Planning is currently underway to determine how the Western Australian Government’s investment in social housing will be targeted to address areas of greatest need, including Aboriginal communities.

In the recently state budget, the WA Labor Government dedicated $875million to social housing.

On Tuesday WA Minister for Housing John Carey told the National Indigenous Times he is “absolutely committed” to delivering better outcomes “for all vulnerable Western Australians, including those living in remote Aboriginal communities”.

“The Government’s commitment to social housing was highlighted by the record $875 million injection announced in the State Budget, taking our overall investment to $2.1 billion over the next four years,” he continued.

“Planning is currently underway to determine more detailed regional allocations of this investment into social housing and this will take into consideration the social housing needs of Aboriginal people in WA.

The Minister referenced a “number of programs and project” that are already established that “benefit Aboriginal people”.

“Our $200 million North West Aboriginal Housing Fund, planning for three new Aboriginal Short Stay Accommodation facilities [in Kununurra, Geraldton and Perth], and $25 million through the Social Housing Economic Recovery Package for critical maintenance work in remote Aboriginal communities,” he said.

A state government spokesperson told the National Indigenous Times the regions will see $80 million to deliver around 150 new modular social housing properties in the next two years, $10 million for the purchase of around 25 established homes for social housing, and an additional $25 million of maintenance work in remote Aboriginal communities from the Social Housing Economic Recovery Package.

The state government’s long-term plan is to build 3,300 new social housing homes over four years.

Despite this, homelessness activist Desmond Blurton told the National Indigenous Times “four years is not good enough”.

“We have lost a lot of people in a few weeks,” he said.

“It is breaking our spirit to not have a home on our own land. We have been pushed out of our traditional areas, pushed out of our hunting grounds.

“We had no protection then and we have none now. This system is supposed to house and protect people, but we are dying out here.”

Associate Professor Lisa Wood, who leads the Home2Health team within the University of Western Australia’s School of Population and Global Health shares Blurton’s sentiments.

The Associate Professor said while it is “fantastic that the government has announced a big investment in public housing”, she fears “it may still only scrape the surface of the waitlist”.

There are more than 17,300 households on Western Australia’s housing waitlist, with it jumping by several hundred since the rental moratorium ended.

A total of about 30,000 people are waiting, including around 6,000 are on the priority waitlist.

The state government spokesperson said that the plan includes $522 million for regional social housing from 2022-23.

When asked what provision for Aboriginal employment would be made in the social housing build and maintenance plan, the spokesperson told the National Indigenous Times “the Department does set targets for employment and engagement of Aboriginal people and businesses”.

“These targets vary by region by range from up 20-25% in the Kimberley and Pilbara, 10-15 per cent for the Goldfields and up to 5 per cent in other areas of the State.”

By Giovanni Torre