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Federal and NT governments announce $4 billion remote housing fund for the Territory

Giovanni Torre -

The Federal and Northern Territory governments announced a joint $4 billion dollar investment for housing in remote communities across the Northern Territory on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister made the historic announcement during a visit to community of Binjari, near Katherine in the Northern Territory.

In a joint statement the federal and NT governments said the 10-year commitment to improve remote housing will see up to 270 homes built each year, "with the goal of halving overcrowding". It also includes continued support for repairs and maintenance.

The federal government is investing a further $120 million over three years to match the Northern Territory government's yearly investment "to continue delivery of housing improvements and essential infrastructure upgrades in remote homelands".

This builds on the Restoring Funding for NT Homelands agreement, which was initiated last year, with a contribution from the federal government worth $100 million.

The funding is in addition to the Northern Territory government's existing $40 million per annum investment in homelands housing and essential infrastructure upgrades.

Recently completed housing in the NT. Image: supplied.

Northern Territory Minister for Remote Housing and Homelands Selena Uibo said she is proud that the Territory government has "delivered unprecedented housing outcomes in the bush, in partnership with the Commonwealth government".

"Since coming to government in 2016, we have made significant headway towards alleviating overcrowding in our remote communities, having built and upgraded around 3800 homes," she said.

"As the Local Member for one of the Territory's most remote electorates, I have seen firsthand the impact of better housing for those who were living in chronically overcrowded homes with 20 or more people in one dwelling.

"This investment will go a long way towards continuing our Territory Labor government quest for better homes and improved health, education, employment and social outcomes."

A new housing resident and Minister Uibo. Image: supplied.

Over crowding and run down homes have long plagued the Territory's remote communities.

In November, in a case that had begun more than seven years previous, the High Court ruled that Aboriginal people living in remote housing can be compensated for distress and disappointment suffered due to dilapidated accommodation.

On Tuesday the federal and Territory governments said the delivery of "much-needed housing" across remote Northern Territory communities "has accelerated significantly in recent years", with Commonwealth-funded delivery increasing by more than 200 per cent between 2021-22 and 2022-23.

In their joint statement, the two Labor government said a key target of 1,950 bedrooms was met under the National Partnership for Remote Housing NT; and in 2023-24, 157 houses are on track to be delivered "well ahead of schedule".

To support delivery of this project, a partnership agreement will be established between the federal and Northern Territory governments and Aboriginal Housing NT - the Territory's peak First Nations housing body - and Aboriginal Land Councils.

The Central Land Council applauded the "unprecedented investment" of $4 billion over 10 years in new houses in remote Northern Territory communities.

"Today's announcement is a most welcome step towards significantly reducing overcrowding in our communities and I congratulate the prime minister for investing in our people," CLC chief executive Les Turner said.

The Land Council noted that "more than half of the NT's Aboriginal people live in overcrowded houses".

"This funding boost will move us much closer to achieving the Closing the Gap target of 18 per cent. This investment goes beyond building much-needed houses. It has the potential to contribute towards closing the gap in health, education, employment and social outcomes as well," Mr Turner said.

"I look forward to considering the detail of the commitment and working with the NT and Commonwealth governments, Aboriginal Housing NT and the other land councils to develop a genuine 10-year partnership agreement."

A further $1 million will be provided by the Commonwealth to Aboriginal Housing NT over the next two years, to support their role in the partnership agreement.

The NT and federal governments said that in addition to supporting improved housing outcomes, the "unprecedented investment" announced Tuesday will also create local employment opportunities and support the sustainability of Aboriginal Business Enterprises.

New housing residents with Minister Uibo (second from the right). Image: supplied.

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