- Research shows that Aboriginal people face significant disadvantages in housing markets.
- Challenges include a lack of available housing, especially in rural or remote areas.
- On top of these challenges, a lack of culturally appropriate services and housing that supports kinship is a significant issue.
In the midst of the current housing crisis, many Aboriginal Western Australians face significant challenges in accessing safe and culturally appropriate social and affordable housing.
Research shows that Aboriginal people face significant disadvantages in housing markets. For example, compared to other Australians, Aboriginal people are less likely to own their own home and ten times more likely to live in social housing or experience homelessness.
According to Shelter WA CEO, Kath Snell, specific challenges can include a lack of available housing, especially in rural or remote areas; poor quality housing; expensive maintenance requirements; homelessness; and fit out and designs that do not meet the climate needs of the region the homes are located.
On top of these challenges, a lack of culturally appropriate services and housing that supports kinship is a significant issue.
Culturally appropriate housing that is both safe and affordable is fundamental to Aboriginal people thriving in and contributing to community.
“Cultural safety is about creating environments where Aboriginal culture is understood and honoured, and Aboriginal people can feel free to express an identity grounded in culture without that identity being threatened, challenged or invalidated,” Ms Snell said.
“Culturally safe housing provided by Aboriginal Community Housing Organisations (ACHOs) tends to be by more hands-on tenancy management and support services than mainstream housing providers, to provide holistic wraparound services to individuals and families.
“These organisations focus on culturally-informed and culturally-led housing solutions,” Ms Snell said.
One of those organisations is Noongar Mia Mia, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) that is a Community Housing Provider (CHP). The organisation has been at the frontline of Aboriginal social housing for over two decades, providing supportive housing, addressing homelessness risk factors from a place of cultural and personal respect.
“Working in a culturally secure, effective way with Aboriginal people on Noongar boodja facing homelessness means working differently,” Noongar Mia Mia Managing Director Tina Ugle said.
“It means putting Noongar cultural values at the front-and-center of the way we work; involving Aboriginal people meaningfully in the design and delivery of services; and understanding where to step back and let Aboriginal people lead the way,” Ms Ugle said.
Noongar Mia Mia is one of four organisations collaborating with Shelter WA on the ACHO Capacity Building Project that aims to facilitate the attainment of community housing registration for the four ACHOs.
Ms Snell says that the capacity building project is one of two projects that are supporting and building the capacity of ACHOs and the wider sector, with the other being the ACHO Sector Strengthening Project.
With collaboration from the Department of Communities, the sector strengthening project aims to facilitate a stronger and more represented ACHO sector in WA. This work is also laying the foundation for the potential establishment of a WA ACHO peak body.
The importance of supporting the sector is obvious when considering the extensive work that organisations like Noongar Mia Mia are undertaking to support hundreds of individuals and families. At any given time, Noongar Mia Mia houses up to 380 people, and over 91 tenancies.
“We are ensuring tenants have the right supports in place to understand their rights and responsibilities as tenants, to overcome the mental and physical health impacts associated with experiences of homelessness and poverty, and to open new chapters in their lives,” Ms Ugle said.
“We operate via a unique, evidence based and elder endorsed cultural model of supportive housing, taking a Noongar Housing First approach to housing, tenancy, and property management.
“Stable, secure housing is the first step towards a better future for our people, but housing alone is not enough. Whole-of-person, culturally appropriate approaches are critical to address the factors that lead to homelessness and support our people to exit homelessness permanently and build solid futures.”
Noongar Mia Mia also features in the ACHO Partnership Prospectus that was launched by Shelter WA in March 2023 and outlines partnership opportunities with four of WA’s ACHOs: Goldfields Indigenous Housing Organisation, Murchison Region Aboriginal Corporation, Noongar Mia Mia, and Southern Aboriginal Corporation.
The Prospectus provides a roadmap for private-sector businesses, industry, philanthropists, community services and government agencies to partner with ACHOs and details the transformative benefits these partnerships can have on the lives of Aboriginal people, families and communities.
“We welcome partnerships as we seek to grow our housing portfolio so we can provide secure, stable and culturally safe housing and property management services, while growing our Tenancy Support Program and Aboriginal Housing First Support Service to holistically support the members of our community who need it the most, towards improved well-being outcomes and sustainable tenancies,” Ms Ugle said.
While partnerships are welcome, Ms Ugle advises that it is extremely vital for Non-Indigenous Organisations to build relationships with Aboriginal people who can co-design programs and services with you.
“Include us from the very beginning, and listen to, respect, and incorporate our worldview, spirituality, and desires,” Ms Ugle said.
As the ACHO sector continues to strengthen, there remains several policy actions that Ms Snell and Ms Ugle believe are important to better support Aboriginal housing outcomes in WA.
In Shelter WA’s Pre Budget-Submission, they sought commitment from the State Government for the incremental transfer of 1,000 income generating, public housing homes to ACHOs in both Perth Metropolitan and regional areas over four years.
Ms Snell also says that the principle of self-determination must underpin the delivery of housing and homelessness services for Aboriginal people.
“We advocate that the Commonwealth Government and WA State Government adopt a principle of self-determination and embed this principle across housing and homelessness services for Aboriginal people and for increased new investment to ensure that housing and homelessness services are culturally informed and culturally led,” Ms Snell said.
According to Ms Ugle, the Department of Communities is committed to reform across the agency, recognising that outcomes are far better when place-based, locally led and culturally safe services to aboriginal people are delivered by ACCOs (Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations).
“Our barriers to maximising impact and working towards our vision of creating pathways from homelessness to home ownership, lie in resource limitations,” Ms Ugle said.
“Our most urgent needs are to grow our housing stock and support services. As a result of funding support, we can reach more Aboriginal people experiencing homelessness and we can provide them with homes that are safe and stable.”
This story was originally published in The Urbanist magazine, an official publication of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA). It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune.
The Property Tribune thanks the UDIA WA for the opportunity to republish the work, and share thought leadership in relation to urban development and community creation with our readers.
Read the original copy of The Urbanist by heading to UDIA WA’s website under the News tab.