In August 2007, the Federal Government announced that it would provide the State Government with $25 million for a major housing program on the APY Lands. Eight months later, in April 2008, the Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse recommended that the APY housing program should commence “as soon as possible” and “as a matter of urgency.” As of October 2009, work on the construction of the first 33 houses had commenced.
Please note: this page tracks the Rudd Labor Government’s commitment to fund a major housing program on the APY Lands. For information on the previous Federal Government’s commitment to a similar program click here.
The Paper Trail
Overcrowding and poorly maintained housing are long-standing problems for Anangu.[i]
On 3 August 2007, the State and Federal Governments reached an “in principle” agreement on a $25 million housing package for the APY Lands.[ii] At that time, the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) said:
Under the package, sustainable housing will be constructed and existing houses upgraded. These initiatives will improve opportunities for Anangu, including training and employment in the construction and maintenance of houses.[iii]
The Minister also noted that the funding was “subject to an extensive consultation process with the APY communities over the coming months.”[iv]
Those consultations had not been completed when, on 24 November 2007, a new Federal Government was elected.
Same funding, different offer
On 27 February 2008, the new Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Hon Jenny Macklin MP) told the National Press Club that her government was “working with the state government to provide public housing with appropriate tenure on the APY lands.” The Federal Minister also indicated that her government would be pursuing 50-year leasing arrangements for this housing.[v]
The State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation was quick to welcome the Federal Minister’s commitment to follow through on the previous government’s funding offer. He also welcomed the Federal Minister’s willingness to reduce the length of the proposed leasing arrangements from 99 to 50 years (thereby removing the need for the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 to be amended).[vi]
On 3 June 2008, a Senate Standing Committee examined the terms and conditions of the Federal Minister’s offer. The Committee heard that it provided for:
a mixture of new housing and housing upgrades …in the 10 key communities on the APY Lands, underpinned by appropriate leasing land tenure under the Land Rights Act.[vii]
In response to questions about leasing arrangements, the Government explained:
Under the APY Land Rights Act, leases of up to 50 years in duration can be granted by the APY Executive [Board], the governing body under that Act. To underpin this investment we would be seeking leases of that duration. … Like those sort of leases in the NT and elsewhere, it is of a duration that supports the investment that is being made.[viii]
The Senate Committee was also informed of the ways in which the current funding offer differed from the one put forward by the previous government; specifically, the current offer would not require legislative amendments nor would it require any changes to the APY permit system.[ix]
Information provided to Anangu
On 28 March 2008, the South Australian Government provided communities on the APY Lands with some written information on the Federal Government’s offer. This information indicated that:
- the offer included funding both for new houses and for repairs to some existing housing stock
- the funding was conditional on the South Australian government assuming the management of both existing and new community housing
- under this arrangement, the South Australian Government would be “responsible for repairs and maintenance and making sure the rent is collected”
- land for the houses would need to “be leased to the State Government for 50 years”
- “the building program for the new houses would take about four years” and include opportunities for Anangu “to be trained and employed in jobs relating to housing services including construction, repairs and maintenance and tenancy management.”[x]
On 8 April 2008, Pukatja Community Council asked the South Australian Government for some additional information on the proposed housing program.[xi] In a reply dated 6 May 2008, the Government stated that:
- “Following the consultations to advise people of what is on offer, the Australian and State Government will be asking the APY Executive to sign a MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] to enable the housing program to begin. This will be dependent on reaching agreement on the leasing to the State of the land on which houses are located.”
- “No land is being acquired [under the proposed arrangement]; rather the State will apply to the APY Executive for leases over the blocks of land where the houses are to be built and where houses currently exist. Anangu who will live in the houses will be given housing leases to occupy the houses.”
- “Once agreement has been reached regarding the project a detailed project plan will be developed that will identify all aspects of the program including consultation around housing design, housing placement and housing upgrades.”
- “Community Councils will be consulted about where houses are to be built within communities.”
- “As the State government through Housing SA will be managing the public housing program they will have responsibility for ensuring houses are maintained and repaired to an acceptable standard.”
- “Housing SA will be responsible for setting rents and this will form part of the consultation. Rent charged will be affordable and based on income.”
