Indigenous housing program head sacked

August 22, 2009

Jim Davidson was sacked as the head of the Northern Territory's Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) on August 18.

Davidson was fired after revelations that SIHIP's administration costs would absorb a great deal of the program's $672 million budget. The program was launched 18 months ago with the promise to build 750 houses for remote Aboriginal communities.

So far, no houses have been built.

Davidson revealed this in a briefing to the then NT Indigenous policy minister Alison Anderson on July 14. Anderson claimed she was told that 70% of SIHIP's funding would be consumed by administration costs. She later quit the Labor government to protest against its alleged incompetence.

This cost the ALP government its majority and threw it into crisis. Without the support of independent parliamentarian Gerry Wood, the NT government would have fallen.

Anderson has criticised some parts of the ALP's housing policy, but as minister she backed its "outstations" policy, announced on May 20. This policy explicitly excluded small Aboriginal communities from new housing.

Members of the NT's Ampilatwatja community have claimed that she hasn't supported them in their fight for better housing.

On July 15, Ampilatwatja residents left their community in protest at the overcrowding and degraded services — including burst mains from a decrepit sewerage system. They set up a camp outside the boundaries of the community.

Richard Downs, a spokesperson for the protest camp, told ABC Online that Anderson hadn't visited the community and had failed to respond to invitations to discuss their issues with them.

"It just shows to me what sort of a person she is", Downs said. "She doesn't have concerns enough to give us a call and say, 'Look, I'm going to visit with you, I'm going to listen to you and see what we can do'."

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