By Georgia Parsonson
On National Sorry Day, the Queensland Government announced the introduction of a peak body to represent and advocate for First Nations people. This organisation is specifically targeted towards meeting the housing needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Queensland’s Minister for Community and Housing, Leeanne Enoch, indicated that this development was a pivotal step in ensuring First Nations people maintained a significant role in the decision-making process.
“While the Federal Government has walked away from its responsibility to fund remote Indigenous housing, the Palaszczuk Government is continuing to work alongside First Nations people to address housing outcomes,” she said.
“As a peak body, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Queensland will advocate for the sector and work with government to improve outcomes for First Nations people’s housing.
“The new peak body will represent the Indigenous housing sector’s interests, providing advocacy and connection to the government.
“Their extensive knowledge and geographically diverse backgrounds will provide unique insights into the housing challenges and opportunities for communities across Queensland.”
According to Minister Enoch, the Palaszczuk government remained dedicated to working towards a future wherein a treaty or treaties for the state of Queensland could be arranged.
“And this involves elevating the voices of First Nations peoples,” she said.
“Establishing this peak body builds on our Government’s commitment to addressing some of the unique challenges First Nations people face in accessing appropriate sustainable housing.
“This group will continue to be a guiding force, working with the sector to deliver a program of work including workforce development initiatives and building organisational capacity.”
In 2018, Australia’s Federal Government opted not to renew an established, 50-year-old national partnership regarding remote indigenous housing. In response to this decision, the Palaszczuk government announced a $40 Million remote interim capital program.
“The Federal Government has vacated this space,” Minister Enoch said.
“But, we are taking action. Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Action Plan 2019-2023, we are investing $5.5 million to establish this housing body to deliver improved housing outcomes for people in urban, regional and remote communities across Queensland.”
According to the Minister of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford, the new peak body would represent the housing concerns of Queensland’s First Nations people. It would also serve as a means of accessing advocacy and a direct connection to Queensland’s government.
“This new organisation will work with the sector to deliver a program of work including workforce development initiatives and building organisational capacity,” he said.
“They will also be a valuable channel for conversations between First Nations peoples, communities and government.
“As we head into Reconciliation Week, this announcement earmarks another opportunity for our state to work towards a path to treaty or treaties.”
Neil Willmett, the CEO of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Queensland, indicated that the peak body offers housing providers a voice in Brisbane and Canberra.
“Today, everyone wins. The Queensland Government wins because they will have a trusted partner, and importantly, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community wins because we will fight to address their housing needs,” Mr Willmett said.
“By working in partnership with others, our organisation seeks to find new solutions and set new standards in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community housing in Queensland.
“We understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing challenges are complex and that they cannot be solved by a single organisation and will partner with like-minded organisations to have a common goal and make the best use of collective expertise.”
You can learn more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Action Plan 2019-2023 here: https://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/5214/atsihousingactionplan.pdf