‘Remote towns dare to dream’
The way the problems are being revealed looks a lot like it did when HH started work in 1985 in the top of South Australia. One big difference is that this story is breaking in the midst of a national program that is spending the largest amount of money in Australia’s history on remote Indigenous housing.
Ms Pitjara said. “All the time, people come here to promise us things, but nothing ever happens.”
“They just say, ‘If the toilet is blocked, let that toilet be blocked’, and forget about it, because it’s not their responsibility any more,” she said. Under existing contracts, the NT local government shires have responsibility for housing maintenance and tenancy management, co-ordinated by the NT government and paid for largely with commonwealth revenue.
However, in Ms Piijara’s house, the hot-water system and most of the electrical fittings are broken, there is no heating or cooling and, nearby, a commercial washing machine stands idle, brought in but never connected
Like many others, Ms Pitjara says she has reported the problems, but no one has come to fix them. Len Griffiths, central Australian Regional Executive Director for Housing, Local Government, Regional Development and Indigenous Affairs, says the shires have been relying largely on outside contractors for maintenance. Some charge up to $2000 just for a remote call-out.
“A lot of people have been saying. ‘Why do we have to wait weeks to get a tap fixed? Why do we have to get people in from outside to do work in the community?’ ” he said. He proposes establishing community work squads to conduct maintenance, as pathways to full employment.
The new conservative Country Liberal Party government will give communities the option to break away from the shire model and form their own regional community councils based on tribal affinities.
It is also considering leveraging the welfare stream to increase workforce participation and give communities more control over their affairs, by establishing work programs similar to the old Community Development Employment Projects. Participants would be paid “top up” money for engaging in community chores
Imagine a program that:
- fixed things immediately,
- worked in teams made up of over 75% local Indigenous community people and paid them a real wage for real work,
- used the data obtained from fixing houses to develop better products and designs to improve housing further.
Hang on a moment … this sounds a lot like a program that’s been around for over 20 years. One of the prime reasons given to HH by the Australian Government for dismantling the national Housing for Health (Fixing Houses for Better Health) program in mid 2011, was the fact that all states and territories had fully adopted the principles and methods used in Housing for Health projects.
Looks like the NT may have lost the Housing for Health file somewhere in the filing cabinet between the D’s (Disasters, Delayed, Deficits, Damaged, Dumped, Deleted…) and the M’s (More Money, Much More Money, Mistakes, Management, Muddles, Ministers, Misunderstandings).