Remote Housing Crisis

In the space of a week two reports reveal why WA has a remote housing crisis. 

Coronial inquests make for shocking reading. 

In short, they outline in detail a tragic situation and then try and make sense of it all. Following an inquest, a coroner may comment and make recommendations about public health or safety aimed at preventing similar deaths from happening in the future. 

When Coroner Ros Fogliani examined the deaths of thirteen children and young persons in the Kimberley Region, she allocated an entire chapter to outline housing services in the Kimberley Region. 

Her main points were:

• “Practically all of the children and young persons whose deaths were investigated had disrupted home lives, many of them did not live with their parents, and a number of them were transient between different Aboriginal communities, living in overcrowded and/or inadequate housing arrangements” (Fogliani, 2017, p. 68).

• “Self-evidently, in order to thrive and gain an education, children need a safe and nurturing home environment. They need to be living in adequate housing” (Fogliani, 2017, p. 69).

Coroner Fogliani in the report outlined responses from the Department of Communities through a lawyer at the State Solicitor’s Office (SSO).

• “The Department of Communities acknowledges that there continues to be a shortage of social housing in the Kimberley Region, with demand being disproportionally high. Through its lawyer the SSO, it submits that simply increasing supply to meet demand is not a tenable aim. It submits that the aim should not be for more fit people of employable age to be housed in social housing, but rather, to assist people to overcome generational welfare dependency, and move into training and work, which will enable them to afford private rental or home ownership” (Fogliani, 2017, p. 70).

The report from the Coroner and a recent decision by Infrastructure Australia (IA) to place remote housing overcrowding on its National High Priority Initiatives list sees this issue elevated to all levels of government.

IA categorised remote housing overcrowding as a “high priority initiative”.

Late last year WA’s Housing Minister Peter Tinley signed a $121m deal with Canberra to fund housing in remote communities. The new amount came after a long-running stalemate between Mr Tinley and Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion.

A previous 10-year national partnership agreement of $100 million every year for housing ran out in June 2018.

Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA believes the reference to housing in each of these reports’ points to the critical need for smarter, innovative and culturally informed and led investment in housing and services.

“As a community we should be ashamed. The health impacts and economic implications of this acute housing shortage are devastating to individuals, families and communities. We need to listen, hear and learn from Aboriginal people and invest in housing people’s future.”

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