The Victorian Government will ensure that the properties from three Indigenous organisations have their first mortgages removed within the First Mortgage and Community Infrastructure Program.

Announced on November 5, the Andrews Government are aiming to support self determination and financial autonomy for Indigenous organisations.

The organisations and properties which benefit from this program include Aboriginal Housing Victoria’s head office in Fitzroy, Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative’s main office, including their health service, in North Geelong, and Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation’s (WMAC) office and two other properties they own in Heywood in Western Victoria.

“The Removal of the First Mortgage was the next stage in improving our economic capacity and sustainability towards self-determination,” said Winda-Mara CEO, Jason Kanoa.

He said it gives the organisation “greater flexibility” to undertake their work, particularly in the construction of new health services infrastructure.

Kanoa emphasised the overwhelming support within the organisation for the need for “additional capital infrastructure” to support the growth of the “past 3-5 years”.

“Removal of the mortgages was the next step in our commitment to addressing community need, that will enable WMAC to plan for future stages of work on our sites.”

These additional five properties which have had their mortgages removed brings the total properties which have benefited from the program to 30 since its inception in 2017.

Fifty-nine properties were owned by Indigenous organisations that were applicable for a first mortgage held by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs when the program was established.

This was within the funding agreement that meant organisations were able to initially purchase the properties.

The program allows eligible organisations to apply for the removal of a first mortgage if the strength of governance, sustainability and feasibility can be proven.

The organisations remain the legal owners of the properties, however, a first mortgage means they couldn’t use the capital for future growth.

Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams, described “returning land title” as returning “control to Aboriginal communities – where it belongs.”

“Aboriginal organisations do incredible work for their communities and deserve the full independence, infrastructure and economic collateral they need to grow and plan for their futures,” she said.

“We are helping to strengthen the economic capacity and sustainability of Aboriginal organisations to move towards self-determination.”

By Aaron Bloch