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Indigenous housing national peak body slams federal budget

Brendan Foster -

The peak body for First Nations community housing has slammed the Albanese government for failing to uphold its commitment to strengthen Indigenous housing in the federal budget.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers' third budget has promised $4 billion to build 270 new houses over the next 10 years to address the Northern Territory's housing crisis. The government has also pledged a 10-year program to improve housing in the Top End which included $120 million for housing upgrades, and essential infrastructure improvements to NT homelands over the next three years.

However, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association (NATSIHA) acting chief executive Zachariah Matysek said while his organisation acknowledges the housing investments made in the budget, the government left several commitments on the table.

"It is profoundly disappointing to witness that despite our concerted efforts and commitment to our sector, our pleas have again fallen on deaf ears," he said.

In August 2022, the Housing Sector Strengthening Plan was endorsed by the Joint Council on Closing the Gap which identified 14 actions to be implemented by NATSIHA.

Earlier this year, the Albanese government reaffirmed its commitment to the actions within the plan, when the Prime Minister handed down the 2024 Closing the Gap Implementation Plans.

Mr Matysek said NATSIHA was entrusted with delivering the plan but has yet to receive the necessary funding to deliver it.

He claims the commitments outlined in the Housing Sector Strengthening Plan remain unfulfilled.

Mr Matysek said in the lead-up to the budget, NATSIHA had engaged with the Albanese government to develop project plans for each of the 14 action items.

He said the organisation also met meet with state ministers, seeking the essential funding and support to implement the plan.

"The government's failure to allocate the necessary resources jeopardises the progress toward addressing the critical housing needs within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities," Mr Matysek said.

Mr Matysek said the Housing Sector Strengthening Plan was about empowering the First Nations housing sector to build and deliver homes through the models that work for First Nations communities.

He said implementing the plan is a critical first step in ensuring that the housing investments made by the government are delivered successfully.

"NATSIHA urges all Governments to honour their commitments; we stress the importance of integrating conversations across First Nations affairs to ensure comprehensive and effective solutions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities," he said.

NATSIHA is the peak body responsible for addressing the housing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Service (DSS) said the Albanese government was firmly committed to improving Indigenous housing, which included: allocating $200 million over the first five years from the returns from the Housing Australia Future Fund for the repair, maintenance and improvements of housing in remote Indigenous communities; investing $100 million for housing and essential infrastructure on Northern Territory homelands ($25 million in 2022-23 and $75 million in 2023-24); and investing $2.1 billion over 10 years through the Northern Territory Remote Housing Package with arrangements starting from 2024-25, matched by the Northern Territory Government.

The DSS spokesperson said the government was providing around $11 million over four years from 2021-22 to NATSIHA to strengthen its capability and capacity and to support its role as the co-chair and secretariat of the Housing Policy Partnership.

"The Housing Sector Strengthening Plan (the Plan) received in-principle agreement from the Joint Council on Closing the Gap," the spokesperson said.

"Implementation efforts are shared with NATSIHA and all governments.

"All governments remain committed to working collaboratively with NATSIHA to develop an implementation approach for the Plan."

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