Overcrowding is increasingly prevalent in First Nations communities, making household members further susceptible to the burden of disease, psychological distress and other health and wellbeing issues. The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of housing for maintaining health and slowing and stopping the spread of disease.
- The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is calling for the urgent implementation of the formal policy partnership on housing as envisaged in the National Agreement signed in July 2020. The policy partnership will establish a multi-jurisdictional joined up approach to reduce gaps and duplications in housing policies and programs.
- Housing rental issues are particularly pertinent to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Rent models for remote housing implemented in various jurisdictions are inconsistent with social housing policy objectives of affordability and fairness.4 Issues impacting housing affordability include: remoteness, the cost of basic necessities, a lack of available goods and services, food security issues, financial management and home economics issues, and an over-reliance on income support payments.
- The impacts of inadequate housing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing are significant and can include a greater incident of accidents from poorly functioning health hardware, greater incidence of diseases such as gastroenteritis, parasitic infections and skin conditions,psychosocial stress and other social and emotional issues. Overcrowding can impact sleep habits of children which can impede school attendance and performance, and their overall development, health and wellbeing.
- Greater funding for housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in urban, rural and remote areas is essential. It is urgent that a formal policy partnership between Australian, State and Territory Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives is established that allows for shared decision-making on initiatives that better enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access affordable, adequate, safe and sustainable housing, and enjoy longer and healthier lives.