Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Labor turns its back on Indigenous Australians in remote communities

"Labor remains locked in the past, continuing to push old ATSIC policies under which housing funds were distributed on the basis of the colour of people’s skin, rather than need," Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, said today.

"Jenny Macklin’s response to my proposal to redirect Indigenous housing funds from major urban centres to remote communities shows that Labor is prepared to give up on the issue of overcrowding in remote areas.

"Only a small proportion of Indigenous Australians rely on Indigenous-specific housing in urban areas.

"The overwhelming majority of Indigenous Australians in cities live in state public housing, private rental properties or either own or a buying their own home. Sure we need to work hard to make the mainstream work better, but redirecting the Indigenous specific housing programs would have little impact on urban Indigenous Australians. It would however make a huge difference to remote areas where there are no alternative housing options.

"The fact is that Indigenous people in cities have access to housing through a variety of sources. This is not the case in remote areas and my proposal would see all the Australian Government’s Indigenous specific housing funding directed to the area of most need – people living in remote Indigenous communities.

"At present, only 40 per cent of the $240 million spent on new indigenous housing and maintenance is directed to remote communities. This imbalance needs to be addressed if we are serious about tackling housing issues in remote communities.

"There are more than 600 Indigenous Community Housing Organisations. Some work well, but the majority have major problems. A recent review found one, in a major city, provided housing to five current or former Board members and gave priority to people already in mainstream public housing. It also had more than $500,000 sitting in a bank account.

"Another major regional centre has seven separate organisations, two of which don’t even meet at all and in another six brand new houses were sitting vacant because of poor management within the organisation.

"Issues like overcrowding are chronic in many remote communities. A sensible, practical approach is to ensure that taxpayer’s dollars are directed to the area of greatest need.

"Labor and Ms Macklin are stuck in the past. They talk a lot of rhetoric, but don’t present solutions."