It is a contribution towards understanding the status and possibility of self-build housing as a viable means of housing delivery to overcome or bridge the housing shortage in remote Indigenous communities.
Although this study proved to be limited in its demographics, and thus may be limited in its application, it has yielded some new insights into the conditions under which self-build is an alternative procurement process, and will inform any further research projects in the area.
A literature review revealed that very little research has been undertaken on Indigenous self-build housing. This is despite a substantial amount of policy attention and research that has been given to Indigenous housing since 1970. In order to begin addressing this gap, the authors sought out and interviewed individual self-builders in Qld, WA and the NT, as well as organisations that had incorporated some aspect of Indigenous participation in their building programs.
The data was collected through semi-structured interviews. The data was categorised according to broad themes of personal background, motivations, land tenure, construction planning, skills, finances, help and labour, materials, infrastructure, maintenance, time to build, social, support and facilitation, livelihoods and design. Based on the responses, and on analysis of the data, inferences were drawn about the nature of self-building as a process and the role of organisations in facilitating this process.
The study identified certain personal and motivational attributes displayed by individuals that appeared critical to making self-build housing a reality. It also identified specific pre-conditions such as land tenure, availability of cheap building materials, skills and access to technical information as fundamental to the success of self-build housing.
The study suggests analysis of international practice in comparable circumstances to remote Indigenous Australia could inform an approach to how organisations may support individuals or groups who wish to self-build their homes. This is based on the findings that organisations have the resources and the networks to support and provide access to soft loans, volunteers, technical support and training and financial advocacy for individuals who are less independent that the participants in this study.
The study recommends the development of a ‘self-building resource network’ that enables self-builders across Indigenous communities to access information. The network would facilitate the sharing of knowledge, inexpensive building materials availability, tools, access to volunteers, financing and other enabling networks. It would increase the accessibility, quality, safety and sustainability of self-build housing for communities of Indigenous people.