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First keys for NT homelands housing package handed over as peak body calls for sustained and appropriate funding

Callan Morse -

The keys to the first of 80 properties refurbished under the Northern Territory's $100 million Restoring Funding For Homelands program have been handed over.

In the remote community of Atheley, about 230 kilometres north east of Alice Springs on Utopia homelands, father and son Charlie and Zachariah recently received the keys to their restored homes.

The dwelling is the first of more than 80 properties set to be refurbished under the Commonwealth's national partnership agreement with the Northern Territory Government.

Six homes in Atheley will be completed later this month as works continue on Paru in the Tiwi Islands, with construction soon to commence at Kurrajong Bore (Utopia) as well as Groote Eylandt in Mawulyumania (Thomson Bay), Akwalirrumania (Four Mile) and Yedikba (Emerald River).

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Linda Burney said the government's partnership with the Northern Territory Government as well as local Land Councils, Aboriginal Housing NT, communities and leaders is central to the success of the Commonwealth's $100 million commitment to Restoring Funding to Homelands.

"We know that overcrowding and poor-quality housing are barriers to closing the gap and this Government is committed to improving housing in NT homelands," Minister Burney said.

"That's why we've dedicated $100 million to homelands to provide long-overdue upgrades and repairs to homes for growing families."

Whilst welcomed by Northern Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Alliance's (NATSIHA) partner peak, Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT), the organisation said remote housing remains an underfunded sector in the Territory.

"The reality is the NT homelands sector is in desperate need of sustained and appropriate funding," said NATSIHA chief executive, Rob Macfarlane.

Mr Macfarlane said until 20215, funding for housing on homelands and repairs and maintenance was provided by the Commonwealth however no new housing has been built on homelands since 2015 (apart from a very small number of ad hoc privately funded arrangements).

"While mainstream Australia is now experiencing a housing crisis nationally, homelands residents in the Northern Territory have been living with a housing crisis for nearly two decades," he said.

"AHNT's very strong position which NATSIHA supports remains that both the Australian and NT Governments must restore funding for new homes on homelands."

Mr Macfarlane called for the Commonwealth and NT government to work with relevant peak bodies and the community-controlled sector to find long-term solutions for housing on Northern Territory homelands.

"NATSIHA and Aboriginal Housing NT urges the Australian and Northern Territory Governments to work closely with the Land Councils and the community-controlled sector through AHNT as the peak to commence discussions and consideration of a sustainable financial model for the funding of homelands," Mr Macfarlane said.

"…and commit to the development of an overarching policy that will provide ongoing support for the Aboriginal community-controlled sector in the NT over the long-term and drive desperately needed investment for new housing on Northern Territory homelands."

Northern Territory Member for Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour said housing on Aboriginal homelands remains a top priority for the NT Government.

"During the election I committed to major investment into our bush communities – and these new homes demonstrates the commitment of the Albanese Government to rebuilding the bush," Minister Scrymgour said.

"I have always said – when our remote communities are strong and supported, our people thrive."

The package is being delivered in collaboration with local communities including Elders and Traditional Owners, who have provided valuable input in the priorities, design and implementation of restoration projects.

Northern Territory Minister for Housing and Homelands, Selela Uibo said the package is "important progress that is happening in homelands right now".

"The work being done has been prioritised by Aboriginal Land Councils who have identified these regions as being in urgent need of critical upgrades," Minister Uibo said.

"I'm proud that we have been able to deliver upgrades to the first few homes under this package knowing more are on the way and will make a huge difference in providing homelands residents with appropriate housing supported by essential services."

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