The failure to fix overcrowding in remote community houses calls for urgent reform measures, according to the Central Land Council’s executive committee.
The call comes in the wake of another critical report about the lack of progress on national remote housing targets, this time from the Australian National Audit Office.
The report shows that the Closing the Gap target of 88% of Aboriginal people living in houses that are not overcrowded by 2031 is far from on track.
“The audit report found that more than half of our houses are still overcrowded,” CLC chair Sammy Wilson said.
“Overcrowding kills, as this pandemic has shown once again, because our growing families can’t safely isolate from the virus.
“How many more reports do governments need until they admit that they are not reducing overcrowding fast enough?”
Meeting in Alice Springs today, the council’s executive said the ANAO report is another reminder that the remote housing system is broken.
The CLC wants the major parties to commit to increasing their investment in remote housing if they win government and to rebuilding the Aboriginal community-controlled housing sector.
In 2018, a $550 million federal government funding commitment, the National Partnership Agreement for Remote Indigenous Housing, was expected to provide 650 three-bedroom houses in remote communities by 2023.
The ANAO report found that only 19 per cent of targeted new home builds, the equivalent of 121 three-bedroom houses, had been completed by last September.
“To save lives and improve the life chances of our people, we need the federal and NT governments between them to spend at least two billion over the next five years,” CLC chief executive Les Turner said.
”This will build 2,000 new houses and make another 4,000 houses more liveable in communities and homelands across the CLC region.”
The audit report found that the National Indigenous Australians Agency “has not gained assurance that the NT Government is meeting its commitment to contribute $550 million to remote housing over the life of the National Partnership”.
Mr Turner said the governments need to stop pointing the finger at each other and work with the NT’s Aboriginal representative organisations to build a sustainable Aboriginal housing sector.
”The governments need to support remote community housing trials that will reveal the true cost of shifting to Aboriginal-controlled housing and invest in re-building the sector that was decimated by the Intervention,” he said.
“Bush voters want to know what the major parties will do if they win government in May.”