You can’t talk about Aboriginal housing without talking about Aboriginal self-determination

Aboriginal Housing Victoria CEO and Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum Chair Darren Smith told a Community Housing Industry Association Victoria conference this week that the community housing sector as a whole had a part to play in working towards Aboriginal self-determination in housing.

“The Aboriginal population is growing fast, it’s growing faster than the broader community ...  we’ve absolutely got a housing crisis in Victoria for Aboriginal people,” Mr Smith said.

“Aboriginal people rely on the safety net of housing and homelessness services, Aboriginal people are six times overrepresented nationally in social housing and that translates in Victoria to about 20 per cent of the Aboriginal population … if you look at the homelessness data, Aboriginal people are represented by more than 10 times accessing homelessness services in Victoria,” he said.

He said when the Aboriginal community is actively involved in the delivery of Aboriginal services, there are better outcomes for Aboriginal people.

“It’s fundamentally important that Aboriginal people get all the benefits that they get from being involved in the delivery of housing services … it’s really important that we do have a sector that is capable of delivering housing,” Mr Smith said.

“Because at the moment, we have Aboriginal Housing Victoria – that’s one registered Aboriginal housing agency in Victoria.”

Mr Smith called on the mainstream community housing sector to allocate more properties to Aboriginal people and build Aboriginal housing in partnerships with Aboriginal organisations.

“The Aboriginal community can’t do it alone … as part of partnerships [the mainstream community housing sector] can help Aboriginal community housing providers build capacity so in the future they can independently deliver and grow their housing,” he said.

He said the responsibility for restorative justice doesn’t just sit with the government and Aboriginal people, it sits too with the institutions of civil society.

“How completely unfair that Aboriginal people should be responsible for fixing up all the issues that have compounded on Aboriginal communities without other players taking responsibility,” Mr Smith said.

“If you want to think about it in a simple way, you’re either part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem … partnerships are necessary in order to address the housing issues of the Aboriginal community and I don’t think you need to be confronted by that.

“But I do think you need to take that into your boardrooms and into your senior management groups, and think about how that plays out in terms of your partnerships.”