• Norma and her six children were left homeless for a month following a traumatic eviction. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
More than 105,000 Australians are affected by homelessness. Last year, single mother Norma became one of them.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

29 Nov 2017 - 11:55 AM  UPDATED 29 Nov 2017 - 12:06 PM

Around 18 months ago, in the middle of winter, Norma and her six kids found themselves homeless after being evicted from their Inala public housing. 

More than 20 police officers forcibly removed the family, leaving them stranded on the street, surrounded by their belongings.

"There was basically nothing I could do. It was either we were going to walk out or they were going to remove us," the Jagera woman recalls.

Standing outside her former home, with her children's toys strewn on the footpath and her six-year-old son sobbing in the arms of a young relative, 44-year-old Norma says she felt "lost". 

"You basically give up, and then you question yourself - where did you go wrong?"

Norma's story is one of a handful that will feature in Struggle Street series two, a six-part observational documentary set to reignite a conversation about disadvantage in Australia today.

For Norma, the eviction was the latest in a series of traumatic events, which began with a knock on the door in 2006 to say her first-born son had died in a car crash following a police chase. 

"I froze," she remembers. 

"I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak. I just went straight into shock. Being my first born, he was not only my son, he was my best friend."

Just six weeks later on her birthday, Norma was still grappling with her son's death when tragedy struck again. She'd dropped her two sons Hayden, 10, and Glen, 8, at her sister's house while she and her daughters went shopping for shoes. 

Before she left, Norma issued the boys with a familiar directive: they could go out to play, but had to be home by 6 o'clock. 

But 6pm came and went, and there was no sign of her sons, who had left with their nine-year-old cousin Reggie. Norma set out to look for them at the usual haunts. 

"My belly started going funny. I was thinking wait here, cause you see there's no trains are coming," she recalls. 

Then came another dreaded knock at the door: her two sons and nephew had been throwing rocks on a railway line when they'd been hit by a train.

'I dropped to my floor and I howled like a dingo.'

"They didn't even have to tell me my sons were gone, I could feel it," Norma says, tears streaming.

"I dropped to my floor and I howled like a dingo."

The next few years saw the accident scrutinised by various reports, media and the community, with some shifting the blame to Norma, accusing her of neglect. 

The trauma stayed with her, and only compounded her mental anguish when she and her family were left homeless a decade later in June 2016. 

More than a year after the eviction, NITV News caught up with Norma and her family. 

Now living in a private rental at Mt Gravatt, the family has found temporary solace. But for youngest children Kay-Lee, 10, and Eric, 8, the traumatic eviction and the events surrounding it have left a mark. 

Eric, who was six at the time, remembers feeling "scared" as police were "kicking us out of our house". 

When asked whether they trust police, both children are quick to respond with a definitive "no". 

"They’re mean, they’re rude. I would like them to change their attitude," says Kay-Lee matter-of-factly. 

"So would they call police if there were in trouble? "No!"

During the month that the family was homeless, Norma lived in constant fear that the Department of Child Safety would take her two youngest children away. Reflecting on that period, she says there were times when she considered taking her own life. 

"When you feel helpless, you feel alone, there’s no one there for you, you just give up. And at that stage I was ready to give up, it had its toll on me."

Now, Norma is feeling more hopeful. She's just completed her certificate three in micro-business, with a view to set up a cultural hub for Indigenous youth. 

But with the cost of her private rental home becoming too much of a burden, her main goal is to find a new home with her youngest children. 

"It’s time for me, Eric and Kay-Lee to find a home just for us," she says. 

"It’s all about those two little people."

Norma's story is the focus of the second episode of Struggle Street on Wednesday 29 November. NITV's flagship current affairs program, The Point, will air a riveting panel discussion featuring Norma and her children immediately after episode two at 9.40pm on NITV, Ch34.

Struggle Street: The Point Responds is co-hosted by Allan Clarke and Julie Nimmo and will hear directly from Norma about her experience.  The show will also include a strong panel line-up including Chairman of the Stronger Smarter Institute and Co-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Chris Sarra; Greens NSW Spokesperson for Justice and Police, David Shoebridge, Family Law specialist, Cheryl Orr and CEO of St. Vincent de Paul Society, John Falzon.

How to watch Struggle Street on SBS

Episode 1: Tuesday 28 November, 8.30pm 
Episode 2: Wednesday 29 November, 8.30pm
Episode 3: Thursday 30 November, 8.30pm
Episode 4: Tuesday 5 December, 8.30pm
Episode 5: Wednesday 6 December, 8.30pm
Episode 6: Thursday 7 December, 8.30pm

Full catch-up of each episode will be available at SBS On Demand after broadcast.