Finally, a win on indigenous housing
While coverage of this election is being dominated by issues like the Adani coal mine, tax breaks and the usual run of stories exposing the indiscretions of various candidates, there are scores of policy announcements that might not get the big headlines but point to a genuine commitment to improve the lot of Australians.
One of these is the Labor Party’s pledge today to spend $1.5 billion on providing housing in remote indigenous communities if it wins the 18 May election. This promise follows intense campaigning from the LGAQ and indigenous councils on the issue, focussing on the need for Canberra to not walk away from its responsibilities to these communities. A Shorten government would provide an initial $112 million in funding to reduce overcrowding in remote indigenous communities in Queensland. While this amount alone will not be enough to fully address overcrowding, importantly federal Labor is talking about working with Queensland and the other states regarding a “genuine, ongoing partnership” to tackle the issue.
That campaign has been ongoing for more than a year and involved direct lobbying of ministers and shadow ministers, delegations of indigenous mayors to Canberra and a wealth of activity on social media designed to bring attention to the harm that would be done to remote indigenous communities should federal funding for housing dry up.
As we have said in previous blog posts, overcrowding, homelessness and generally inadequate housing are among the most persistent problems indigenous communities confront. There was a program to tackle this. The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing provided billions of dollars of investment in building new homes and maintaining existing homes in these communities.
Labor’s announcement is therefore significant. One of the first to comment favourably was Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey, who said the $122 million promise from Labor, coupled with the existing spend on indigenous housing would address overcrowding, not to mention retain about 600 jobs in remote communities.
“It will change and save lives - this funding will help to address overcrowding, protect jobs and allow further economic investment in the region, while a longer-term agreement is negotiated,” he said.
Now federal Labor has acknowledged the contribution this program made.
“We cannot close the gap if people don’t have a roof over their heads,” Bill Shorten said yesterday.
It is now up to Scott Morrison’s LNP to admit this simple fact as well.
Local Government Association of Queensland
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