Broome Jalbi Jiya
A Broome couple, Mervyn and Cathryn, have become the first participants of the Jalbi Jiya program to become home owners using assistance from loan agency Keystart. Image – Supplied
  • $9.7m Jalbi Jiya initiative supports transition from renting to owning for Aboriginal families in Broome
  • Broome couple Mervyn and Cathryn are the first Jalbi Jiya participants to access home ownership using finance from Keystart
  • Marks an amazing achievement for the couple, who struggled to have a loan approved while raising five children

In another landmark achievement for Broome’s Jalbi Jiya program, the first Aboriginal family has accessed home ownership using financial assistance from Keystart.

Mervyn, a Jabirr Jibirr and Bardi man, and his wife Cathryn, a Yawuru woman, have fulfilled a long-time dream of over 30 years by becoming homeowners for the first time.

Mervyn and Cathryn are the first participants in the program to enter home ownership with assistance from loan agency Keystart, with two other participating families reaching success by other means late last year.

Program boosting home ownership accessibility

The $9.7 million Jalbi Jiya program, which means ‘your home’ in the Yawuru language native to Broome, was established last year in an effort to boost housing opportunities for Aboriginal families in Broome.

The initiative was founded by the State Government in collaboration with Nyamba Buru Yawaru (NBY), and received funding through the $200 million North West Aboriginal Housing Fund.

The program involves 25 government-owned rent-to-own properties located in Broome, and aims to support participants through a smooth transition from renting to ownership.

The Jalbi Jiya initiative facilitates an affordable and sustainable pathway to home ownership for Aboriginal families, particularly when used in conjunction with finance options such as Keystart.

Opportunities scarce for Broome residents

New homeowners Mervyn and Cathryn met after Mervyn relocated to Broome as a young adult, and have since married and raised five children in the coastal Kimberley town.

“I left Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, my mother was a single mum and she struggled with raising seven kids while moving around Australia,” said Mervyn.

“We lived in rentals and communities. I never really understood what it meant to own a home.”

Mervyn, Jalbi Jiya participant

Mervyn was introduced to the dream of home ownership by Cathryn’s father, and has since fostered a deep desire to care and provide for his family.

Despite the lifelong dream for a home of their own, their couple had been unsuccessful in receiving assistance from traditional lenders in the past and struggled to save a deposit while supporting a growing family.

Mervyn and Cathryn have since entered their fifties, making saving for a deposit in the traditional way close to impossible, though their dream stayed alight.

Mervyn and Cathryn’s success story

Mervyn and Cathryn joined the Jalbi Jiya program on 3 June 2021, when the couple moved in and began renting their home.

On 15 December 2021 the couple finalised the purchase of their home with their Keystart loan, realising their lifelong dream of becoming homeowners.

Jalbi Jiya Mervyn Cathryn
Mervyn and Cathryn in the garden of their new home. Image – Supplied

“Finally owning our own home is the icing on the cake. We’ve strived and worked really hard to be in this position, and now we can call ourselves homeowners. It is really amazing,” said Mervyn.

For the close-knit family, having a home to call their own is symbolic of both familial and cultural connections.

“This is where we all gather now, and that’s really important – it’s our family’s connection with each other, with the land, and place to come together.”

Mervyn, Jalbi Jiya participant

“Owning our home in Broome is also about our descendants, we are closely bonded to them here. Being Aboriginal, we feel like we have a piece of land on our country. That’s important,” Mervyn explained.

Keystart CEO Paul Graham commended the Jalbi Jiya initiative for the provision of affordable and sustainable housing outcomes for First Nations People, describing it as “integral” to the wellbeing of the Western Australian community.

“Stories like Mervyn and Cathryn’s are really common. Families who want to own a home, but simply cannot afford to save for the deposits demanded by traditional lenders, especially while raising a family.

“Successful programs like Jalbi Jiya create pathways for people to overcome the barriers to home ownership and invest in their family’s futures,” Mr Graham concluded.

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