2012 World Indigenous Housing Conference: feedback

Professor Jon Altman is one of the few academics who have remained vocal on Indigenous issues over the last 10 years. His thoughts on reporting of Minister Macklin’s presentation to the Canadian conference about current Indigenous Housing issues are noted below as are links to Tracker
and extracts from the article in The Australian
newspaper reporting the event. 

From Professor Altman (In a letter directed to the Editor of the Australian Newspaper)

You uncritically report Minister Macklin’s self-congratulatory reporting that Australia has turned a corner at the World Indigenous Housing Conference in far way Canada (Patricia Karvelas, ‘Corner turned on homes: Macklin’, 13/6) and then editorialise this as ‘a reward for quiet persistence’. 

At the same time I am reading the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s ‘Remote Housing Reforms in the Northern Territory’ ( June 2012) reporting a situation replete with deeply entrenched institutional problems from which the Minister’s own department has unsuccessfully asked it be removed as a responsible agency. These include the requirement that tenancy agreements stipulating no more than three persons per bedroom be signed that do not comply with the Residential Tenancies Act; and that do not match the target of 9.3 residents per house which cannot be met given most newly constructed houses have less than three bedrooms. 

Similar problems were identified by the Australian National Audit Office (November 2011) especially when it assessed the impact of population growth on crowding. The Little Children Are Sacred Report estimated 4,000 new houses were required, with 1,000 estimated to be delivered by the end of 2013; the ‘corner’ seems a way off yet.

Professor Jon Altman
The Australian National University, Canberra

From Minister Macklin in Canada (thanks to The Australian)

AUSTRALIA has “turned a corner” on indigenous housing following the construction of more than 600 homes in communities throughout the Northern Territory, with plans to have 1000 built by June next year.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin made the declaration last night at the World Indigenous Housing Conference in Canada.

She said the Gillard government had voluntary 40-year leases in place in 15 of the 16 communities in the Northern Territory where more than 930 new houses will be constructed by June next year.

Ms Macklin told The Australian that from next year work would be focused largely on smaller communities.

“I am optimistic that we have turned the corner in Australia. We are building homes to last,” Ms Macklin told the conference.

And from Tracker a very different view of turning the corner 

“I am optimistic that we have turned the corner in Australia. We are building homes to last.”

So said Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, at the World Indigenous Housing Conference in Canada overnight. I’m not sure what corner Macklin thinks she’s turned, but if she’s talking about the intersection of “Fantasy Avenue” and “Spin Boulevard”, then she might have a point …