The Commonwealth Government’s 10 year National Partnership Agreement on Remote Housing (NPARH) comes to an end in June 2018 and no further funding for remote housing has yet been negotiated between the State and Federal Government.
This National Agreement with the Commonwealth has included South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Under this National Remote housing agreement, the Commonwealth Government nationally allocated a total amount of about $776 million each year. South Australia has been getting about $25 million each year for remote housing in this state.
With the imminent termination date of June 2018 for the National Partnership Agreement for Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH) and subsequent Remote Housing Strategy, the Anangu Lands Paper Tracker is very concerned about the uncertainty regarding future funding for the provision of housing in remote communities and the potentially damaging implications of this for people living in these communities.
Although not a specific target under the Closing the Gap strategy, decent housing is acknowledged as a key social-determinant of improved health and wellbeing, and is a fundamental building block for closing the gap in many of the target indicators. For these reasons, and in light of the disappointing results of the recent Closing the Gap report, it is critical that the Commonwealth Government continues to provide funding for remote housing. A sustained Commonwealth commitment to remote housing programs is critical to improving the health and wellbeing of citizens living in remote communities, and to closing the gap.
Numerous research studies, including the Commonwealth’s own Review of the Remote Indigenous Housing Program and those conducted by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), provide extensive evidence that the resourcing and support for remote housing has produced significant improvements, but that we still have a long way to go.
The Remote Housing Review identified a range of persistent issues that still need to be addressed in order to reduce the continuing unacceptable level of overcrowding and to sustain improvements in housing quality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
Having already invested $5.4 billion in remote housing, it would make sense for the Commonwealth Government to protect these investments and to sustain the gains that have already been made; doing so would increase the lifespan of the existing housing stock, enable ongoing systematic property maintenance and tenancy management, and result in tenants’ improved health and wellbeing.
The Commonwealth’s Review Panel (2008-2018) estimated that after accounting for population growth, an additional 5,500 homes are required by 2028 in order to reduce levels of overcrowding in remote areas to acceptable levels. It is argued that many more than 5,500 homes are needed if we are aiming to eliminate overcrowding altogether, rather than simply being satisfied with attaining an ‘acceptable level’.
Future funding arrangements should not only serve to protect existing investment but would also require a focus on continued need; the development of improved structures for design, implementation and oversight, with an increased level of community-driven initiatives; and attention being paid to develop the local-level work force and create more employment.
Based on funding provided to each jurisdiction, the analysis provided by the Remote Housing Review shows that South Australia achieved best value for money across its construction program. This track record indicates that further funding for this State would be put to good use.
The Anangu Lands Paper Tracker and Uniting Communities wrote to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Nigel Scullion. We raised our concerns with him about the urgent need for clarity about the future of funding for remote housing. You can read our letter to Minister Scullion here.
If you’d like to listen to a radio interview with Dr Alice Clark from Shelter SA about funding for remote housing, you can listen here.
If you would like to read previous Paper Tracker web posts about remote housing, click here.