For years Katrina Radburn West thought the great Australian dream of home ownership would be forever out of reach.
“I’ve always worked in the field of Aboriginal Health as it is my passion to improve the quality of life for my people through better health outcomes. But the trade off is that the pay isn’t great,” she says.
“Raising two kids on only average wages we thought we would never be able to come up with a deposit to secure a home loan.”
However, the Radburn family’s fortunes changed in February 2011 when their Local Aboriginal Land Council, Darkinjung, was granted approval to sub-divide land it owned at Blue Haven near Wyong.
Five years later, 98 lots on the site were sold to the public and 11 retained for local Aboriginal families, including Katrina’s, who moved in late last year.
“On the day they handed me the keys, I just stood there looking at the house in disbelief that myself and my family were just about to move into this beautiful home. I was overwhelmed as a Darkinjung member that we had achieved such things but also as mum and wife that we were getting this opportunity,” Katrina said.
Katrina’s was one of six Darkinjung families who moved into either new or fully-renovated homes over the past year under the Land Council’s Affordable Housing Program.
Darkinjung LALC CEO, Sean Gordon said that the aim of the program is to help families improve their quality of life.
“It’s about our members taking responsibility for and ownership of their futures,” Mr Gordon said.
Mr Gordon said that affordable housing opportunities would be opened up to other Darkinjung members following approval of a manufactured home estate at nearby Halekulani.
“Getting the Halekulani approval was a long journey, but our members’ vision never wavered,” he said.
The estate at Halekulani will consist of 99 lots on a 3.5 hectare area, with a percentage of the lots reserved for Darkinjung members.
Mr Gordon said that the Land Council was working on a “rent to buy” policy that allows tenants to fund a deposit for a home through subsidised rent.
Katrina said her family would definitely like to progress to home ownership when the “rent to buy” policy was finalised.
But for now, she has put the money saved through not having to pay market rates of rent into a new computer and printer for her daughters, Jessica, 12 and Tiahna, 9.
“Jessica has just started high school and Tiahna is at the new Darkinjung Barker College Campus, another initiative that has recently come out of DLALC for its members.”
“We’ve also been able to set up a proper study for the girls to do their homework and study in the new house, whereas before we were all crammed into a two-bedroom place.”
Katrina said the new house was big enough that her family from Dubbo could come and stay, giving her girls a stronger connection to their Aboriginal heritage including their Pop, Aunties, Uncles and cousins.
“The stability in being able to participate in the affordable housing program has given myself and my husband Aaron the opportunity to think about extending our family as we are in the process of becoming foster carers so that we can help Aboriginal kids and young people who are struggling,” she said.
“This house, our daughters’ education, the chance to foster some other kids – none of this would have been possible without the Darkinjung Land Council,” she said.