Bipartisan commitment to housing funding needed to secure future of remote communities

The leaders of Councils of Social Service (COSS) around the country have welcomed the ALP announcement of a ten year, $1.5 billion investment in housing in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and pledge to develop a new COAG partnership on remote housing and called on the Liberal Party to provide a similar commitment.

“Since the expiry of the last national partnership agreement, the future of remote communities has been in limbo. We welcome the assurances from Labor that they will work with the states to develop a new partnership to address overcrowding and urge the Liberal Party to also commit to ensuring that people in remote communities will have access to safe and healthy housing in the future,”COSS leaders said.

“Since the last national partnership ended on 30 June 2018, we have been deeply concerned by the lack of a coordinated approach at Commonwealth level to delivering this essential infrastructure. A bipartisan and long-term commitment is needed to ensure that the lives of people living in the most impoverished communities in the country are not in political limbo,” COSS leaders said.

“While the Northern Territory and South Australia have both signed five-year agreements with the Federal government, Western Australia has an agreement for only a single year, and Queensland remains without an agreement in place. People living in remote communities around the country should be able to expect a basic level of housing and services, regardless of which State or Territory they live in or who wins the Federal Election.”
“Safe, culturally appropriate and energy-efficient housing is a foundation for health, being and participation, and essential to Closing the Gap.”

The Federal Government’s own review of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Housing in late 2017 recommended that:

  • A recurrent program be funded to maintain existing houses, preserve functionality and increase the life of housing assets; and that
  • Investment be provided for an additional 5,500 houses by 2028, which are needed to continue efforts on Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

The ALP announcement will provide funding security for remote communities in the Northern Territory for ten years, and interim funding relief for Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia for the next year, to be replaced by a new national partnership. ACOSS is seeking a long-term Commonwealth commitment of $450 million per annum, matched by State and Territory Governments, to a new intergovernmental agreement on remote housing. Yesterday’s announcement is an important step in the right direction.

COSS leaders said, “The Commonwealth Government has been involved in funding remote Indigenous housing since at least 1968, and as part of the National Homelands Policy supported and encouraged the growth of a number of remote communities. For a Federal Government to no longer support these communities jeopardises their ongoing sustainability and puts at risk the wellbeing of their residents.”
“The Liberal Party should join Labor in committing to work with State and Territory Governments if they form the next Federal Government, to forge a durable inter-governmental remote housing agreement, and to close critical gaps in decent, affordable housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.