A third of remote Aboriginal houses at 'unacceptable' standard


Staff member
A third of remote Aboriginal houses at 'unacceptable' standard

At 57-years-of-age, Veronica Lulu finds it difficult to walk around her community unassisted.

But making it even harder is the pool of water surrounding her house, which appears to be coming from a broken underground pipe.

"I was ringing up housing to fix this house. But they never do it. It was a long time now."

"I say it's not worth ringing up too. But it's their job, you know?" Ms Lulu told NITV News.

Ms Lulu reported the issue to the Western Australia state government, which is responsible for repairs and maintenance in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulan - a remote community on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.

A house in the desert has water leaking on the property

Ms Lulu says the water leakage is a hazard.
Source: NITV
But she says that after two years and repeated requests, the problem still has not been fixed.

The leak became so bad that the entire house is now encircled by water.

Tired of waiting and worried she might fall, Ms Lulu was forced to abandon her house and moved in with a relative next door, where the water is slightly less of a problem.

"I need them to help me. Because I can't walk. If I fall, I might have to see a doctor."

Ms Lulu's long wait for essential maintenance is a familiar problem for many.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released this week shows that only 64.8 per cent of houses in remote Aboriginal communities was of an acceptable standard, a figure that had not changed significantly since 2012.

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The ABS considers a house to be unacceptable if it lacks an essential facility, such as plumbing or a place to cook or wash, or because they have multiple major structural problems.

The Productivity Commission is currently undertaking a review of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

Advocates across the country are using it to call on the Commonwealth government to play a greater role in the provision of remote Aboriginal housing and hold the states and territories to account for maintaining the homes.

"Housing for health is so important to our people," National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation CEO Pat Turner said.

"To be living in safe healthy environments, it goes with the quality of water and the environmental health. All of these things go hand in hand."

A spokesperson for the WA Department of Communities said the state government has spent $12,000 in the last year fixing problems at Ms Lulu's house, but it didn't say how long the agency has known about the water leak or why it hadn’t been fixed.

"The most recent visit to the property was on 1 May. Additional maintenance work was identified during the visit and Communities has issued the works for repair as advised by a plumber," the spokesperson said.

"Communities' Housing Direct maintenance line has no record of being contacted by the tenant in relation to a broken pipe or water leak.

"Issues have been identified during property visits and via email communication from the local Home and Community Care."

Deteriorating infrastructure
The spokesperson said the state government spends more than $100 million annually on housing, power and water services in remote Aboriginal communities.

But on the outskirts of Halls Creek, residents of Nicholson Block community are asking where that money is going.

"A lot of people come in here, I see, asking, what can we do for you. We always say we need the houses to be fixed," Lenny Long, Nicholson Block Leader told NITV News.

"The houses inside, it's got asbestos. It's pretty hard for us to live our lives, especially with the houses so crowded."

A man stands in front of a house with children in the background

Mr Long said the community don't want any more broken promises.
Source: NITV
In recent years, the state government has begun a transition program for communities like Nicholson Block, fringe communities on the edges of regional towns.

The aim of the program is to ensure residents have access to essential services, either by relocating them elsewhere or by ensuring the community becomes part of the nearby town through land tenure reform, housing upgrades, and regularised utility and municipal services.

The Department of Communities says that since the implementation of the policy, residents of two town-based communities have relocated and another three are considering relocation options.

"Work is underway to regularise power, water and/or wastewater services in a further 16 town-based reserves," the spokesperson said.

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"The longer-term goal for town-based reserves is the divestment of land to Aboriginal organisations, which will provide opportunities for sustainable social and economic development."

Mr Long said the residents of Nicholson Block have been made promises before.

"Its broken promises. But we need these houses to be expanded and the problems with them fixed because our families are growing."



Staff member
I worked with department of housing (NSW) for over 15 years and many of the houses I worked in, in highly populated suburbs, hadn't been touched in 30 or 40 years. But at least, if you called for something like a burst pipe they would eventually send someone. I can only imagine how much worse it would be in more isolated communities where tradesmen are few and far between.

Social housing in this country has been allowed to decline for far to long with governments across many states prefering to sell of prime land used for housing, to developers for a quick profit. Anything they can't profit from they seem to ignore. It's time the govt. started a new social housing drive like they did post WWII. That led to a period of economic boom for Australia and there is no reason why it cannot be repeated, removing some of our dependancy from digging holes in the ground. We need tens of thousands of new houses across the country just to make up the shortfall we currently experience. Not only will it provide places for those who are currently homeless, but it will drive down the cost of hosues for those looking to get into the market. A market which is already far to expensive now for any young person looking to get a start.
A third of remote Aboriginal houses at 'unacceptable' standard
My overall view has always been that Liberals hate First Australians and Labor do things like give Aboriginal kids free books at end of year graduations in primary school (I saw this) but do nothing substantive for people we don't see every day