This project involved convening an Investigative Panel comprising non-Indigenous and Indigenous experts on tenancy management from the research, policy and practitioner communities. The project authors also visited four remote Indigenous communities in Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia in between the two panel meetings.
Until recently, housing in remote indigenous areas was largely provided by Indigenous Community Housing Organisations (ICHOs). ICHOs were often small kin-based organisations, whose tenancy management practices differed from the standardised bureaucratic practices of state and territory housing authorities. However, concerns over past failings of housing management in the ICHO sector led to management being transferred to state and territory housing authorities.
The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH) has involved capital works improvements and tenancy management reforms. Queensland and South Australia opted to manage remote Indigenous social housing assets directly, while the Northern Territory and Western Australia have combined direct management with third party arrangements (either contracting to ICHOs, Shire Councils or Community Housing Organisations). The heavy reliance on the state directly managing this program is attributable to political pressure to deliver to tight timetables, and the likely time delays, increased resources and political complications involved in outsourcing to external organisations without good governance practices in place.
At its half-way mark, the NPARIH reforms have succeeded in negotiating more formal tenancy agreements, allocations that are more needs based, increased rent collections and improved maintenance systems. However, to achieve high quality housing services, more sustainable and appropriate models will need to be developed to improve tenant education, rent setting and collection, Indigenous workforce recruitment and skills development, asset protection, and leveraging further local employment from tenant support arrangements.
Future policy and planning around sustainable remote tenancy management should involve:
- Promoting awareness of the link between tenancy management and capital works, so that local communities (‘users’) are involved in the planning, design and construction phases.
- Supporting incremental development and action learning, since expertise about Indigenous communities amongst planners, policy-makers and administrators was often minimal.
- Fostering good relationships with local communities—for example, Indigenous partners should be engaged to improve a Housing Authority’s legitimacy and trust in the community.
- Improving governance in NGOs to empower remote communities and enable local communities to play a larger future role.
- Understanding the costs and cost drivers of managing housing in remote areas, especially in the context of the end of current NPARIH funding.