Gunyah: Community voices driving change for Indigenous Housing

13th December 2023

Transformative Pathways: Reflections from AHURI Conference on Remote & First Nations Housing in Australia

I found the AHURI National Housing Conference was a crucible of innovative ideas and collaborative endeavours, revealing transformative pathways toward addressing the complex housing challenges faced by remote and First Nations communities across Australia. Spanning three days of immersive sessions and engaging discussions at the Civica Think Tank, the conference spotlighted groundbreaking initiatives, urging a revaluation of existing paradigms in housing policy and implementation.

One pivotal insight I collected from Civica’s Think Tank was the indispensable role of community-driven solutions in Indigenous housing. The Co-Design Project in New South Wales and the Property Management Transfer Program exemplify the success of collaborative efforts between governments, community members, and stakeholders. These initiatives by The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), marked by their inclusive decision-making processes and community engagement, underscore the significance of local insights and cultural appropriateness in shaping effective housing policies.u

Likewise, the Groote Archipelago Housing Program stands as a testament to the transformative impact of prioritising community-led approaches. By embracing co-production and amplifying local voices, this initiative not only addresses housing challenges but also fosters community empowerment and sustainable development, heralding a promising future for Groote Eylandt.

The Town Camp movement’s struggle for better housing reflects the resilience and determination of communities to regain control over their housing destinies. The advocacy for community control, transparent financial management, and equitable resource allocation echoes the fundamental difference between Indigenous housing and conventional public housing. This movement underscores the necessity of recognising diverse communities' socio-economic backgrounds and aspirations while charting housing policies.

Additionally, shedding light on the plight of youth in Alice Springs, the presentation by NT Shelters revealed the stark reality of homelessness and its disproportionate impact on the young population. The emphasis on a youth-led approach to address homelessness underscores the imperative of amplifying young voices and prioritising their needs. Their call for safe and supportive accommodation resonates as a plea for dignity and security.

The overarching message gleaned from these insights is the urgent need for a paradigm shift in housing policies and resource allocation. The prevailing inadequacies in funding distribution, particularly concerning the Northern Territory, demand immediate attention. Redirecting resources toward prevention, rather than crisis management, is imperative to ensure that the youth and vulnerable populations are not merely sheltered but provided with avenues for holistic development.

The Think Tank sponsored by Civica at the AHURI conference served as a catalyst for introspection, urging policymakers, stakeholders, and communities to collaborate, innovate, and recalibrate approaches toward housing solutions. It unveiled the potency of community-driven initiatives, the resilience of Indigenous communities, and the aspirations of the youth, highlighting a roadmap for transformative change.

The journey toward equitable, sustainable, and culturally responsive housing solutions necessitates a concerted effort, placing community voices at the forefront of decision-making processes. As we reflect on the insights garnered, it is imperative to translate these lessons into action, forging a future where every individual, regardless of their background, finds solace and security within the walls of a dignified home.

Neale Walsh is Director, Housing & Strategic Engagements at Civica APAC