- “Housing SA will manage rent collection and, once set up, people will be able to pay their rent via direct debit, electronic funds transfer or as a debit from Centrelink benefits … a housing officer will work with Anangu who are having difficulty paying rent.”
- “Training and employment of Anangu is a central component of the planned housing package; this could very well include apprenticeships and traineeships as well as provide certificate level and unskilled labour employment.”[xii]
Negotiations and Consultation
On 29 May 2008, State and Federal Government representatives gave a presentation on the funding offer to a special general meeting of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY). At the end of the presentation, APY agreed to negotiate with the government about housing and related issues and, with other parties, work towards a co-ordinated strategy and action plan for the APY Lands.[xiii]
On 18 June 2008, representatives of the APY Executive Board and officers of the State Government’s Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division agreed “to move forward with the Commonwealth Government’s $25million housing package for the Lands” via a “revised memorandum of understanding.”[xiv]
On 26 June 2008, the APY Executive Board reported that as a result of the previous week’s meetings with the South Australian Government, leases would “no longer [be] required over all of our existing houses in exchange for the promise of $25 million.” The report continued:
APY will now revise the housing MOU prepared in late 2007 to provide for the $25 million offer for about 40 new houses … as well as upgrades of the existing houses … and the building of even more new houses … if we can attract further Commonwealth money.[xv]
Findings of the Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse
The Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse on the APY Lands highlighted the problem and consequences of overcrowded and poorly maintained housing.[xvi] Commenting on the proposed $25 million federal funding package, it expressed support for:
the planned injection of funds to build additional new and replacement homes during the next two to three years.[xvii]
On 30 April 2008, the Mullighan Inquiry recommended (Recommendation 13):
That as a matter of urgency the housing construction program, with the assistance of Commonwealth Government funds, begins as soon as possible to construct houses that are appropriately designed for Anangu families and for houses to be built to be used by appropriate personnel of service providers on the Lands.[xviii]
Government Response to Recommendation 32 of the Mullighan Inquiry
On 24 July 2008, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) tabled the Government’s preliminary response to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry report in the South Australian Parliament.
The Government’s response expressed “support” for Recommendation 13. It also provided a brief account of the terms of the funding offer:
The offer is conditional upon leases being granted over the land on which the houses will be built. Secure long-term tenure over the housing is essential to the Government’s capacity to provide long-term tenure to Anangu, and to properly manage and maintain the housing.
The State Government has applied to the APY Executive for 50 year leases for the first tranche of houses, and understands that the APY Executive will make a decision on this application in late August. Following the granting of leases by APY Executive, a comprehensive program of construction and associated training and employment will be progressed. In principle agreement has been reached in respect of the second tranche of houses.
A Memorandum of Understanding is currently being drafted for negotiation, regarding the leases, the public housing model which is to apply in respect of the houses, and cyclical maintenance.[xix]
APY resolves to accept funding offer
On 20 and 21 August 2008, a two-day Special General Meeting of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) was held at Umuwa. The State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) attended the meeting, as did a number of State and Federal Government representatives. The meeting provided Anangu with an opportunity to talk directly with the Minister about the terms and conditions of the funding offer.
On the second day, the meeting resolved:
1: That the Executive Board grant a lease for 50 years between APY and the State Government for the 11 sites identified in the site plan for Amata.
2: That the Executive Board grant leases for 50 years between APY and the State Government for all the residential sites (for new and substantially upgraded houses) in the site plan for all communities subject to the Commonwealth government providing funding for the required new and upgraded houses. Additionally:
- the housing will begin in Amata and then move to other communities
- the State must build the houses within an agreed time frame or the land will go back to APY
- the State will manage the social housing on the lands including, allocation, maintenance, and
rent collection in accordance with a revised MOU
- houses must only be for Anangu
- the State will ensure houses are maintained properly and insured
- the building and maintenance will, as far as practical, be performed by Anangu
- Anangu must pay rent and abide by a tenancy agreement
- Anangu want the opportunity for home ownership and the State and Commonwealth is prepared to provide this.[xx]
After the resolutions had passed, Minister Weatherill remarked:
The Anangu leadership should be praised for leading their communities towards significant improvements in housing while ensuring the protection of Anangu land. I am very pleased these leases have been supported so we can tackle the unacceptable overcrowding highlighted by Commissioner Ted Mullighan.[xxi]
Commenting on the resolutions the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Hon Jenny Macklin MP) said:
These leases will ensure that the new and improved houses are properly maintained and repaired by the South Australian public housing authority and that relevant social support services are available to tenants.
