Aboriginal Territorians Need Better Housing, Not More Bureaucracy And Indecision

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A long-standing promise to provide a billion dollar boost to housing for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory appears to have gone nowhere, writes Walter Shaw.

While Governments at all levels squabble about who should get money for Indigenous housing Aboriginal people are still left out in the cold – and the heat.

The Federal Government agreed in April last year to give the Northern Territory $550 million over five years for remote housing – funding the NT Government committed to match as an election commitment in 2016.

The Governments have since been fighting over who gets the money. But yet again its Aboriginal people who are paying the price.

It should be noted that it’s unclear if any of this money would come to any of the Town Camps.

Traditionally Town Camps housing works have been funded out of the remote housing bucket but we don’t know if this is what will happen with the $1.1 billion.

The 2017 NT Government Review of Town Camps estimated about $250 million was needed to bring housing up to standard across 43 Town Camps across the NT.

Where is the commitment to the money that is needed for Town Campers? Where is the commitment from either Government to give Indigenous Territorians the control over their own housing?

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion is saying he wants to give housing money to the land councils. But housing is not their core business. As statutory authorities this is not what land councils were established to do.

Minister Scullion and NT housing minister Gerry McCarthy know there are already Indigenous organisations who have the capacity to manage housing in their own communities. Organisations like Tangentyere, Central Australian Affordable Housing, Yilli Housing, Kalano and many more have the experience and capacity to manage our own housing.

The Ministers also know a peak representative body for Aboriginal housing issues in the NT is currently being established. Have either Minister spoken to them about the current impasse in funding?

All these organisations are Aboriginal-controlled, with high levels of Aboriginal employment, investing back into our community and with the expertise to run effective housing programs that work. Town Campers don’t need another bureaucracy telling us what to do.

What we need is for Government’s to stop using Aboriginal Territorians as pawns, meet their promises and free up the money that is desperately need to improve housing and all the other social determinants that rely on people having a decent place to live.

Walter Shaw

Walter Shaw is the CEO of the Tangentyere Council in Alice Springs, an elected body which provides services and housing to the region's town camps.

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