Gov’t breaks homes, calls it reform

Issue 

The federal government’s $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Project (SIHIP), has failed to improve Aboriginal housing in the Northern Territory. Only a handful of houses have been built and adequate repairs to existing current housing stock have not been made.

Announced in 2008, SIHIP promised 750 houses for chronically overcrowded Aboriginal communities. The project is running over budget but still failing to meet the needs of remote communities.

ABC News reported on May 11 that building had stopped in Gunbalanya, since the former builder Earth Connect Alliance was dumped from SIHIP in March.

The federal government said Earth Connect Alliance lost the contract due to running over cost and behind schedule. Since March, the new houses it did build have stood empty and have not been handed over to new residents.

To keep down costs, refurbishment allocations have been cut from $150,000 per house to only $75,000. Residents were being asked to move into houses still in severe disrepair.

Arana Rice from Ali Curung, 350km out of Alice Springs, was asked to move back into a house still covered in graffiti, with an unsecured ceiling fan.

“I thought they would come back and fix it up but no, nothing is happening. Right now I feel shame”, she told ABC Online on March 22.

Ali Curung residents were threatening a bond strike to force the issue.

Noel Hayes, chairman of the Ali Curung local board, attacked federal housing minister Jenny Macklin and the NT housing department, which is administering the federally funded SIHIP program.

He told ABC Online on March 23: “When they come into your community, ask all the questions and get everybody there and talk about all this rent and bond on everything.

“Because they’re just getting on their soapbox, [the] NT government and Jenny Macklin mob rave on and rave on and at the end of the day nothing is happening, we were doing these things even before they came along.”

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