The Federal Government’s Report on Government Services has again awarded Queensland top marks for remote indigenous housing, just weeks after withdrawing funding from the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Housing, putting the state’s progress towards Closing the Gap at risk.
Minister for Housing and Public Works said the provision of housing for remote indigenous communities was critical to Closing the Gap, and the Turnbull Government’s decision to withdraw funding would see that gap widen catastrophically.
“The Federal Government’s report shows that through building housing in remote communities, Queensland is making significant strides toward Closing the Gap in these communities,” Mr de Brenni said.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve built almost 1,150 homes in remote indigenous communities.
“Almost 1,500 homes have been refurbished, and 4,300 homes maintained, but more importantly this program has resulted in 850 jobs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander apprentices and trainees.
“Today, Queensland leads the nation in indigenous employment for projects funded through this program, achieving a figure of 87 percent.
“This is well above the 20 percent target set for all states, and well above the next best state result of 47 percent.
“More than 80 percent of housing construction projects are delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils in their communities, which is a huge gain from the historic figure of around ten percent.
“But now, Malcolm Turnbull is throwing all that on the scrap heap, and walking away from his responsibilities.”
Mr de Brenni said that while Queensland had made excellent progress in reducing overcrowding in remote communities, more needed to be done.
“Overcrowding is a significant issue in these communities,” Mr de Brenni said.
“It tends to increase with remoteness, and is more prevalent with rented properties. It is also impacted by cultural practices such as high residential mobility and cultural obligations to accommodate kin.
“And it has significant ramifications for health, for education, employment and crime.
“Overcrowded dwellings are difficult to live in, especially for children. People don’t get enough sleep, tempers flare, and children find themselves roaming the streets just to get some breathing space away from the tension.
“Kids who can’t sleep struggle at school, and for adults it’s harder to find and maintain steady employment.
“What’s really concerning is that we see diseases like rheumatic fever in overcrowded homes in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, a disease which can lead to heart disease and heart failure – and which is virtually unheard of in twenty-first century Australia outside these communities.
“Addressing overcrowding through the provision of housing results in tangible, measurable outcomes toward Closing the Gap, and it’s absolutely shameful that Malcolm Turnbull is walking away from his responsibilities.”
The Federal Government’s Remote Housing Review, released at the end of 2017, recommends that secure, quality housing is necessary to Close the Gap.
Despite this, just before Christmas the Turnbull Government advised it would de-fund the National Partnership on Remote Housing, a loss of $245 million to Queensland.
“The Turnbull Government’s own report states clearly that housing is not simply an outcome in and of itself, it’s a necessary step toward achieving the outcome of Closing the Gap,” Mr de Brenni said.
“But Malcolm Turnbull and his Minister Nigel Scullion have ignored their own report, and ignored the ‘Closing the Gap’ report – instead they’re taking away funds which are desperately needed for the health and wellbeing of Queenslanders living in remote communities.
“All Australians will be looking to the Prime Minister’s upcoming Closing the Gap Report Statement to Parliament, to see Malcolm Turnbull fulfil his responsibilities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children, instead of turning his back on remote communities.
“The lives of some of our most marginalised Queenslanders depend on this funding.”
Social housing satisfaction
Mr de Brenni said the 2018 Report on Government Services indicated Queensland’s social housing and homelessness support systems continue to lead the nation.
“We have the most targeted social housing system in this state, ensuring that those most in need have the highest priority for social housing,” Mr de Brenni said.
“The report shows 96.9 per cent of new public housing allocations were to households with the greatest need, compared with the national average of 74.3 per cent.
“In the area of community housing, 98.5 per cent of housing allocations were to people with the greatest need, compared to the national average of 86.4 per cent, and for Indigenous housing the figure was 96.6 per cent, compared to the national average of 58.8 per cent.”
Mr de Brenni said the $1.8 billion Queensland Housing Strategy 2017-2027 – announced last June – would boost housing and homelessness support even further.
“The Queensland Housing Strategy is totally transforming the way housing services are delivered to better support people in need,” he said.
“It is ensuring those most in need are supported by a safety net of targeted early interventions, flexible packages of support, supportive social housing, and genuine wraparound services.
“And it is providing clear pathways to secure and affordable housing, no matter where you live or what your circumstances are.
“Importantly, it is linking housing with skills, training and education, especially for young people, and acknowledging that housing is a key foundation for social and economic participation.”
Minister for Housing and Public Works, Minister for Digital Technology and Minister for Sport
The Honourable Mick de Brenni