Studies of Women's Self Build Housing
The women who participated in this research described their community networks
in a variety of ways. These networks ranged from poor to vast, with the
state funded individual women reporting the least positive situations and
the privately funded community and individual women being most positive.
"At the time we were in a mixed community, most of the community had
built their own houses, their were fairly strong social links when we arrived.
Supportive and sharing of tools and skills."
"Feminist! Local community and the women's community, and my Marxist
feminist, minor femocrat friends. Really good. Part of the world wide lesbian
feminist community. Vast network open to me."
Two of the women involved in state housing authority schemes said the scheme
necessitated a move. For one woman limited amount to spend on land meant
moving to another location to build and moving away from friendship networks
and family. Moving to a new rural location proved to be isolating and the
women felt a lack of acceptance on the part of the local community.
On top of this it seemed that for some of the women filled a role of strong
women in their community, they were usually the ones to offer support to
other women, and this role prevented them receiving support. Almost all
of the women who had contact with members of their immediate family described
them as supportive. One woman reported that "the older family members
thought it was too hard for me."
The women who were building as part of communities received very strong
community support for their work. The following stories from one of the
privately funded individual builders illustrates the strength of community
support that were present for both respondents from this category.
"We were supported by other women, family (Mum used to come up and
wash the windows, make us lunch) and community. Some days we would wish
everyone would go. We were amazed at how many women wanted to come and help
because they would learn stuff. In the end you wouldn't have a hammer in
hand, you would be going around supervising instead of actually building.
It's important for women to try not to see it as such a daunting task because
you never do it on your own, there will always be specific things that you'll
have to get skilled help with."
"We formed a community group called the 'home builders association'
a community group that was looking at alternative methods of construction,
agitating for local government act changes, and changes to the building
regulations in our state. We had lots of contact with the alternative builders
and mudbrick builders locally and interstate."
The little community support received by the individually building women
involved in the state housing authority run program was in marked contrast
to all the other respondents. These women also reported having problems
keeping up their own morale during the building work.
All of the participants reported that they had some contact with other self-builders.
This varied from one woman who helped her cousin on a few occasions, to
an example where the builder was part of a community who built six self
build homes on the site, and there were about fifteen other homes in the
area. Of all the respondents the women involved in state housing authority
schemes reported the least contact with other practitioners of self build
housing. When questioned about the type of contact all of the women said
they had face to face contact with other self builders, and several said
that the exchange of printed materials was a useful to them as a form of
Only those women involved in state housing authority programs were part
of formal support networks or program for self-builders. All of these women
said they would never have built if not for the program. They were not without
"This scheme is structured around the participation of couples, and
this has meant I couldn't get much of a break from the work or attend to
my home life."
"The state housing authority adviser had too much of a critical rather
than supportive role."
The other respondents said that their communities were in fact or could
be seen as informal support networks. One of this later group said that
she felt that if she had been part of a formal group it "might have
been helpful in the early stages to get things going a bit quicker."
There were a variety of responses about the respondents preference for women's
support groups, the majority of which seemed to support the idea of support
groups exclusively for women. These extracts indicate the range of responses.
"If I were doing it now I'd like to be in a 'women only' support network,
because there are very few men who can work with women without taking over
and very few men who will pass on the big tips. In a mixed group men will
take up the space and women don't get there. But if there were no women
available to pass on the skills I'd rather have men show me than miss out."
Alternatively another woman commented,
"Women get too bitchy, its fine in a mixed group. If there are a few
chauvinist men in the group we sort them out."
The respondents indicated that the main area of support desired was building
tips. It was felt that this would save some work and relieve the need to
learn as construction went along.
"It would be really great to have a building tips book for women. It
could cover each section eg. planning the site, and things like if you're
not strong enough this is how you do it or if there is only two of you and
it's a three person job this is how to do it! Handy info to make things
Several of the women, notably those involved in state housing authority
schemes, said that they would have liked to have had some support in the
areas of: financial planning, finishes, assertiveness and dealing with sub-contractors.