In the early 1990s, Ten Forty lesbians and other feminists in Western Australia formed an organisation called Matrix Guild, the function of which was to investigate funding sources for “the old dykes home”. Ten Forty members in Victoria also adopted the name and in 1993, lesbians from Ten Forty in Sydney formed a housing group, which was incorporated in 1994 as Matrix Guild NSW. This legal status was sought so that it would be more attractive for individuals to donate or bequeath money, secure in the knowledge that their money would be used for a defined purpose. No legal links were established between the different Matrix groups.
Matrix NSW held regular discussions about its priorities: should members concentrate on making “the old dykes home” a reality or should they concentrate on an information sharing and educative role?
A second questionnaire of Ten Forty and Matrix members was conducted (one had been conducted in 1991) into what sort of housing women envisaged for themselves as they aged. The results indicated that lesbians over forty want to live in a community where there is close proximity to other lesbians and a high level of home support as they age. Most women want to live in their own homes while they are well enough. Only two women said they wanted to live in a hostel or boarding house in the inner city. (In the 1991 Ten Forty questionnaire, members had also expressed an interest in more diverse locations, ranging from rural to city, hostel to caravan park.)
Discussions were held about whether any housing provided by Matrix should be for lesbians or feminists or both. Should it be in the city or country?
Should it take the form of a retirement village, a caravan park, nursing home, cluster houses or other? Should it be government or self-funded? Members concluded that women’s needs are very different and that one housing unit funded or supported by Matrix could not possibly satisfy all its members.
It was finally decided that in view of current statistics (slightly more than 5% of older people in Australia need to be housed in aged care facilities) coupled with members’ diverse needs, opinions and questions, that there is less need for an “old dykes home” than originally thought.
With this in mind, Matrix Guild NSW focused more strongly on holding information and discussion forums with other organisations, for example, Women in Community Housing, the Women’s Housing Coop, the NSW Housing Department, The Aged-care Rights Service (TARS), the Coalition of Activist Lesbians (COAL) and the Anti Discrimination Board.
The group made a number of grant applications for professional research into the housing needs of older women, an older women’s accommodation guide, and a Lesbian Awareness Training Module for workers in home and residential aged care services. None of these applications were successful.
However, in 1997, Matrix NSW did obtain a grant of $750 from the Mardi Gras Community Disbursements Fund to run a Wills Workshop for lesbians and to develop a wills kit.