The Northern Territory Government has launched its Room to Breathe program in Milikapiti on Melville Island, one of 24 communities among the first beneficiaries of the territory’s $1.1 billion 10-year housing plan.
The $10 million program will see additional living spaces built onto existing houses in remote Indigenous communities.
The fast-tracked program focuses on extensions rather than entire new builds, and will reduce overcrowding and create local jobs in remote Indigenous communities.
Milikapiti is one of the first communities where work will begin to roll out, and will receive around $500,000 this financial year. The local housing reference group, made up of locals, will meet in March and make the decisions about what is needed and who will deliver this Tiwi-run project.
The government announced a further 23 remote Indigenous communities would be the first to have additional living spaces built onto existing homes as part of the program.
The 24 communities have been identified as having high levels of overcrowding and the local building capacity to deliver what people say they need.
The 24 communities are:
- Ali Curung
- Kybrook Farm
Consultation and local delivery of better housing are key to the government’s housing strategy.
Northern Territory Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, said, “Territorians deserve a government that puts them first and listens and consults before taking action – that work is now officially underway on this massive housing project.
“We know that overcrowded housing creates huge social problems in remote communities. It affects school attendance and is a detriment to health outcomes.
“We are restoring trust in government by creating jobs, investing in children and building safer, fairer and stronger communities and Room to Breathe will deliver on each of those fronts.”
Several options for housing extensions have been developed, with some housing conversions able to be delivered by local enterprise for as low as $13,500. Larger extensions will cost up to $225,000.
Conversions and extensions will include extra rooms, granny flats, new verandahs and extensions, making verandahs more secure and using space more effectively.
These options take into account local needs, disability access and different housing styles.
This strategy allows the community to have greater say in how this improved housing is delivered and means Indigenous enterprise and local councils with high levels of Aboriginal employment are able to complete the works. This means more local control and more jobs in remote communities.
Northern Territory Housing and Community Development Minister, Gerry McCarthy, said $10 million was recently fast-tracked to the 2016/17 financial year to allow construction work to begin within a few months.
“All Territorians are entitled to control over their life and access to high quality services and when our remote communities and regions are strong the Territory is strong,” Mr McCarthy said.
“That’s why we are investing a record $1.1 billion to build and improve thousands of remote houses right across the Territory and it’s why we are determined to restore local decision making to remote communities.”
Mr McCarthy said Room to Breathe will be guided by local communities with consultation well underway.
“Today we are listening to what types of new living spaces the people of Hermannsburg want built and we will then take action in the coming months – local people make the best decisions about their future and issues that impact them,” Mr McCarthy said.
“We are consulting with the 24 communities that have been identified as having high levels of overcrowding and the local building capacity to deliver what people tell us they need.
“The Territory has significant housing problems so we are working with local people to build homes where families can raise healthy children – these houses will be delivered by a local workforce which will build the local economy.”
Mr Gunner said the Territory Government was giving communities more say over their lives by restoring local decision making in housing, health and education.
“A number of communities have already been identified by government as having high levels of overcrowding and where existing Indigenous businesses have the capacity to undertake the work,” he said. The Room to Breathe program is different and exciting in that it will see new living spaces built that do not require changes to water or sewerage infrastructure.
“Many remote Indigenous communities have inadequate and overcrowded housing which has contributed to poor health and social outcomes so this is a big step forward.”
Northern Territory Member for Arafura, Lawrence Costa, said good housing was a right for all Territorians and these extra living spaces would make houses more liveable and allow families to continue to live together and improve lives.
“We know a good home leads to a good education, good health and good community outcomes this project will deliver benefits right across the Territory and for every Territorian,” Mr Costa said.
“The Territory Labor Government is listening to communities, such as Milikapiti, about the way the overall remote housing program could be delivered most effectively in that area.”
Consultation is ongoing with land councils, regional councils, Indigenous business enterprises, housing groups, Aboriginal peak organisations and local businesses throughout the Territory.