Whole-of-township-leases a decade on.

Back in 2006 the Federal Government amended the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act to allow Aboriginal Land Councils to lease their towns to the Federal Government for up to 99 years (aka “whole-of-township leases”). The Government said these leases would clarify who was responsible for building and maintaining houses. A decade down the track, have whole of township leases improved the quality of remote housing? Are people’s blocked dunnies actually getting fixed?

The Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) addressed these question in a paper written in February 2016. NAAJA noted that the change in responsibility for delivering services in remote public housing “had the effect of drastically reducing the level of service provided to remote community residents”. In particular:

  • the local shire council or community government councils (contracted by the Federal Government to administer remote housing) keep inadequate records of repair and maintenance requests leading to endemic delays;
  • the Federal Government Department of Housing appear to wait until there is a certain quantity of maintenance issues before they fly tradespeople to communities to fix them. For example, NAAJA was told by the Department of Housing that they would wait until 20 or 30 people had broken doors in Galiwinku before any broken door would be replaced; and
  • since 1st March 2014, the Department of Housing have engaged a panel of contractors to provide housing services. These contractors do not make their numbers available to the communities they work in, in case of urgent repairs.

NAAJA reports that “The repairs and maintenance services provided by the [Department of Housing] in remote communities are neither responsive nor provided in accordance with the timeframes in the [Residential Tenancies Act]. This compromises the health and safety of the tenants and their families.”

And the dunnies? NAAJA says blocked toilets are still one of the common repair requests they assist with, after tenants have “given up” on the Department of Housing.

Read the full article here: Northern Territory Housing Issues Paper and Response to the Housing Strategy Consultation Draft.