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Indigenous construction company’s "shells" set to boost housing supply across northern Australia

Callan Morse -

A Darwin-based Aboriginal construction company is leading a new initiative set to boost remote housing supply in northern Australia.

Inspired by IKEA kits, Warle Construction has created innovative housing 'shells', dwellings which are manufactured using innovative Howick FRAMA™ roll-forming technology.

The design is easily assembled onsite and able to be installed within days, with the multi-bedroom shells made from light-gauge steel components including wall frames, trusses and a cassette flooring system.

After the $1.55 million project attracted a $392,000 co-investment by the Northern Territory government through its Advanced Manufacturing Ecosystem Fund (AMEF) administered by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), it is expected the project will create 20 full-time jobs and generate up to $16.4 million in revenue within the first five years of operation.

Warle Construction Director, Tilman Lowe said Warle, which takes its name from the Eastern Arrernte word for house, building or wall, was founded to address a growing need to provide sustainable and cost-effective housing solutions for remote areas of the Northern Territory.

"Our housing solution will also address the key issues of overcrowding, usability and durability for remote and regional communities," Mr Lowe said.

"Through co-investment from the Northern Territory Government, the assistance of AMGC and the support of our project partners we will be able to commercialise more practical and affordable homes that can be quickly constructed and deployed to improve living standards while also generating jobs and new capabilities for the Top End."

Developed in consultation with Annge Consulting, Troppo Architects, Rapid Engineering, Stantec and Howick Group, the shells are designed to withstand the harsh climates of the Northern Territory whilst addressing housing affordability and availability for residents in remote communities and homelands.

The partnership will also see a manufacturing facility for the homes created, which will also be used to train and upskill staff.

Minister for Remote Housing and Homelands, Selena Uibo commended the project.

"Designed for the Territory by Territorians, these housing shells offer an innovative and competitive advantage over traditional methods, which supports more Territorians having a place to call home," she said.

"We are actively addressing the availability and affordability of housing in rural, regional and remote areas of the Territory, because all Territorians deserve a roof over their head."

AMGC's Northern Territory director, Charmaine Phillips, said the project will have economic and social benefits.

"Warle's project brings together local skills and knowledge to solve a growing issue – housing affordability and durability," Ms Phillips said.

"Seeing innovative manufacturing in the NT deliver affordable, high-quality housing and create jobs is a win-win-win."

Northern Territory Chief Minister Eva Lawler said the AMEF partnership with the AMCG, since its establishment in 2021, has assisted in the creation of nearly 120 jobs and generated more than $50 million for the Northern Territory economy.

"We will always back local businesses and Territory ingenuity to grow our economy and create jobs, our support of Warle Construction is no exception," Ms Lawler said.

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