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Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation calls for action to save hundreds from homelessness

Giovanni Torre -

Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation is calling for urgent government intervention to prevent up to 250 Aboriginal people from "being forced into a looming homelessness crisis".

The Ceduna Aboriginal Homelands were established in South Australia in the late 1990s through state and federal funds providing family groups with agricultural opportunities and housing. However, the Corporation says a lack of funding to maintain the housing stock and ageing infrastructure is causing crisis in which many families are "facing the likelihood of homelessness".

Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Wayne Miller said on Tuesday that the situation is the product of "20 years of neglect".

"Some of the houses are falling around the residents and it's forcing them into homelessness. However, there is no alternative housing as the current local housing crisis has a wait list of up to 10 years," he said.

Mr Miller stressed that several of the family groups found their own solutions to their housing problems and embarked on small economic initiatives over the years such as share-farming, but they have been unable to keep up with the rising costs of living, ageing infrastructure, and statutory expenses.

The Corporation noted that the Ceduna Homelands appear "to have been left off important initiatives like SA's Closing the Gap and the SA Housing Trust housing agenda".

Mr Miller said "it seems those who live on the homelands are the forgotten people".

"I am concerned about the lack of efforts to invest in new housing in Ceduna to prevent the rough sleeping that is continuing to occur. This was a key highlight of the 2011 Coronial inquest and recently the Guardian again identified the correlation between rough sleeping, homelessness and violence and death related incidents. We don't want to have to wait for another Inquest to tell us what we already know," he said.

"It's not good enough to say there isn't enough supply when we have houses in the community sitting vacant and homelands housing just needing an investment of funds to bring them up to proper living standards. These are easy solutions to prevent what is about to unfold."

Mr Miller said he has called for an urgent meeting with Minister for Human Services, Nat Cook, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Kyam Maher, the Minister for Regional Development, Geoff Brock and others to discuss the issues.

"I invited the Ministers to come and see firsthand what is happening here. It's not just the homelessness but the spiralling social decay that may result from that I am concerned with," he said.

"The Ceduna community doesn't need any further issues, but better engagement with our people to prevent overcrowding and homelessness.

"I'm hoping that the government will see the urgency here and partner with us and invest in our solutions."

On Thursday Human Services Nat Cook told National Indigenous Times she had met with Mr Miller in Ceduna last June "to see first-hand a range of housing, homelessness and community services available and will be meeting him again soon in response to his recent letter".

"The Minister for Local Government, Geoff Brock, met with Mr Miller this week and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Kyam Maher, will also be meeting him in the region in the coming days," she said.

"The housing challenges highlighted by the Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation reflect circumstances in a host of regional and remote communities where housing has becoming increasingly harder to secure.

"The Commonwealth government has just opened the first round of applications for its $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund and one of the four priority groups are First Nations communities, along with women, children and veterans."

It is understood that as at the end of January this year in the Ceduna local government area there were 114 Public and Aboriginal Housing rentals for low income and vulnerable households.

Note: Story was updated on Thursday, 16 February 2024.

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