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Alliance welcomes federal government's plan to develop Indigenous home ownership

Brendan Foster -

The National Rural Health Alliance has applauded the federal government's plan to open up remote First Nations communities to individual home ownership.

Under the scheme, Indigenous Australians living in remote areas could become homeowners through long-term lease arrangements and investment by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

The move could go a long way to solving the housing crisis for almost 100,000 First Nations people living in remote communities.

National Rural Health Alliance (Alliance) chief executive, Susi Tegen, said the government's plan would play an important role in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people, as well as giving First Nations people stability and control over their own lives.

"Closing the gap can only be successful when Indigenous communities are in control by being able to make decisions which suit them and their communities,'" Ms Tegen said.

"This includes home ownership. Housing security builds generational wealth and a sense of achievement and pride.

"Home ownership is crucial to fostering a safe and prosperous community and improving social outcomes."

Ms Tegen said the Alliance acknowledged the importance of land and the significance of ownership to Indigenous communities.

She said housing in remote First Nations communities are predominately social housing and therefore government-owned, so there were limited opportunity for Indigenous people to own their own homes.

"From an Indigenous perspective, land is not owned by a few," Ms Tegen said.

"Rather, it belongs to everybody. More accurately, we belong to it.

"Therefore, owning land is not only about financial gain but also about the spiritual connections people build with their surroundings."

Ms Tegen said governments found it difficult to keep up with the demands for building and maintaining adequate housing in remote communities. As a result, there were long waiting lists for homes, overcrowding, and poor-quality housing.

"We understand that Indigenous people in Australia face many health challenges and that those living in remote areas have higher rates of disease burden and lower life expectancy," she said.

"We hope that the latest government plans to increase the possibility of home ownership will help ease the burdens on this population and improve circumstances to lead a healthy and fulfilling life."

Northern Australia Minister, Madeleine King, recently told The Weekend Australian she wanted more Australians to own their own homes.

"That goal is just as important for First Nations Australians. When I became minister, I asked the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to consider lifting investment in important housing projects in the north that benefit communities and support commonwealth policies," she said.

"I would encourage and support innovative approaches to using the NAIF to create better housing for communities, which is of material benefit to the whole nation. A strong north means a strong Australia."

The National Rural Health Alliance comprises 50 national organisations committed to improving the health and well-being of the seven million people in rural and remote Australia.

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