working alongside the Paving the Way Forward program to improve the lives of public housing residents.
This was highlighted particularly when Ms Gupta publicly responded to the Victorian Ombudsman’s report last year into the hard lockdown of the North Melbourne and Flemington towers in July 2020, which found human rights had been violated, saying it “was never too late” for the state government to say sorry over the “unjust” measure which saw 3000 residents detained in their homes “like criminals”.
In recognising her contribution to the community, the awards panel said, “Deepa is a ray of hope, advocating fearlessly for the rights and wellbeing of marginalised people in her public housing community”.
“Her list of contributions is long: she advocates for the homeless; provides food parcels from her kitchen; cares for people after a hospital stay; and has stood like a rock with women experiencing family violence.”
The Frances Penington Award honours the late Frances Penington, a Commissioner of the Housing Commission and the first woman appointed to the board of a statutory authority in Victoria. She was a strong advocate for public housing tenants, particularly for women living in housing estates. •
Caption: Deepa Gupta is presented with her awards at the Social Housing Volunteer Awards.