Better Thinking on Indigenous Housing from World Vision

In Today’s The Australian comes a better story about indigenous housing in the North Queensland Community of Mapoon. While Tim Costello is the front man, this new thinking has the look of my former colleague from the Centre For Appropriate Technology, Mark Moran, who joined World Vision in 2008 to run their Indigenous program.nMark did the ground-breaking participatory settlement planning work with the Mapoon Community back in 1995-1997. Their foresight has now resulted in the “most attractive and liveable Indigenous community” title as per the article below. While the Mapoon model met with lots of interest, it was never taken up by the bureaucrats that lay out community plans: layouts are largely driven by mainstream servicing technologies, short pipe runs, and all that. So all the new housing results in extended grid patterns, with all the same problems.nBy extending the creative thinking, World Vision has come up with a model to reduce the cost of housing by half of the NT program. Again more evidence that the more the delivery of Indigenous housing goes mainstream, the more expensive and less appropriate it becomes.nRead on: INTERNATIONAL aid agency World Vision Australia has turned to its own backyard, with a ground-breaking scheme to help indigenous people build new homes for half the price the government would pay.nIn the process, World Vision boss Tim Costello has thrown down the gauntlet to the federal and Northern Territory governments over their failure to date to deliver homes for remote communities under the $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program.nMr Costello, whose most publicised charitable works have been in Third World countries, was asked by the Mapoon community in north Queensland to cut through the maze of red tape around Aboriginal housing.nMr Costello, a Baptist minister and the brother of the former federal treasurer, outlined his plan to The Australian after spending two days in the former mission community on Cape York peninsula.nWorld Vision believed it could build homes for between $250,000 and $300,000 in Mapoon, compared with the price tag of up to $700,000 quoted for similar residences in Northern Territory communities.nMr Costello said the plan involved the land being converted to 99-year leases and finance for the building work extended by Indigenous Business Australia, a government agency that helps Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders get into business or the home market.nMapoon is possibly Australia’s most attractive and liveable indigenous community, belying its tragic history.nOn November 15, 1963, police acting on the instruction of the Queensland government arrived at the church mission settlement and ordered residents at gunpoint to board a barge and leave with only what they could carry.nThe police then burnt down every dwelling and the families were shipped to “New Mapoon” on the tip of Cape York.nThe action cleared the way for mining giant Comalco to extract valuable bauxite deposits.nIn 1974, families began drifting back and rebuilding homes, so that now there is a virtually new township with well-spaced homes built in harmony with the bushland.. Children are healthy, employment opportunities are available, homes are not overcrowded, and crime is rare.nOnly one of the original corrugated iron homes survived the arson attack, and its owner, community elder Susie Madua, is among a group of traditional owners who strongly support home ownership.n“This is our land, our home, and we want to stay here and own the houses we live in,” she said.n“I was here when the community was burnt down by the police and my family returned. I have a house I would like to own and hand on to my children and grandchildren when I go.”nMr Costello said if home ownership for indigenous people was not achievable in Mapoon, it could not be achieved in any community.nMr Costello said World Vision’s task was to brief the Queensland and federal governments on its work in Mapoon on housing affordability.n“We have been working with the community for five months along with our partners Indigenous Business Australia, the Mapoon community trustees and the Mapoon Council to establish a successfully operating home ownership scheme within two years,” Mr Costello said.nWorld Vision had concentrated on five case studies of the possible 28 locals who wanted to buy the homes they now rented, and tested their capacity to pay projected sale prices in communities where land is held under deed of grant in trust title.nOne aspect of the World Vision scheme is to create a new mechanism for valuing property in remote communities, where land is often held as a communal deed in trust and capital gains do not exist.nMr Costello said current methods valued existing homes at significantly more than people could afford, and the challenge was to solve this problem.nHe said the reasons people gave for wanting to own homes were reflective of broader community aspirations. “They want to own something and they want an asset to pass on to their children,” he said.nThe report released by Mr Costello seeks special concessions for Mapoon residents buying their existing homes. Purchases would be made with funding through IBA, which would also fund new homes. Mr Costello said there were about 60 publicly-owned homes in Mapoon and a few privately owned dwellings. Close to one third of households could be assumed to qualify for a home loan with IBA, he said.

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