Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Improving Indigenous housing in the NT

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Paul Henderson MLA, NT Chief Minister

The Australian and Northern Territory Governments today released the report of the review into improving the delivery of the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) in the Northern Territory (NT).

SIHIP represents the largest investment ever made in Indigenous housing in the NT.

The Australian and NT Governments accept all the findings and recommendations of the review and urgent action is already underway to implement necessary program reforms.

The review has found that the overall design of SIHIP is sound. However, challenges which have emerged in the first phase of the program mean that changes are now required to ensure that the program meets its targets of 750 new houses, 230 rebuilds and 2500 refurbishments over the period to 2013.

These changes will ensure that in each year from 2010, we will build more than double the average annual number of houses built over the last five years in remote NT communities.

Since December 2007, more than 100 houses have been built in remote Indigenous communities in the NT.

In addition, construction of the first new houses under SIHIP has started on Groote Eylandt, and the first five refurbishments have been handed back to residents. On the Tiwi Islands, two refurbishments have been completed and work is continuing on another six, and in Tennant Creek, eight currently unoccupied houses are in the process of being rebuilt.

Key findings and recommendations of the review include:

A stronger leadership role for the Australian Government in the delivery of the program

A senior Commonwealth officer will be embedded in the program management team, and Commonwealth officers will be directly involved in each Alliance Leadership Team and will have direct engagement in consultations.

Reducing the complexity of the program’s governance

To achieve this, the review team has already taken action to reduce existing layers of management and action has been initiated to reduce the administrative costs of the program from 11.4 per cent to 8 per cent.

Revising the unit cost estimate for houses to $450,000 to take into account lessons learnt during the first phase of the program regarding the challenges and constraints of delivering the program

The average unit cost of the initial packages of work on Tiwi Islands and Groote Eylandt will be higher than $450,000 as a result of a number of complex factors.

These include remoteness and high-cost locations, the requirement for specific design features such as the need to accommodate the special needs of the many sufferers of the debilitating and terminal Machado Joseph Disease and a lack of clear parameters for consultations.

Meeting this revised unit cost across the program will require changes to the design and delivery of SIHIP housing. It will also require future costs to be contained through providing more detailed specifications for the cost, design and construction of each house.

These revised housing costs will be met from within the existing allocation of $672 million under the SIHIP program. Any housing-related essential infrastructure costs will be met from the NT allocation under the National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing or from NT Government sources.

In November 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) commissioned an audit of the gaps and needs in infrastructure services across remote Australia, which is currently underway.

Lead times under the SIHIP program compare favourably with the most recent national Indigenous housing program, the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS 2), which operated from 2001 until this year.

The review has found that the construction program is running three months behind original timeframes. Urgent action is being taken to prevent further delays.

Getting remote housing policy right is absolutely critical for closing the gap.

The Australian and NT Governments are determined to address the policy failures of the past and drive reforms in remote Indigenous housing.

The Australian Government has allocated the largest ever investment in remote Indigenous housing.

We are determined to fundamentally shift the delivery of housing in remote Indigenous communities through secure tenure and tenancy and maintenance reforms that will deliver stronger communities, Indigenous jobs and an increased numbers of houses.

The review raises issues which have implications for the overall National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing. The Australian Government will give consideration to any further changes that might be applied in the NT and in other jurisdictions to deliver on the commitments we have made.

The NT Auditor General will undertake an independent assessment of SIHIP.

A copy of the SIHIP review is available on FaHCSIA’s website