There will also be new work and training opportunities for Indigenous Australians in the construction and maintenance of the new and upgraded houses.[xxii]
Five months later, on 21 January 2009, the State Department for Families and Communities advised the Paper Tracker that:
- the State Government was continuing to negotiate with the Commonwealth “to finalise details in relation to the $25m project and the conditions associated with the release of funding.”
- these negotiations were “reaching [their] final stages and it is hoped they will be finalised during February 2009.”
- until the negotiations have concluded and “an Agreement has been jointly executed,” the department “is not in a position to engage [building] contractors.”[xxiii]
On 16 March 2009, the State Government advised a Senate Inquiry that it was “in possession of the $25 million … as it relates to dedicated housing and infrastructure projects on the APY Lands.”[xxiv] This statement was inaccurate.
On 2 April 2009, the Government noted that it had “not yet received” any part of the $25 million and that this funding had, in fact, been incorporated into the National Partnership of Remote Indigenous Housing Agreement over which negotiations were continuing.[xxv]
At that time, the State Government also noted that:
- the Federal Government had recently indicated that it was “prepared to release some funds” to the South Australian Government so that it could “proceed with tendering of the initial phase construction at both Amata and Mimili,” and
- “on this basis” it was “now moving into the tendering stage.”[xxvi]
On 21 April 2009, the State Government issued an “advance tender notification” for the construction of 33 houses in Amata and Mimili. A week later, the formal tender documentation was released.[xxvii]
On 31 August 2009, the APY Executive Board and Housing SA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at Umuwa.[xxviii]
On 8 September 2009, the South Australian Minister for Housing (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP) spoke about the MOU in State Parliament. She said:
The MOU commits the government and the APY executive to work together on the delivery of improved housing and social outcomes for those living on the lands. With a 20 per cent employment target, the MOU provides for substantial training and employment opportunities for Anangu through involvement in the construction, maintenance and administration of these homes.
The MOU agrees to the establishment of a public housing model of management. Residents of new and upgraded houses will also receive extra support to make their tenancies a success. They will be assisted to make tenancy plans as well as participate in homemaker services and family support education…
The Minister noted that the MOU would be “reviewed annually.”[xxix]
Click here to download a copy of the MOU (file size: 1.10MB)
Construction begins (updated 27 November 2009)
In October 2009, the Federal Government reported that the construction of 33 houses in Amata and Mimili had commenced and was expected to be completed by September 2010.[xxx] The report continued:
The South Australian Government is also currently finalising plans for the upgrades of approximately 50 existing houses as well as the construction of further new houses across the APY Lands.[xxxi]
On 18 November 2009, the State Minister for Housing (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP) informed Parliament that the Government expected to have built 28 new houses in Mimili, 22 in Kaltjiti and 30 in Amata “by the end of June 2012″.[xxxii]
This article was last updated in November 2009. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.
[i] See, for example: Ball, R. 1 August 1977, “Shortage of housing hits Aboriginals,” Advertiser, p3. Also: Parliament of South Australian, 1969, “Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the Welfare of Aboriginal Children,” pp71, p9-10.
[iii] Weatherill, J. 3 August 2007, “$34 Million Package for the APY Lands,” media release.
[iv] Weatherill, J. 3 August 2007, “$34 Million Package for the APY Lands,” media release.
[v] Macklin, J. 27 February 2008, “Closing the Gap – Building an Indigenous Future,” Speech to the National Press Club, Canberra.
[vi] Weatherill, J. 27 February 2007, “South Australia welcomes Federal Commitment on Housing,” news release.
[vii] Cattermole, A. 3 June 2008, Transcript of evidence given to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, p22.
