I catch up with Kat a couple of weeks later. After my visit, she finished all the projects we started and used all the DIY materials I left her with. She even went out and bought more materials from Bunnings to make sure all the gaps and draughts in her house were sealed up.
She adjusted a few of the projects I recommended to suit her home better - like trying adhesive wall vent seals. I realise just how adaptable these projects can be, as long as you follow the general principles. You don't need to follow the instructions by the book, or do things perfectly. It just needs to work for you.
Kat has already noticed she's more comfortable at home. She tells me the house is less draughty, and warmer in general. From my experience of trying the same projects in my house, I know she'll feel a big difference soon - and hopefully, her quarterly bill will be less intimidating.
I'm so happy and relieved to know she’s going to be warmer at home. Canberra winters are hard to deal with at the best of times, let alone when you can't even find comfort in your own home. More than anything, though, I'm impressed by how determined Kat is to improve things for herself and other renters like her.
Running through our conversations from the beginning was her acute sense of the injustice surrounding renting in Australia. Her experience here has made her feel like she doesn't have much of a say in the way she lives her life. Having lived in places with strong protections for renters, she deeply understands the need for structural change.
However, as we worked on this project together, I've seen Kat develop a stronger sense of agency, too. We've both seen that renters can make their homes more liveable, even in difficult circumstances.
Throughout Home Truths, I've seen so many other renters push against feelings of powerlessness every day. They have resisted the normalisation of these conditions. And the way they do it is almost deceivingly simple - by making a house a home. The renters I've met have been resourceful and excited to try out projects, doing whatever they can to sleep warmer at night.
Despite being renters, we still deserve to be comfortable, safe, healthy, and happy at home.
Kat's story isn't unique. So many people who rent are paying the hidden costs: the physical and mental energy we spend keeping warm, the toll of cold homes on our mental and physical health, and the sheer cost of energy bills in homes built like tents.
But the other thing we all have in common is a desire for a place to call home. We all want a place which supports us to live full and meaningful lives. And, hearing Kat's story, I know we have what it takes to get there.