This opinion piece has been written by Michael Gunner, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
Disadvantaged Territorians in remote communities will get more new and upgraded houses now that the Commonwealth has agreed to release funding.
Nine months ago the Federal Government promised $550 million to add to the Territory’s $1.1 billion remote housing program.
But Canberra put unacceptable conditions on delivery of the money that would have short-changed Territorians.
Now there is good news.
The Commonwealth has agreed to release the money through a National Partnership Agreement signed on 30 March.
We are getting on with our remote housing program because urgently fixing remote housing is crucial to protecting our most vulnerable communities and securing a safe and happy future for all Territorians.
The failure to ensure Aboriginal Territorians in remote communities have a place to safely raise a family has been critical to social welfare, mental wellbeing and health outcomes.
A remote housing crisis over previous decades has caused social dysfunction, poorer health and education and deteriorating law and order with serious long term repercussions across the whole of the Territory.
Populations in these communities are increasing and the gap in housing needs will only get worse over time unless drastic action is taken.
In two-and-a-half years the NT Government has made remarkable progress building or upgrading 1,350 houses with many more planned or underway.
The Territory’s budget alone is insufficient to build the thousands of homes needed to improve chronic overcrowding. We need the Australian Government’s support.
The Commonwealth’s $550 contribution to our remote housing program will allow us to make real and sustainable differences to the lives of Territorians, particularly Aboriginal Territorians.
Aboriginal people will be at the core of work building the homes and reducing overcrowding through the NT Government’s Local Decision Making policy where a growing number of Aboriginal communities are being empowered to control delivery of key services to their people.
The Territory’s four Aboriginal Land Councils will also participate in decisions of broad policy and strategy for remote housing and will have a monitoring role in the program.
Already around 50 percent of the workers building and upgrading houses in our remote communities are Aboriginal.
We expect this to increase as our program ramps up in the coming years.
And more kids will get a proper education because they will be coming from homes where they can get a good night’s sleep and arrive at school fed and healthy.