[viii] Cattermole, A. 3 June 2008, Transcript of evidence given to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, p22.
[ix] Cattermole, A. 3 June 2008, Transcript of evidence given to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, p22.
[x] Mazel, J. 28 March 2008, Letter to G. Lewis
[xi] Lewis, G. 8 April 2008, Letter to J Mazel.
[xii] Mazel, J. 6 May 2008. Letter to G Lewis
[xiii] see Minutes of the Special General Meeting of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara held at Umuwa on 28 & 29 May 2008, p7.
[xiv] Weatherill, J. 19 June 2008, “Breakthrough on APY Lands,” news release.
[xv] APY Chairperson, 26 June 2008, “Community Housing Update No. 5,” Available online at: http://www.waru.org/warunews.php?id=759. Accessed 24 July 2008. APY’s report stated that “under the revised MOU, housing will continue to be managed by the on-site OAH [Office for Aboriginal Housing] and Anangu Malpas[xv] who will be better resourced to provide a better service.[xv] It also indicated that APY would try “to negotiate a scheme” to allow Anangu to “purchase their houses and obtain a title deed from the government, if Anangu wanted to do this.
[xvi] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p153-155.
[xvii] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p154.
[xviii] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pxxi.
[xix] Government of South Australia, July 2008, “Response by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation to the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry: A report into sexual abuse’,” [p13]
[xx] These resolutions were passed on 21 August 2008 at the Special General Meeting of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara held at Umuwa.
[xxi] Macklin, J. & Weatherill, J. 21 August 2008, “APY Lands housing breakthrough,” joint media release. Available at: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/Internet/jennymacklin.nsf/content/apy_lands_housing_21aug08.htm%20Accessed%2029%20August%202008.
[xxii] Macklin, J. & Weatherill, J. 21 August 2008, “APY Lands housing breakthrough,” joint media release. Available at: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/Internet/jennymacklin.nsf/content/apy_lands_housing_21aug08.htm%20Accessed%2029%20August%202008.
[xxiii] Fagan-Schmidt, P (DFC). 21 January 2009. Letter to Rev P. McDonald
[xxiv] Government of South Australia. 16 March 2009, “Senate Select Committee on Regional and Remote Indigenous Communities, SA Government Response to Questions on Notice,” p6. Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/indig_ctte/qon/SA_governmentQoN-040309.pdf. Accessed: 30 March 2009.
[xxv] Fagan-Schmidt, P (DFC). 2 April 2009, Email to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (P. Huntington and K. Newman). Two weeks later, similar advice was provided to the Parliament of South Australia’s Budget and Finance Committee (Legislative Council) – see: Department of the Premier and Cabinet. 14 April 2009, “Responses from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet to Questions without notice raised during the meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, held on Monday 2nd March,” p15.
[xxvi] Fagan-Schmidt, P (DFC). 2 April 2009, Email to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (P. Huntington and K. Newman).
[xxvii] Bou, P (DFC). 26 May 2009. Email to J. Nicholls.
[xxviii] See: Minutes for the meeting of the APY Executive Board held on 2 September 2009, p2.
[xxix] Rankine, J. 8 September 2009. “APY Lands, Housing and Employment,” Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p3691-2.
[xxx] Specifically: the Amata houses are due to be completed by June 2010 and the Mimili houses by September 2010 (Information provided by the Federal Department for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in response to questions asked by Senator Marise Payne in June 2009. See Parliament of Australia, 20 October 2009, “Community Affairs Legislation Committee: Examination of Budget Estimates 2009-2010 – Additional information received. Consolidated volume 2: Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Portfolio – Cross Outcome and Outcomes 1 to 4,” Question No. 271, p461.
[xxxi] Information provided by the Federal Department for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in response to questions asked by Senator Marise Payne in June 2009 (see Parliament of Australia, 20 October 2009, “Community Affairs Legislation Committee: Examination of Budget Estimates 2009-2010 – Additional information received. Consolidated volume 2: Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Portfolio – Cross Outcome and Outcomes 1 to 4,” Question No. 271, p461.
[xxxii] Rankine, J. 18 November 2009. “APY Lands, Housing and Employment,” Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p4751.