A national first, Aboriginal Community Housing Limited (ACHL) is Australia’s first national independent, affordable housing organisation that is completely First Nations-led and directed, empowering self-determination in community and public housing.

ACHL was established in 2016 with the immense support of their leading investor, Community Housing Limited (CHL). This support enabled the project to better service the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who contribute to over 14 percent of the tenants CHL service.

First established in the Goldfields and Kimberley regions of Western Australia, ACHL now manages over 360 homes across the country.

CHL recognised the nee­d for ACHL to be completely focused on self-determination, enabling it to provide culturally appropriate services to communities and assist empowerment and sustainability within remote and regional areas.

CHL Managing Director Steve Bevington said the idea to develop ACHL began after coming to the realisation that the public housing industry didn’t have the capacity to fully support First Nations tenants in a culturally safe and appropriate way.

“Initially CHL were landlords, providing services, collecting rent … [but] over time the contract evolved and we began as agents for the public housing authority and it was very apparent from the beginning that the management regime wasn’t viable and didn’t respect the Indigenous cultural values as it should,” Mr Bevington said.

“We are a mainstream organisation and it was only right to support ACHL, providing them with the opportunity to develop capability and skills within its own right.”

Another factor contributing to CHL’s support was the ability to provide the backbone of support in communities that do not have the personnel, skills or labour required to manage housing.

A lack of government funding for housing is a contributing factor to the insufficient delivery of culturally safe services to remote and regional communities.

“It isn’t easy to build organisations in housing where the budgets are lean. Compared to perhaps health or education, [where] the funding is significantly larger,” Mr Bevington said.

Mr Bevington has strong hopes for the future of ACHL.

“I hope that in three years we have up to 3,000 houses under management and are delivering housing management services out to communities, remote and regional.”

At its heart, ACHL has a simple mission, being a vehicle that can be First Nations driven and empower and encourage.

“ACHL at its core wants to facilitate the sustainable life and visions of each Aboriginal community. I believe they can become sustainable through each having a vision and equipping themselves with the skills and the business services,” Mr Bevington said.

Housing is people’s connection to land … so housing and ability to maintain connection to land is intrinsic. Therefore, the housing system should become tailored to the people’s needs so that they have the power and potential to manage their own destinies.”

For more information on ACHL, visit: http://www.achl.org.au/.

By Rachael Knowles