Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Howard Government backs Palm Island reforms

Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, today announced $14 million for a new housing and welfare strategy for the Queensland Indigenous community of Palm Island.

With a population of about 3,500 people, Palm Island is one of the largest Indigenous communities in Australia.

“This agreement aims to improve school attendance, housing, tenancy arrangements, provide home ownership opportunities as well as personal money management and other measures that will improve economic independence for individuals and families,” Mr Brough said.

The agreement was signed today on Palm Island by the Minister and Mayor, Delena Foster.

Mr Brough said the agreement was similar to the Hope Vale agreement signed in May this year, and the Yarrabah agreement signed last week.

The key elements of the agreement are:

  • a commitment to long term welfare reform;
  • normal public housing tenancy arrangements, including market rent for housing and stronger tenancy conditions;
  • families who commit to an income management scheme for payment of rent and general day to day management of income, and make sure their children attend school, will be eligible for housing upgrades, and;
  • up to twenty new homes will be built and a new 40 lot subdivision developed.

“There will be increased economic development and job opportunities; improved services and support for families, individuals and organisations so that Palm Island is safe and prosperous into the future,” Mr Brough said.

The Minister said the full implementation of the agreement will depend on the Queensland Government amending legislation to provide for home ownership opportunities.

“The issue of Queensland changing land arrangements has been on the agenda for some time and we now have communities lining up for change,” Mr Brough said.

The Minister said the Mayor approached him after seeing what was being done in Hope Vale because it was consistent with the kind of opportunities and reforms that Palm Island wanted to put in place.

Mr Brough said the Mayor and other members of the Council convinced him of their strong commitment to moving forward after some difficult times, and to achieving real change and prosperity for residents of the community.

“The Mayor of Palm Island hopes that the Queensland Government proceeds quickly with the necessary legislation to change land tenure arrangements, which it is publicly committed to do by the end of 2007.

“This will enable work to then commence directly on the new housing.”