Four Corners: Last Chance Motel

4cornersNext week Four Corners looks at homelessness in Australia. But not those living on the street.

Reporter Sarah Ferguson follows David and Toni Sabjan, living in one room of a motel. They lost the home they rented when it was sold from under them.

Across the nation’s major cities there is now a large number of families with limited resources that simply can’t find a home they can afford to rent.

Expecting that they’d be able to rent another house, the Sabjans were shocked to find there were few houses available and many, many families looking for accommodation. At the same time, after years of neglect public housing is also in short supply.

“I was shocked, shell-shocked. Twenty people applying for one house that I would not normally apply for.” – Toni Sabjan

The government has ear-marked billions of dollars for public housing and there are 20,000 dwellings planned. But for many homeless families those new houses can’t come soon enough.

Four Corners found one couple, Bernice and Ashley, in a terrible situation. They had been living in crisis accommodation for four months. They had three children, had moved five times in 17 weeks with the taxpayer shelling out $15,000 for “crisis accommodation”, and still had little chance of a long term solution.

This is hard for the adults but even tougher on their son Michael who has a learning difficulty. He needs routine and teachers he knows – impossible, when he is constantly on the move.

West of Sydney, the tourist town of Katoomba has become a set down point for many homeless families. Families stuck in this type of situation often make decisions that they later regret. Adrian and Carlene moved to Katoomba and then found a house to rent. It seemed like a good option but turned out to be a disaster.

It was run down but by sharing with another family they were able to afford the $500 a week rental. Then the other family moved out and relatives of the landlord moved in. They brought with them sheep, chooks, dogs and a cat. Trouble began. All this culminated in a dramatic scene with police, welfare officials being called to assist while the family and the landlord traded insults and threats.

This is a situation that no family wants to endure but in Australia it is becoming common place as the lack of accommodation puts many families at breaking point.

It airs at 8.30pm on 21st September on ABC1 and is repeated at 11.35pm on 22nd September.


  1. i am a mother of 4 young children under the age of 5 yrs old
    When this episode aired, I was watching it with my partner and 4 young babies from the G’day motel in katoomba where four corners had filmed there just a few weeks earlier about the homeless in australia….
    I was happy to see the ending that everyone ended up getting perminant accommodation…. I beleive they got accommodation so quick because u aired this episode…
    but I am still struggling to get any other assistance from housing…..
    I am from Mount druitt area, with no car….and they put us all the way out to katoomba…..
    there is only a microwave at the motel…. so we are only able to eat microwaveable food…. department of housing only pays for 3 weeks then we are back out on the streets…..this is our last week and i have been trying my hardest to find suitable accommodation in the rental market but i keep getting refused.:( 🙁 I dont know where else to go to cause this time next week if i dont find anything in the rental market i will be sleeping at the train station with my boyfriend and 4 children….also if ur wandering my boyfriend got retrenched from his work and we are trying our hardest to make ends meet and on top trying to feed the kids with this un-healthy microwaveable food….. I need help and i dont know where to go….i am about to apply with community housing but they are also a huge waiting list…..

  2. This was one of the more eye opening specials I have ever seen – I would recommend everyone catch the rerun tonight after Lateline – you will be stunned at the a) High cost of rent in Sydney for decrepid housing, b) the staggering failure of the public housing system to help people falling through the cracks – the only other time I felt as outraged as this was watching the movie Pursuit of Happyness

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