HOUSING FOR ALL
Return administration of housing stock from the NT Department of Housing to local Indigenous housing committees attached to the community councils.
Funds for housing construction and renovation currently going to the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) run by government and major constructions firms must be redirected to the local committees.
Funds for new housing must be available to all communities and substandard SIHIP renovations reassessed for further needs.
Employment on housing programs should involve 80 per cent Aboriginal workers.
Train and employ a permanent housing maintenance team in every community.
Under the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP), $672 million has been budgeted to deliver 750 new houses, 230 rebuilds of existing houses and 2500 refurbishments across 73 remote Indigenous communities and a number of town camps.
Investment in Indigenous housing is desperately needed. Decades of government neglect mean that many Indigenous people live in extremely overcrowded and run down houses or 'humpies'. These conditions are a major cause of many other health and social problems which blight communities.
The Little Children are Sacred Report (pdf page 195) estimated that an extra 4000 houses are currently needed to adequately house the NT population. 400 new houses every year for the next 20 years are needed to keep pace with growing demands.
But SIHIP has been used as a tool to dispossess and disempower Aboriginal people and push the government's agenda of 'mainstreaming' and assimilation.
Multi-national infrastructure companies have played a key role in strategic planning - but no Aboriginal interests are represented anywhere within SIHIP administration.
Despite overcrowding across the NT, only 16 of the more than 73 'prescribed communities' will get any new housing - and only if they sign leases for between 40 - 99 years. The rest will only receive 'refurbishments'.
Under the compulsory 5-year lease taken through the Intervention, all housing stock on Aboriginal land has been forcibly transfered from Aboriginal housing organisations to the NT department of housing.
This means Aboriginal people now have no say over rents, tenancy conditions or who will live in houses.
'Market rents' comparable to those in big city suburbs have been imposed on remote tenants. This is justified as necessary to encourage "positive behaviour" and develop "the personal responsibility and individual financial resilience and discipline that is also required to purchase and pay off a home."
But refurbishments will not bring remote dwellings up to public housing standards. There have been numerous scandals about deplorable quality work. Houses in Santa Teresa were left in a worse condition following the 'upgrades'.
Huge amounts of SIHIP money has been wasted on administration costs and profiteering contractors - many of them flown in from interstate. Administration and establishment costs in Wadeye made up 31.6 per cent of the total budget. The lead manager salary is $894,700 for less than two years work.
Up to $70 million of SIHIP money could not be accounted for during a review by the Council for Territory Cooperation.
The government has self-congratulated for exceeding it's 20 per cent Indigenous employment target through SIHIP. But only 14 per cent of Aboriginal workers have held a job for more than 26 weeks. Many Aboriginal workers in Alice Springs have dropped out of the program complaining of racism and lack of real training.
In a number of communities, Aboriginal workers were kept on CDEP while working on SIHIP. Some were paid through Centrelink, with half their pay quarantined on the BasicsCard.
Health Habitat, an organisation with decades of experience in Aboriginal communities, has successfully maintained a policy of 80 per cent local Aboriginal workers on housing maintenance and construction programs. They say one of the keys to success in any program is ensuring a local workforce is trained and employed to stay on top of ongoing maintenance.
Explore the reality further: What's the next demand?