The Australian and Northern Territory (NT) governments are undertaking large scale reforms to public housing in remote Indigenous communities in the NT. In addition to substantial investment in housing and related infrastructure, these changes include reforms to land tenure designed to underpin investment in housing and associated infrastructure and to provide a right of access for the purpose of property maintenance. The reforms represent a dramatic change to the way in which housing services are delivered to Indigenous people in remote communities in the NT.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is funded until June 2012 to provide an independent and accessible complaint and oversight mechanism in relation to the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) and other Indigenous programs in the NT. To fulfil this role, we conduct outreach to remote Indigenous communities in the NT to inform them about what the Ombudsman does; take and investigate complaints; and obtain feedback about policy, programs and service delivery issues.
Over the past two years, concerns about the implementation of the housing reforms have been a key source of complaints the Ombudsman's office. Through investigations of these complaints, the Ombusdman's office has identified areas in which further work by the Australian and NT governments would improve service delivery in remote Indigenous housing.
This report highlights a range of service delivery problems and provides recommendations to address them. Three thematic issues underlie the main problems—communication, IT systems support, and accountability and complaints processes. Our investigations indicated that improvements in these areas would enhance the housing reforms.