Fears for the Future of Remote Housing Program
5 February 2018 at 4:11 pm
There are fears the Turnbull government will defund the long-running National Partnership Alliance on Remote Housing program, which community groups warn will create a jobs and housing crisis in remote Indigenous areas.
The National Partnership on Remote Housing (NPRH) is a program addressing the critical housing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities, with a focus on service delivery and creating employment and business opportunities for Indigenous people.
Along with the previous National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH), the scheme has created jobs and provided housing for remote communities since 2008, but there are fears it will not be renewed when the agreement expires on 30 June 2018.
The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has launched a campaign urging the government to keep the scheme running, or risk condemning remote Indigenous communities “to a social and jobs crisis spanning generations”.
“This program has created hundreds of jobs and provided thousands of new or refurbished homes in Queensland since 2008 yet the federal government is preparing to axe future funding after June this year,’’ LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said.
“We are not going to stand by and watch Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull walk away from a program that is so fundamental to the future of Indigenous communities in Queensland.”
The LGAQ has written to members of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee asking them to examine the impact that defunding the program would have on other overcrowding and homelessness projects.
Leone Crayden is the executive director of Q Shelter, Queensland’s peak body for the housing and homelessness sector.
She told Pro Bono News the program was “absolutely paramount to closing the gap”.
“It’s not only a housing program, it’s also a health and wellbeing program in that it employs many Indigenous people across the country and in Queensland it also provides apprenticeships and new housing. It has produced better health outcomes and decreased overcrowding,” Crayden said.
“The Commonwealth also did its own review on the national agreement and agreed it should continue. And we know that overcrowding can lead to mental ill-health and if we’re reducing those numbers why stop something that’s working?”
We're making a simple call for @TurnbullMalcolm and the Commonwealth Government – #DontWalkAway from funding housing in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities! Read our Media Release on why #NPRH is so important to #QLD #Auspol #Qldpol https://t.co/aN7E0ONvnA pic.twitter.com/lAydAMKphh
— Q Shelter (@qldshelter) January 31, 2018
Crayden said that given the success of the program, she did not understand why the government would look to cease funding.
“It has been a success and has reduced overcrowding by 46 per cent. We’ve got about 1,150 new homes, there’s been a refurbishment of 1,500 homes and there’s been maintenance of almost 4,300 houses,” she said.
“We’ve increased the capacity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils to build their Indigenous business structure, so we think it needs to continue and not cease at all.”
National Shelter have also expressed concerns about the future of the program, and called for it to be extended to support housing in urban areas.
“NPARIH and its 2016 iteration NPRH, have been successful in reducing overcrowding, providing employment and skills in remote communities which has helped close the gap. These efforts must continue,” spokesperson Adrian Pisarski said.
“However the Prime Minister and Cabinet website says that the program will end in June this year and there is no expenditure for remote Indigenous housing identified in MYEFO or forward estimates.
“We are encouraged by Minister Scullion’s commitment to matching the NT government’s billion dollar plans and we urge all Australian government’s to extend NPRH when COAG considers it next week.
“We also recognise the job isn’t restricted to remote Australia and could also be extended to support housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in urban Australia where 75 per cent of our first peoples live.”
The Queensland housing minister, Mick de Brenni, said the Turnbull government’s decision to withdraw funding for the program would see the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians widen catastrophically.
“Malcolm Turnbull and his Minister Nigel Scullion [are] taking away funds which are desperately needed for the health and wellbeing of Queenslanders living in remote communities,” de Brenni said.
“Addressing overcrowding through the provision of housing results in tangible, measurable outcomes toward Closing the Gap, and it’s absolutely shameful that Malcolm Turnbull is walking away from his responsibilities.
“The lives of some of our most marginalised Queenslanders depend on this funding.”
But a spokesperson for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, told Pro Bono News there were “no federal cuts to remote housing nor has any decision been made in relation to remote housing”.
The spokesperson pointed out that the 10-year federal investment was a one-off national partnership agreement, to assist states to undertake their own responsibilities for the delivery of housing to help reduce overcrowding and increase housing amenities.
“The Commonwealth remains in negotiations with the Queensland government about future funding arrangements beyond the one-off 10-year remote housing agreement that is due to expire in June 2018,” the spokesperson said.
“Unlike the Northern Territory, to date the Queensland government has not put any money on the table for Indigenous housing as part of these negotiations.
“If the Queensland Labor government was fair dinkum about remote housing in the state they would have put forward a commitment by now but they haven’t… [Their government] should not be so city-centric and Brisbane focused and actually invest some [federally-supplied money] into remote and Indigenous communities.”
Crayden, who was in Canberra on Monday meeting with Senate representatives to lobby for new NPRH funding, said she hoped the government would recommit to the program.
Our Exec Director @QShelterLeone and @LGAQ delegations first meeting with Senate reps – fighting for new #nprh funding. We’re saying #dontwalkaway from funding remote housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities! pic.twitter.com/bKxfA8XxLR
— Q Shelter (@qldshelter) February 5, 2018
“I think it’s such an important issue with Closing the Gap and the 10th anniversary of the apology. I think it would put a strain on the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement if it doesn’t continue. Because money would have to come from somewhere for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” she said.
“It’s a really important issue because we haven’t really closed the gap yet and we know housing’s integral to all of the other wellbeing programs. You can’t tackle mental illness, or violence or employment if you’re not housed.
“It’s about self-determination in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”